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‘Show’ stoppers: MLB’s stars flaunt their swaggy lifestyles

In Entertainment, Sports
April 23, 2024

In the English language, the word “show” is used exclusively as a verb or a noun, as in, “Show me the money” or “What time is the show?” But rarely does the idiosyncratic world of professional baseball abide by the simple confines of linguistic norms.

Case in point: in the Major League Baseball universe, “show” takes on an added role … as an adjective.

Yes, there are ball-specific verb and noun usages of “show” “showing bunt” means to ready oneself to, well, bunt, and of course, “The Show” is a moniker for Major League Baseball itself — but it is also common practice for a big leaguer to describe an item, a person, a place or an action as “show.

What exactly does that mean? It’s a little difficult to define.

“Show?” Marlins shortstop and two-time All-Star Tim Anderson pondered when asked to describe the word. “To be show, it has to be ‘the it.’ It has to be ‘the that.’ It has to be top of the line.”

“Top of the line,” Phillies ace Zack Wheeler echoed. “It’s like the big leagues: there’s no level above it. A little bit swaggy.”

“Something that’s not standard, like special-special. Because it’s special to be in The Show,” Phillies slugger Kyle Schwarber explained to Yahoo Sports, alluding to the term’s probably self-explanatory origin. The common way of referring to Major League Baseball as “The Show” stretched from an entity to a descriptor over time, helped along by the existence of the video game “MLB: The Show.”

“Show” is an energy, a vibe, one that extends well beyond the field of play and into the abnormal lives ballplayers are fortunate enough to lead. It’s a recognition that the experience of being a big leaguer is unique and affords an uncommonly high-class lifestyle. It’s the appreciation of that lifestyle — anything from a supremely nice dinner to a well-coiffed hairdo to an expensive pair of shoes to a police escort to the stadium. A put-together outfit, for instance, is show, as is a designer backpack.

Walk into the clubhouse with a Louis Vuitton knapsack, and chances are a teammate will take note of your new “show bag.”

“We actually call that a ‘shag,’” Braves catcher and 12-year vet Travis d’Arnaud told Yahoo Sports. “Like a show bag. And then if you have a satchel like the one that I have, it’s a show satchel. So that’s a ‘shatchel.’”

“It’s like, if you gonna go to the Goyard store, then you’re gonna get the best bag they got,” Anderson explained. “That’s show.”

Anything related to travel is also a candidate to receive the label. Big leaguers spend so much time on the road that they grow accustomed to a certain level of accommodation, especially compared to the grind of the minor leagues. Busses with leather seats are show, as are chartered planes with shared table spaces for playing cards.

“The Four Seasons is more show than the Howard Johnson,” Phillies outfielder Nick Castellanos stated matter-of-factly.

The consensus “showiest” lodging in baseball is the Post Oak in Uptown Houston, a luxury five-star hotel nestled in one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods. The Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel, California, and the JW Marriott in New York City were also rated highly in terms of show.

That hotel in Houston is definitely show. They got damn near a whole residence in there,” Anderson confirmed.

The least show hotel? “Pretty much anything in Cincinnati,” one National Leaguer joked.

But “show” is bigger than any one specific hotel. It’s the entire process of moving around as a big leaguer, elevated from the lifestyle of the minor leagues or the normalcy of traveling alone in the offseason.

“They carry my suitcase. They wouldn’t even allow me to carry a suitcase from the bus. That’s show,” Brewers first baseman Rhys Hoskins said.

Being on the road also allows for the highly popular “show dinner.”

“Steakhouse. Seafood tower. 30-ounce, dry-aged bone-in,” the aptly named Jake Burger of the Marlins said. “You might not eat the whole thing, and that’s OK.”

“You try and get as many people there as you can, and you let the guys who make the money pay. Everyone can get whatever they want,” Schwarber, a guy who makes the money and a patron of many a show dinner, explained.

“We’re gonna lay it all out — the best of everything,” Anderson said.

If it all sounds somewhat materialistic, well, yes. But Schwarber says “show” isn’t about being unnecessarily lavish so much as it is about appreciating the finer things in life.

“You have such a short time in this game, and you put so much time and effort into what you do,” he said. “When you get away from the field, you want to have positive experiences.”

What’s not “show”? An incomplete list would include the things you’d expect: the new Nike uniforms, playing at the Oakland Coliseum, not tipping, a bad mattress, an incomplete breakfast buffet, a dirty pair of spikes, a lost bag of equipment. It’s an assortment of first-world problems, many deserving of the world’s smallest violin, but it’s also a reflection of life in the best baseball league in the world.

And while “show” is often used to describe the ancillary elements of big-league life, it covers on-field activities and behaviors as well. Essentially, “show” is any sort of on-field behavior or equipment that’s distinct from the minor-league experience.

It’s the way Ronald Acuña Jr. pops up after a slide or Bryce Harper’s nonchalant demeanor after a clutch homer or how Fernando Tatís Jr. looks exceedingly cool doing anything. But it’s also an act as simple as leaving your gear — helmets, batting gloves, arm guards — in the batter’s box to be retrieved by a bat boy after an inning-ending strikeout. Doing so in the lower levels of baseball would earn you a mountain of scorn; doing that in the big leagues is just show.

"It's The Show. It's gotta be exquisite," <a class=Jazz Chisholm says. (Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports)” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/ptbUoQF5K7PqpZPEb78Gqw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU0Mw–/https://s.yimg.com/os/creatr-uploaded-images/2024-04/a98e9370-018b-11ef-adee-c2bc6913c965″>
“It’s The Show. It’s gotta be exquisite,” Jazz Chisholm says. (Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports)

MLB helmets themselves are also inherently show. High school, college and minor-league ballplayers wear helmets with protective ear flaps on both sides. But in the majors, almost all hitters — shouts out to the exception, Jed Lowry — sport single-flap helmets, a decidedly more show look. When big leaguers play minor-league rehab games while recovering from injury, they or a big-league clubhouse attendant will typically make sure the single-flap helmet joins them in Fresno or Bowie or Scranton.

“I’ve heard it’s very much B.Y.O.H. — you know, bring your own helmet,” Royals first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino said.

The difference in belt type and quality between the minors and the bigs is another example of show. Big-league belts are usually made of leather (more show), while belts in the low minors and college are often a stretchier, elastic material.

Hunter Dozier actually wore an elastic belt in the bigs because he thought it was more comfortable,” Pasquantino remembered. “That’s actually so show — playing in the belt you want.”

“Show” is not just what you eat, where you sleep or the price tag on your backpack. It’s the way you carry yourself among some of the world’s best, richest and most successful athletes. It’s operating and thriving in the pressure cooker that is professional sports.

Marlins outfielder Jazz Chisholm put it perfectly: “It’s The Show. It’s gotta be exquisite.”

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