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Baseball needs Francisco Lindor to keep being himself

Flip bats, laugh, smile, have the audacity to have fun while playing baseball. Just keep being you, Frankie.

Baseball: World Baseball Classic-Netherlands at Puerto Rico Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Francisco Lindor is great at what he does.

Whether you consider what he does as his defense, hitting, or being an outgoing personality that can help keep baseball popular among youth athletes, I’ll let you decide. He’s amazing at all three. I have talked at length about the first two outstanding attributes of the young Cleveland Indians shortstop, but now feels like an appropriate time to touch a little more no the third.

This past Wednesday, on the day Team USA was set to face Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic final, USA second baseman Ian Kinsler made us all remember one reason kids might not be that attracted to baseball anymore:

I hope kids watching the W.B.C. can watch the way we play the game and appreciate the way we play the game as opposed to the way Puerto Rico plays or the Dominican plays. That’s not taking anything away from them. That just wasn’t the way we were raised. They were raised differently and to show emotion and passion when you play. We do show emotion; we do show passion. But we just do it in a different way.

I’m not saying it’s the only reason, or even the biggest one, but what teenager doesn’t just love being told they have to act a certain way and can’t express themselves in their own way? Sign my teenage self up!

Whether or not baseball is ready to admit it, this dull lack of personality feels like a big reason they have such trouble marketing their players. Mike Trout is one of the greatest baseball players of all time, but he he’s also one of the dullest personalities. That’s not to say Trout should pretend to be interesting to be valuable to baseball; it’s just kind of unfortunate that he’s on a team going nowhere with no real way besides winning to market him. It’s not anyone’s fault, Trout is just kind of a boring dude who is spectacular at what he does. Nothing wrong with that.

But when there’s a player like Bryce Harper — who is not afraid to celebrate, blow kisses to opposing pitchers and flip off refs that he feels slighted him — getting constantly jumped on by national media and loud fans every time he does something, that’s a bit of a problem. That’s taking a player who is being himself, even it’s a bit more abrasive than most would like, and trying to crush him into another boring athlete fresh off the factory floor.

And for the most part, that’s exactly what they’ve done. Harper’s Twitter account used to be a sounding board for the young superstar, but now it’s very clearly either monitored our just run by a social media team. It’s filled with cheering for fellow athletes or the occasional joke filtered through What Works On Social Media© and sprinkled with hashtags and emojis because those kids love hashtags and emojis.

To baseball’s credit, they seem to be coming around to the loud, energetic, outgoing Harper, at least on Twitter:

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is our own Francisco Lindor. While he has been mildly reserved in so far in terms of celebrating and bat flips in the majors, he has had not had a shortage of personality over his first full season’s worth of games.

Here are just a few examples, off the top of the Twitter hivemind:

Then, in the WBC he did something awesome: He flipped his bat. It wasn’t terribly rude, but it was “in your face” enough to made me all kinds of giddy to see happen live. It also helps that the ball he hit literally left the damn stadium.

In general, Lindor has slowly been coming out of his shell and I can only hope playing in the WBC will help accelerate the process. Baseball needs to fully embrace it or continue to lose the interest of anyone born after 1990. Baseball needs it. You need it. I NEED IT.

This post is mainly meant as a plea to Lindor to never stop being himself, but it’s also a plea to you and I and others like us, the the common baseball fan: stop vilifying fun things. Lindor is already one of the game’s best — he’s a bright young kid and he wants to enjoy the game he loves. Let him do it, don’t advocate someone “hit him in the ribs” because he dares to have fun, and let the future athletes of the world watch someone who is great at baseball have fun playing the game.