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Whether you’re watching a game of baseball at the stadium or cheering from behind the screens, you’re bound to notice a habit that every baseball player seems to share. That’s right, they are mostly chewing on sunflower seeds.
But why do baseball players eat sunflower seeds? Unfortunately, it’s not that it gives them superpowers on the field. Instead, most baseball players eat sunflower seeds to de-stress while they’re waiting for their turn to pitch.
For a long time in baseball history, baseball players have been known to eat sunflower seeds while they’re in the dugout. As the stress mounts on the players on game day, finding relief while nibbling on sunflower seeds has become more and more common.
Unlike other snacks, sunflower seeds became a favorite as they’re easy to carry in the baseball players’ back pockets, and the husks are easy to discard. Eventually, the rhythmic process of grabbing a handful of sunflowers seeds, chewing, and spitting became a habit for most players.
Furthermore, sunflower seeds are also known to contain a variety of nutrients, including being a good source of calcium, potassium, iron, protein, magnesium, and more. Sunflower seeds have also been said to help lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.
But sunflower seeds were never the original stress relievers for baseball players. Back in the 1800s, most baseball players would be seen chewing on tobacco instead. Thankfully, this changed in time to the habit of eating sunflower seeds as we see today.
Now you may be asking, what changed in the history of baseball players and their chewing habits? And why do baseball players eat sunflower seeds instead? Let’s find out.
How did baseball players start eating sunflower seeds: A history.
So, how did eating sunflower seeds become a habit for most baseball players? To understand this age-old baseball tradition, we’ll take a trip down memory lane where it all started.
In the past, baseball players often chewed on tobacco while they were awaiting their turns. This was a habit that’s been said to date back from the 1800s, as players would chew on tobacco to stimulate saliva production on a dusty field.
As time progressed, the unhealthy factors of chewing on tobacco became more widely known to the public and baseball players. But it wasn’t until the 1950s when players like Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter slowly began to switch to sunflower seeds.
In 1968, the legendary baseball player, Reggie Jackson was spotted having sunflower seeds by the dugouts. This sparked a worldwide phenomenon for baseball players and fans alike, and thus began the tradition of baseball players enjoying sunflower seeds on and off-field.
Despite its obvious benefits of being the healthier alternative to tobacco chewing, the habit of sunflower seed munching became the woe of many ground crews of the Major League Baseballs games. This was as sunflower seed shells were difficult to remove.
This, however, did not stop players and fans to continue enjoying sunflower seeds during baseball games. In the 1980s, Claude Osteen, ex-pitching coach of the St. Louis Cardinals called this habit the era of birdseed.
Today, we can clearly see that the era of birdseed has never left the baseball fields. Aside from being the healthier choice for in-game snacking, sunflower seed packs are also more convenient to store in the player’s back pockets and easier to discard.
In fact, the habit of eating sunflower seeds have become so popular that children aspiring to play in big leagues are now adopting this tradition. So, the next time you see a Little League player having some sunflower seeds, you’ll know they have their eyes on the prize.
What foods do baseball players chew on other than sunflower seeds?
While many baseball players have switched from chewing tobacco to eating sunflower seeds, some players have been known to be stuck to the roots of tobacco chewing.
For players who aren’t keen to chew on tobacco of snack on sunflower seeds, they may choose to chew gum instead. However, this doesn’t provide the same satisfaction as the former as players cannot spit as freely as they do with sunflower seed husks.
In 2011, the Major League Baseball and players’ union also stated a need to ban tobacco chewing. Although a full ban did not come in effect then, most players have adopted more discreet measures when it came to tobacco chewing on the field and off.
Is chewing tobacco banned in Major League Baseball games, and why?
Yes and no. A blanket ban for chewing tobacco was first discussed in 2011 and again in 2016 between Major League Baseball and the players’ union. Most stadiums of today have completely banned tobacco chewing for both the baseball players and their fans.
This progressive move was made after many players had health concerns following the use of tobacco for a prolonged period. Subsequently, Major League Baseball had concerns about the negative role modeling that chewing tobacco would have on their young fans.
As such, the Major League Baseball and players’ union agreed to ban tobacco chewing in a bid to deter children from doing the same. Not all stadiums have completely banned tobacco chewing, but players often do it more discreetly these days.
Why do baseball players spit so much?
For most baseball fans, it’s a known fact that baseball players don’t practice the best of hygiene when they are on the field. Many of us often spot these baseball players spitting in cups while they’re in the dugouts or on the field when in play.
Putting hygiene concerns aside, the reason why baseball players seem to spit a lot has to do with the tradition of eating sunflower seeds. It may be difficult to spot from afar, but most baseball players are often spitting out the husks of the sunflower seeds they’re nibbling on.
Eating sunflower seeds has been an age-old tradition for most baseball players as it helps them calm their nerves while they await their turn to pitch. Hence, baseball players are often seen spitting – whether habitual or they’re looking for an outlet to relieve game day stress.