[NY Times] Bat flipping draws shrugs in S. Korea, scorn in America

September 2, 2015


DAEGU, South Korea — Hwang Jae-gyun, a third baseman for the Lotte Giants in South Korea’s top baseball league, received some curious text messages from his American teammates one morning in July. His name, they told him, was popping up on websites around the world. He was prominent on English-language social media.

“This might be the most ostentatious Korean bat flip of all time,” read a headline on Sports Illustrated’s site.

“Step aside,” Yahoo Sports wrote, “the world’s greatest bat flip has been unearthed.”

CBS Sports hailed what it called the “mother of all bat flips.”

After hitting a home run, Hwang had flipped his bat with a flourish — and the latest darling was born in an international phenomenon that stirs outrage, awe and glee.

In the United States, the bat flip exists on the abstruse list of behaviors considered rude and worthy of confrontation. In Korea, the flip is, well, just a flip. No one cares. This cultural variance, combined with the world-shrinking influence of social media, has created a disjointed international sports milieu in which players like Hwang have been celebrated, derided and debated in a language they do not understand for a move they regard as involuntary.