Kimes: In South Korea, bat flips are an art

From Mina Kimes at on October 6, 2016:

The videos started to appear in America a few years ago, crossing the Pacific and landing on our digital doorsteps like mysterious gifts. Their contents were joyously unfamiliar: Korea Baseball Organization sluggers walloping balls and then flipping their bats with abandon, sending them spiraling through the air. Montages surfaced on a website called, gifs hit social media, and ecstatic headlines soon followed:

Korean Baseball Player Flips Bat Like a Champion

Now This Is a Righteous Bat Flip

This KBO Bat Flip Will Rock Your World, Free Your Soul

When I first saw the clips, I was astonished. What was this place, this parallel sports universe where baseball players could shatter the game’s unwritten rules? While American ballplayers from Mickey Mantle to David Ortiz have flipped their bats, the act is still perceived as a great offense here — an insult to the pitcher, the opposing team and all that’s sacred in America’s pastime. This tension came to a head last October, when Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista triumphantly flipped his bat after a magnificent home run during the American League Division Series, a viral gesture that was codified into memes, baseball cards and, most recently, a corn maze in Canada. Many fans were thrilled. But some current and former players, such as Cole Hamels, Mike Schmidt and Goose Gossage, were not. “Bautista is a f—ing disgrace to the game,” Gossage said.

As Major League Baseball struggles to overcome its staid image and lure younger fans — according to Nielsen, most of the sport’s TV viewers are over 50 — the simple bat flip has come to symbolize the culture war being waged within its ranks. It’s a conflict between those who believe the game should embrace the traditions of other countries and flashier elements of other sports, and those who, as Bautista wrote in The Players’ Tribune, are “old-school, my-way-or-the-highway type of people who never want the game to evolve.”

Meanwhile, in the Korea Baseball Organization, bat flips aren’t just permitted — they’re embraced. “A bat flip isn’t disrespectful here in Korea, which is a very formal, respectful country,” says Dan Kurtz, a Korean-American who started in 2002 as a message board for English-speaking fans. “A guy flips and the pitchers don’t do anything about it. It’s just part of the game.” Kurtz explains that bat flips, which are called ppa dun in Korea — a term that combines the words for “bat” and “throw” — are ubiquitous in the KBO. But he isn’t sure how that happened. “People ask me, ‘Why can’t we do this in Major League Baseball?'” he says. “I want to know: Where in Korea did it originate and why?”

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Originally published: October 6, 2016. Last Updated: October 6, 2016.