On Friday, August 8, 2008, A.J. Valentine, first baseman for the Yuma Scorpions, was hit by a pitch on the hallowed grounds of Foothills Stadium.
I know this because I was there, and I caught it on (very grainy) video on my camera-phone.
Why did I film it? Because in all the Vipers games I’ve attended in Calgary, I’ve never heard the crowd boo a player in the batter’s box as loudly as A.J. Valentine was getting booed that night. The crowd was having a lot of fun with it.
Why was the crowd booing A.J. Valentine? Well, the whole thing kind of snowballed as the game wore on. Calgary jumped out to a big, early lead, and the crowd began looking for further sources of drama. A.J. Valentine made himself a popular player to the crowd in Calgary. In no particular order while playing baseball games in Calgary, he:
- Pouted when he struck out (which was often, that particular night). He’d stomp his way out of the batters box and throw his batting helmet around. Although the video of him getting hit by a pitch is from the left-field side and above the visitor’s dug out, we also spent some time sitting on the opposite side of the field where we ended up bearing witness to A.J. Valentine’s temper tantrums in his dugout (as, it appeared, his teammates ignored him). We Vipers fans saw this happening, and we ate it right up.
- Stole a souvenir from a kid. Ha ha, okay, I’m really stretching things here, but that’s how the mob mentality of a crowd can behave at times. During an at-bat late in the game, A.J. Valentine lost his grip and sent his bat flying into the budget-priced blue bleachers on the left-field side. A little kid caught the bat, and seemed thrilled about it. A.J. Valentine sent a coach to retrieve the lost bat, and the now-sad kid handed it over. Honestly, it’s perfectly reasonable to want to finish an at-bat with the same stick you started with, but A.J. Valentine was already on a short leash with the crowd, so any reason to pile on was taken. The kid was given a bat later on as well, but try telling that to an angry mob?
Everyone was hitting the ball that night for both teams… except for A.J. Valentine. He was 0-4 before he got hit by a pitch, and three of those outs were via the strikeout. When a crowd thinks they’re getting to a player, they pile it on even more. It also helped that Joe “The Cobra Clutch” Sergent had A.J. Valentine in his back pocket that night. To be completely honest, I was hoping for a fourth whiff during A.J. Valentine’s fifth at-bat that night (Sergent was out of the game by now, though), but the crowd erupted nonetheless when he was hit.
Was it right to cheer when A.J. Valentine got hit by a pitch? Well, let me put it this way. Hockey crowds cheer when an opposing player gets beat up in a fight. Football crowds cheer when an opposing player gets smoked with an open-field tackle. Baseball crowds cheer when an opposing batter that they’ve been booing all game gets hit by a pitch. Sports crowds aren’t perfect, and they don’t have to be. We’re not monsters, though, either. The crowd that night wouldn’t have been howling for blood had A.J. Valentine not been able to dust himself off and trot to first base.
But what does A.J. Valentine think of all this? I’m glad you asked. He found the video on YouTube, which I had uploaded there a while back.
mrmagican has sent you a message:
i was just screwing around on you tube when somehow my name came up in a calgary game. glad to know you found it hilarious to see a guy get drilled by a fastball 5 inches from his head. hope you still live there and plan to show up to a few games. things like that keep my perception of canada just the way they should be. hopefully it was just a case of a few too many canadian brews, but i highly doubt it. just a sad turn of events is all im saying.
A few things jump out at me. First of all, “Mr. Magician” is what A.J. Valentine calls himself? Secondly, A.J. Valentine must of watched a lot of WWF as a kid, since he’s using the old “I hate Canada” schtick. I used to watch WWF as a kid as well. And thirdly, “A sad turn of events”? A.J. Valentine is a professional baseball player, and should be able to take the boos from the crowd.
“Everybody knows why the U.S. keeps from falling in the ocean… because Canada SUCKS!” [3:34]
Here’s a question. Is the line “hope you still live there and plan to show up to a few games” intended as a threat? I don’t think it is. As a player in the Golden League, I’m sure A.J. Valentine is aware of how important attendance is to the strength of the league and the teams within. For the record, yes, I still live here and I plan to show up for a lot of games.
I must admit, however, that I’m impressed with how quickly A.J. Valentine bounced back up from the ground when that fastball put him down. I probably would have needed a stretcher.
The Yuma Scorpions play in Calgary vs. the Vipers on July 10, 11, and 12, 2009.