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Andy Juniper Headshot

The Bubblegum World Of Major League Baseball

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At some point during Major League Baseball's Opening Week -- in the fog of having watched more games than I can clearly recall, or care to admit -- I became wildly jealous of the denizens of the diamond's dugouts, and not solely because they're placed on a pedestal, pampered and obscenely overpaid.

But also because these guys, who clearly look like grown men, have actually been afforded the opportunity to be professional Peter Pans. To never grow up. To remain kids. To cooly exist in an surreal world and engage in awesomely juvenile behavior that, in any other earthly endeavor, would result in them being mocked, maligned, picked on, punched, arrested and/or shown the door. Consider:

At various points in the Blue Jays inauspicious opening series last week against the Indians, TV cameras would pan the typically euphoric Cleveland dugout and catch manager Terry Francona dipping into a big bucket of bubblegum. That's right, bubblegum. How wicked is that? A 53-year-old Grown Man/Manager spends his working hours chewing bubblegum, and his employers are not only okay with this, they actually supply it. How many other jobs can you think of where the manager routinely walks around looking like a chipmunk who has just had his wisdom teeth extracted, cheeks grossly inflated with Double Bubble?

Which brings me to the bubbles. Guys blowing 'em in the dugout. Guys blowing 'em on the field. Bubbles. In between plays. Hell, during plays. Next time your boss calls you into her office on an issue of utmost corporate urgency, make a grand entrance and loosen the mood a bit by blowing a big one that obliterates her face.

If you're oddly unenamored with the idea of bubblegum in the workplace, consider that it could be worse. Because it was worse. Way worse. Back in the day, most of these bubble blowers were chaw chewers, mouths packed with pinches of carcinogenic chewing tobacco. Which led to all the inevitable expectorating. Now, some players still chew tobacco and most players still spit: bubblegum saliva, or the shells of sunflower seeds, which the guys strategically shuck (magically, in their mouths) then thoughtfully redistribute across the landscape. All of which, I'm sure, is perfectly acceptable at your place of employ. Unless your employer is the uptight, decorum-tethered type who insists people refrain from... horking in the hallways.

Another thing baseball players have going for them is follicle freedom. That is, the right to wear their locks any which way, no matter how retro or ridiculous the hairdo may seem. Take Blue Jay outfielder Colby Rasmus' current look. It's basically an old-school mullet that's been electrocuted, like his coiffure was created by caffeine. In other words, his "do" is the utter envy of all those who must conform to the staid mores of the real world wherein, if you showed up at work with your hair all up in a Rasmus, your boss would give you two options: trim your locks, or be trimmed. From payroll.

Yep, baseball has it all -- everything you wanted when you were a kid, and everything that makes you madly jealous as an adult. Gum, sunflower seats, the right to spit at will, and follicle freedom not enough for you? Well, how about the game's tres cool secret handshakes. The guys break out these babies during player introductions, after home runs, after games. Intricate, choreographed handshakes that must have taken them all of spring training to master.The kind of secret handshakes you conjured up when you were seven-years-old, had way too much time on your hands, and were tired of cutting yourself with a dull pocket knife to do the whole 'blood brother' thing with your buddies.

Baseball teammates do indeed seem blood-brother close. The game reeks of freakish camaraderie, what with all the high-fives, hugging and constant bum patting. Try that at work. And see if you're not fired, or sued, or both.

Face it, denizens of the diamond's dugouts are living the dream. I mean, I haven't even scratched the surface of these guys being able to, well, scratch the surface (on national TV) of, well, anything that itches. Then there's the constant public adjustment -- outright rearranging by some players -- of the private parts. Seriously, try that ballsy maneuver at work when you're giving a presentation to the guys from head office...

Living the dream, I tell you, living the dream.