There are many reasons that baseball players decide to chew gum during games – including habit, wanting to keep the mouth moist, stress reduction, and even superstition. In this blog, we will mention and discuss all the possible reasons that you find baseball players chewing away.
Why do Baseball Players Chew Gum?
1) A Tobacco Replacement:
MLB rules prohibit players from using tobacco in clubhouses and during games. This restriction has prompted a lot of MLB players to seek a substitute to tobacco.
Different types of chewing gum (such as gum sticks or chew gumballs) offer a safe and effective alternative, helping players to avoid the short- and long-term harmful effects associated with tobacco.
Since chewing a gum is very similar to chewing on tobacco, the identical jaw movements and muscle memories help with a smoother transition from tobacco to gum.
2) Improved Focus:
Competitive sports like baseball requires a player to make accurate judgments, often in a fraction of a second. This means that, alongside physical ability, players also need to work on keeping their brains fit and sharp. Chewing gum helps improve blood flow to the brain, thereby contributing positively to judgment and concentration.
When we chew, we increase the amount of nerve activity taking place in the brain. The continuous engagement of the jaw muscles increases the amount of blood being sent to the brain and heart. This blood then transports oxygen throughout our nervous system.
The above process is what helps baseball players feel more focused and alert, thereby increasing their ability to make quick and smart decisions on the field.
Moreover, using chewing gums also regulates our heart-rate and blood pressure levels.
Coaches, too, chew gums as it allows them to act proactively to any in-game changes. It helps with clearer thinking, and allows the brain to perform better under stressful situations.
3) Keeps the Mouth Moist:
Players and coaches are constantly shouting during the game, barking out instructions. This is taxing on the mouth and the throat, particularly for the players who are already engaged in a physically demanding activity and cannot keep drinking water while on the field.
These exertions cause the body to lose considerable amounts of water, which can lead to fatigue, chapped lips, and dry mouths.
Sugar-free gums help the participants prevent or delay such a situation, since using a chewing gum promotes the continuous production of saliva.
Simultaneously, chewing increases our oral humidity, which helps to keep the mouth moist.
4) Eliminates the Taste of Dirt:
Sliding and diving around the field can cause dirt to enter the players’ mouths. As we mentioned, chewing gum helps produce saliva and keep the mouth moist. The excess saliva can then be spit out by the players, and this act also helps them get rid of any dirt that might have accumulated in the mouth.
A fresh pack of gum can round up any dirt present in the mouth, and help players get rid of it.
5) Reduces Anxiety and Stress:
Even the most seasoned players and coaches can experience some stress before a game. It is important that the participants manage to keep this stress and anxiety at bay; otherwise it might keep them from optimizing their physical and mental performance on the field.
Once again, chewing gum comes to the rescue. Research has shown that chewing a gum can significantly lower stress and anxiety, and even improve short-term memory. The reason behind this, like we mentioned earlier, is that chewing gum helps increase the amount of blood flowing towards the brain. In addition, chewing helps loosen any tight jaw or neck muscles.
Moreover, when we are chewing, our adrenal glands release the hormone called ‘cortisol’, which helps us reduce any short-term stresses.
Sometimes, baseball players chew gums simply because they have become used to it. As a sportsperson, you are likely to be surrounded by people who chew gum, and, as a result, you might pick this habit up yourself.
Many baseball players feel uncomfortable with an empty mouth, which is why they prefer having something to chew at all times during a game.
For some players, chewing gum has to do with their superstitious beliefs. For instance, the New York Yankees’ right-fielder, Aaron Judge, chews two pieces of the Dubble Bubble chewing gum for as long as he possibly can.
Until Aaron gets an out, he will continue to chew the same two pieces of gum. If he does make an out, he will throw the two pieces away and replace them with two new Dubble Bubble pieces. If Aaron is 3-for-3 and the game is stretching beyond four hours, he will keep gnawing away at the same pieces, and will not think about replacing them or even adding another piece.
8) To Remember the Number of Outs:
It is possible for baseball players to forget the current number of outs in the ongoing inning. To remedy this problem, baseball players take out a new piece of gum every time there is an out. This way, the number of remaining gum pieces in their pocket helps them remind of the number of outs remaining in the inning.
9) Because it is Fun:
Chewing gum is quite enjoyable, especially when you add blowing bubbles into the mix. Often, players present in the dugout challenge each other to see who can blow the largest bubble, or who can keep the bubble from bursting for the longest time.
Sometimes, blowing bubble is also part of the players’ chewing gum-related superstitions.
Our Final Thoughts:
The act of chewing gum is a tradition that has been going on for decades, and is almost as long as the MLB (Major League Baseball) itself. Owing to the MLB’s efforts to get rid of tobacco, the chewing gum trend picked up even more pace during recent years. If you were curious about the reasons that MLB players chew gum, we hope that this article helped quench your thirst for answers.