How rookie hazing in baseball has changed

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How rookie hazing in baseball has changed

From Comcast SportsNet Monday, August 15, 2011
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Reds outfielder Chris Heisey wasn't surprised to see the schoolgirl outfit hanging in his locker, his humbling attire for the start of a late-season road trip. Welcome to the majors, rookie. "I felt it would happen," Heisey said. "As the season went on last year, I kind of heard talk that it would happen. All the rookies were talking about what we would be dressing up as." Making the rookies wear outlandish outfits for a road trip or fix a ham sandwich for a veteran is as much baseball tradition as batting practice and curtain calls, a time-honored way of reminding the newcomers where they rank in the clubhouse pecking order. While other sports struggle with the question of when rookie hazing crosses the line, it remains part of baseball's fabric -- though not nearly as outlandish as some of the stunts in other sports. "I think it's worse in football," said Colorado's Todd Helton, who played quarterback as a two-sport star at Tennessee. "When I was in college football, they shaved me bald -- the whole incoming freshman class. A bunch of big guys grabbed you and shaved your head." The Jacksonville Jaguars banned rookie hazing this year, saying it had gone too far. In recent years, rookies had been taped to goal posts, covered in baby powder, tossed in a cold tub and forced to accept ugly haircuts. The Jaguars can still hold their annual rookie talent competition and veterans are allowed to make the newcomers carry their equipment. But that's the limit. Last year, Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant created a stir when he refused to carry a veteran's pads, challenging the rookie hazing tradition. In professional baseball, rookies get a much milder treatment -- no shaving, no forced haircuts, no taping to stationary objects. "I don't even know if hazing would be the proper term to use as far as baseball is concerned," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy, whose rookie indoctrination involved wearing a gaudy suit. Whatever it's called in baseball, it's changing, too. With young players taking on more prominent roles, they're getting treated more like equals in the clubhouse these days. Veterans say the latest rookie classes have been singled out far less than in the past. "Because the game seems to be getting younger and younger, a lot of that stuff has totally changed," said Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo, who was forced to fetch drinks for veterans during the middle of the night at team hotels when he was a Pirates rookie. "There's a lot less going on." And most welcome it. "It's changed," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "In fact, I'm kind of glad it changed. I've never been a big fan of the whole thing." Marlins infielder Wes Helms had to carry veterans' luggage onto team flights and serve them on the plane when he was a rookie. "There's definitely less than when I came up," Helms said. "Now, you don't really have anything as far as making them do anything stupid throughout the year to embarrass themselves. "It definitely has calmed down over the years. Rookies are a little different nowadays. When I came up, you didn't say a word until you had two or three years in the big leagues. Now guys come up and it's like they're already comfortable." How rookies are treated depends upon the veterans in charge. Most teams force rookies to dress in embarrassing costumes for a road trip late in the season. They might be ordered to sing or dance at the front of the team bus. "The closest thing we have is the guy with the least service time in the bullpen has to carry the backpack of candy or drinks and find out what the bullpen guys want," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We do some things at spring training just as bonding with guys, not really hazing. You give them projects or you ask them to do a report on something." Each clubhouse is different. "I think it all comes down to the people that have the power," Arroyo said. "If the older guys are reasonable and want the team to flourish, you're only going to be able to push that so far without damaging (the chances) to be a winning team. So I think it depends on who's king of the hill and whether those people are reasonable." Some if it depends upon how the rookies accept their special treatment. "If you take it the right way, it doesn't happen twice," Helton said. "Usually when a guy fights back is when the problems arise. My rookie year, I was the only rookie. When they told me to, I'd make them ham sandwiches that year. I just kept my mouth shut and did what they said." Paul Konerko of the White Sox thinks rookie hazing shouldn't make a newcomer feel uncomfortable. "I remember when I was a rookie, people made me feel uncomfortable, maybe crossed the line," said Konerko, who broke in with the Dodgers in 1997. "When that happens, when that player gets older, he says, 'I'm not going to do that because I know how it felt.' Or, 'I can't wait to do it to someone.' It's one of the two, and I think I'm the first one." A lot of players see baseball's rookie treatment as something to be appreciated. "There's a deeper history in the game of baseball and things like that," Twins reliever Matt Capps said. "You try to carry that history over. "It's a fine line. As long as you have fun and the guys that do get hazed know that it's all in fun and in the right manner, I think it's great." As soon as the rookies are done wearing those dresses, they think about sticking around long enough to see the next generation do the same. "Hopefully that continues," said Heisey, in his second season in Cincinnati. "Hopefully I can play long enough to do those fun things with the rookies at some point in time."

Knicks' Noah suspended 20 games by NBA for drug policy violation

Knicks' Noah suspended 20 games by NBA for drug policy violation

NEW YORK - Joakim Noah of the New York Knicks has been suspended 20 games without pay for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.

The NBA announced the suspension Saturday, saying Noah tested positive for Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator LGD-4033 – something that can be found in over-the-counter supplements.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports first reported the suspension.

Noah has not played since Feb. 4 and was likely to miss the Knicks’ final 10 games this season because of a knee injury. The NBA said Noah’s suspension will begin with the ”first NBA regular season or playoff game for which he is eligible and physically able to play.”

Noah is in the first year of a four-year, $72 million contract. He and the Knicks (27-45) have been a disappointment this season. He averaged 5.0 points and 8.7 rebounds in 46 games this season, and has been limited to 75 games over the past two seasons.

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

BRIGHTON, Mass – Let’s start with the straight fact that it’s asinine, apologist drivel to let the Bruins off the hook, and perpetuate an off-the-mark myth there isn’t enough talent on the B's roster to be a playoff hockey team.

They are middle-of-the-road in the talent department to be sure, and the roster depth clearly isn’t what it was in their elite years, as the Bruins balance an aging core group with an influx of youthful talent from the next generation. But this is also a proud, talented group with one of the best all-around centers in the NHL in Patrice Bergeron, a former Norris Trophy winner and future Hall of Fame defenseman in Zdeno Chara, a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate and in-his-prime All-Star left winger in Brad Marchand, an emerging 20-year-old offensive superstar in David Pastrnak and a former Vezina Trophy winning goaltender still in his prime in Tuukka Rask.

That doesn’t even mention high-end players David Krejci, David Backes and Torey Krug that are game-changing talents in their own right.

Combine that with the other players on the Bruins roster and this is a team interspersed with proud Stanley Cup winning players and enough talent to still take care of business in the final eight games and punch their playoff ticket. Winning a Cup in 2011 can never be taken away from Chara, Krejci, Bergeron, Marchand, Rask and Adam McQuaid, and neither can the seven straight seasons in the playoffs under Claude Julien.

But there’s a danger now of some late-in-the-game tarnish on Black and Gold legacies for some of those distinguished, proud players if they once again collapse down the stretch this season and miss the playoffs for the third year in a row with a late-season nosedive. Four consecutive regulation losses have cast doubt into everything for the Bruins and roused all the same old uncomfortable questions from the past three years.

Bergeron and Marchand need to find their best games and dominate the way elite players do in big-game situations like Saturday night vs. the Isles. Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo and Frank Vatrano need to show they're ready for the playoffs.Rask needs to finally show he's ready to shine as a No. 1 goalie and lead his team to victory in a big game rather than buckle under weighty pressure. 

“This is their legacy, those guys. They are Stanley Cup champions and they missed last year. Each year we talk about writing our own story, and I believe that because guys come and go,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “But generally there is a core group of guys and it’s their legacy. I’m sure they want to reach the playoffs and get back to being a Stanley Cup contender every year.

“That’s what they want and to a man I’m sure they would tell you that. I do believe that they believe it’s different [this season]. Until you change the course of your results, those questions are going to come. We have to change the results to make then go away. One week of not getting results that we want doesn’t mean we’re panicking, but we do understand what’s at stake. We want to be playing in April and May.”

If the Bruins can’t pull out a win on Saturday night against the Islanders, who just pushed even with them at 82 points on the season, then their playoff lives will no longer be under their own control anymore. It will become another late-season choke job by a team that will have its character and courage questioned. The highs of six years ago will be matched by the bitter lows of the past three seasons.

People won’t talk about a scrappy, little underdog Bruins team that just couldn’t get over the hump once again. Instead, they’ll lament a formerly proud, tough-minded group of hockey players that somehow turned into NHL tomato cans all too willing to play the victim once the going got tough late in the regular season.

That’s no way to go out if you’ve ever had your name etched on Lord Stanley’s Cup, and the Bruins that know better should be taking that to heart right now.