Pro baseball in Korea, known as the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO), has always been known for its flashy players when it comes to bat flips after home runs. In Korea, it’s not frowned upon to flip your bat (“ppa-dun”) after a home run. In fact, bat flips are the norm and not considered disrespectful toward pitchers.
Baseball is America’s pastime, but some parts of the game have been slow to change. There are many unwritten rules in baseball that older veterans and coaches have upheld. Bat flips were considered taboo because it’s considered unsportsmanlike to show up a pitcher after you tagged them for a home run.
If you do, you do so at your own risk in MLB, as most pitchers aren’t known for having a thick skin. If you flip your bat in front of a big leaguer in North America, you’re likely going to get drilled in the back during your next at bat.
Korea, on the other hand, has embraced a celebratory nature toward their home runs. It definitely has more of a Latin American flavor than the typical respectful and reserved nature that you’d find in the Japanese Baseball League. A reserved nature is an integral part of Korean culture, but players that keep their emotions in check 99% of the time use a bat flip to celebrate sincere adulation and joy.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, baseball players love to add panache to their game. That means lots of bat flips after a home run.
Old Guard: Never Show Up the Pitcher
In America, you never show up the pitcher. You can slow down your home run trot, but you try not to act too dramatically after smashing a long ball.
There’s a funny scene in “Bull Durham” in which the young pitcher kept shaking off signs from the veteran catcher. Kevin Costner’s character, Crash Davis, tipped off the batter on the next pitch. Tim Robbins’ character, Nuke, wanted to bring the heat and throw a fireball. The batter knew what was coming and crushed a home run. After the guy hit the home run, he admired it a little too long for Davis’ tastes. He quickly chastised the offender about showing up the pitcher.
When Jose Bautista from the Toronto Blue Jays launched a long ball in the 2016 playoffs, baseball Twitter had a meltdown over his flip. Ex-Yankees fireman, Goose Gossage, was one of the many pitchers from the old guard who lost his mind over Baustista’s flip.
Younger players in the majors embraced a more carefree and festive attitude, while the old guard has been steadfast in their “no fun allowed” nature.
Simply put, if you’re a pitcher and don’t want to see an opponent show you up with a bat flip, then stop serving up home runs and leaving balls in the fat part of the plate.
In the last couple of seasons, even the MLB has encouraged more flair from its young stars. MLB introduced a “Let them play” campaign in order to let the dinosaurs know that the suits want more joy and less stuffiness.
Ppa-Dun: Origins of Bat Flips in Korea
No one knows when the bat flip started or became popular in Korea. It seems like it sort of happened one day and everyone was cool about it. Mina Kimes traveled all the way to Korea to find the origins of the bat flip. Kimes wrote an in-depth feature story for ESPN Magazine about bat flips in 2016.
“They can’t pinpoint a period of time or a certain player who started it all,” announcer Daniel Kim told ESPN. “If you’re trying to understand bat flips, you have to understand how the games are watched. The passion and emotion in a KBO game. I can’t describe it. You’ve just got to experience it.”
Baseball fans in North America and the Caribbean are getting their fix by watching the start of the KBO season. ESPN will be airing KBO games, so viewers will be able to catch a bat flip in real time during a live game in Korea.