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Admittedly, as a freshman at Springfield College, I tried chewing tobacco. A teammate of mine from the baseball team offered me a “pinch” of Kodiak brand chewing tobacco, and like most naive 18 years olds, I tried it. We were walking to Babson Libary to study for a math test and he said it would be just like having a cup of coffee. A few minutes after setting up at a table in the basement area of Babson, I felt really buzzed and literally fell asleep for 2 hours. I never used chewing tobacco ever again.
Watching baseball over a span of close to 40 years on television, chewing tobacco has been in my face and the face of baseball fans worldwide. In addition to the wide shots of the field and game action, the cameras also focus on batter’s faces, on the dugouts, on managers, on pitchers getting signs. I suppose they are looking for some sort of reaction – funny or angry – which the commentators can use in their game analysis. Or, to steal a sign or defensive alignment or gesture to then relay that to their viewing audience. But far too often, cameras would catch a hitter, stepping out of the batter’s box, adjusting his batting gloves, and then, wait for it, dislodging a huge spit of tobacco onto the ground. And then over to the pitcher, who is leaning in from the stretch to get his sign, and then, yes, spits out a huge something onto the ground. I love watching the game of baseball with all my heart but this spitting thing was just plain gross to watch.
As of 2016, Major League Baseball has made huge strides in their effort to reduce and even eliminate tobacco use (smoking and smoke-free) from their Major League stadiums and by their Major League Players. For over two decades, minor league baseball has banned the use of smokeless tobacco by non-unionized baseball players. According to The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (www.tobacco-free.org) “For years, public health leaders have urged Major League Baseball (MLB) and the MLB Players Association to end smokeless tobacco use in baseball. The new collective bargaining agreement between owners and players reached on Nov. 30, 2016, prohibits all new MLB players from using smokeless tobacco – which means baseball is on a clear and inevitable path to become tobacco-free.”
In addition, 15 Major League baseball stadiums have banned tobacco use on the state and local levels. Two of those stadiums will be hosting the World Series™ this upcoming week – Boston’s Fenway Park and Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium. Again from The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids – “It is time to take tobacco out of baseball for good – to set the right example for America’s kids and protect the health of the players.”
I am encouraged by the efforts of Major League Baseball, a growing number of stadiums, as well as state and local officials to help reduce and eventually eliminate tobacco use. These players are role models for the millions of youth baseball players around the world watching them play live and on television. Young players, like my son, stand in front of the TV and emulate swings, pitching motions, diving catches. The swings, the hits, the pitches, the diving plays – let those be the example you want your kids watching. Not a player with a giant golf ball size piece of chewing tobacco stuck in his cheek spitting every 2 seconds on camera.
I applaud those organizations such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and others who take the lead on teaching our kids how to lead a healthy lifestyle while still enjoying the game of baseball.
Go Red Sox.
To read more from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, go to www.tobacco-free.org