Fresh Chalk Lines on a Baseball Field

Background information: MD is a 21-year-old student at University of California San Diego. From a young age, he played baseball and was very involved in the sport throughout his childhood and young adult life. According to MD, baseball is a very superstitious sport, and athletes in general can be very superstitious.

MD: Before a game, you have to make sure to jump over fresh lines of chalk on the field. I think everyone kind of knows this, like even if you aren’t playing, even people watching know it. If you step on one of the lines, you’re basically throwing away the game.

Me: Why do you think the tradition is so well-known? How did you find out about it?

MD: I know about it because I played baseball for 14 years! I learned it through playing and seeing other players do it. Especially when I would watch older players, they would always jump over fresh chalk lines. I think you catch on mostly through teammates, and baseball traditions tend to last forever. That’s probably why it’s so well-known too, it’s just becomes a rule at some point…um, I think baseball has a lot of traditions that are like that. There’s a lot of ways that you can give your team bad luck before the game, and there’s a lot of things you can do to get good luck too.

Me: Have you ever accidentally stepped on a line, or seen someone do it? Did it affect your game at all?

MD: I’m sure I’ve accidentally messed it up, um, sometime before a game but I don’t know if ever affected our games at all. I don’t think we even think about it once the game starts (laughs). I personally am not very superstitious, but I think it’s fun to get into the game and it’s fun because everyone knows what to do and what not to do. I would say some people are definitely more committed to it, um, than others.

I didn’t play any team sports as a child or teenager, so I know very little about these superstitions and unspoken rules that MD talked about. I think it was interesting that he brought up the fact that baseball traditions tend to last forever, as younger players observe the practices of older players and copy them. By watching older players “perform” these rite uals before a game, they become so commonplace, that even someone who is not superstitious will engage in them for the sake of the game, and for the sake of forming a camaraderie with teammates.