New commissioner Rob Manfred isn't the only person with ideas that would radically change the culture of MLB. Tony Thurmond, a state assembly member in California, introduced a bill Tuesday that would ban the use of chewing tobacco at MLB games in his state — even among players.
Forget a pitch clock, you want something that would force MLB players to change their routine? This is it.
Chewing tobacco is plentiful all over the league, with many players carrying a canister in their back pocket or dipping into a bag in the dugout. Having to stop that for California games? That would take some getting used to. Here's the explanation of the bill, via Reuters:
The bill targets baseball's ubiquitous habit less than a year after retired San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn died of cancer of the salivary glands, believed related to chewing tobacco or "dipping" it by lodging it between the lip and the gum.
Tony Gwynn was somebody I thought was a spokesman for baseball, a great role model as a person," said Assembly member Tony Thurmond, a Democrat who represents Richmond and other suburbs east of San Francisco and the bill's author.
"I'm hopeful that this bill will lend to his legacy, that it will help to prevent illness for young people and young athletes."
Smoking is already banned in Major League Baseball, and the minor leagues have prohibited dipping and chewing, although some say the minor league rules are not strictly enforced. Major League Baseball strongly discourages the use of smokeless tobacco, but has not banned it.
Around that time, there were new rumblings about MLB enacting a league-wide ban, but instead the league and the player's union stayed the course: continuing to educate players on the dangers of using tobacco, but letting them make their own decisions.
MLB didn't take a stance on the bill, as proposed by Thurmond, but did release this statement to the L.A. Times:
“We ardently believe that children should not use or be exposed to smokeless tobacco, and we support the spirit of this initiative in California and any others that would help achieve this important goal.”
Players have said in the past, that chewing tobacco is part of their routine and, in some cases, part of their focus. Last season, David Ortiz told the Boston Globe:
“I use it as a stimulator when I go to hit,” Ortiz said. “But the minute I finish my at-bat I spit it out. It keeps me smooth and puts me in a good mood. I don’t do it in the offseason. I don’t really like it that much, to be honest with you.”
Even if it's a guy such as Oritz who doesn't really like chewing tobacco, it's hard to imagine MLB players being thrilled to hear that some lawmaker in California, a guy who has nothing to do with their sport, is out to change the way they play their game.
If MLB wanted to regulate the issue, fine. It's a valid concern and that's their turf. But Thurmond's bill would make it so MLB games in different states essentially have different rules. That doesn't make sense.
And, frankly, we don't see how it serves his constituents.
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