When baseball players chew food while on the benches, a long-time fan would immediately identify it as sunflower seeds. Chew, chew, and spit! But why do baseball players chew sunflower seeds?
Some reasons why players do this are to prevent dry mouth; it is healthy; it relieves stress; and it’s cheap! The culture of chewing these seeds goes back years, and we will uncover all of these in this article.
Origins and Traditions of Sunflower Seed Chewing in Baseball
Almost any sport has that unusual tradition that they follow. These practices may have even been there for as long as age-old players remember. Fortunately, baseball had its history well-written, including the origins of chewing sunflower seeds.
Baseball players eat sunflower seeds when waiting for their turn to play. It had a long history, and in the middle of the 1800s, players were chewing something else.
- Back then, players chew tobacco instead of sunflower seeds for baseball. It was as common as chewing sunflower seeds today.
As much as 3 pounds of tobacco was consumed by an average American yearly. Of course, this was a massive amount, and chewing tobacco eventually arose as a problem.
And even with the risk of smokeless tobacco, the regular consumption of this product in baseball fields did not decline. As expected, the constant use of nicotine led to a habit akin to addiction and other health risks.
- Eventually, some professional baseball players like Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial used sunflower seeds as a substitute. This was the start of the transition to a better chewing option!
- Everything changed in 1968 when Reggie Jackson, a baseball player, was seen chewing sunflower seeds instead of tobacco.
Jackson was a baseball star, and everyone was quick to hop on the trend and emulate him.
- Now, tobacco is virtually erased from baseball fields and is replaced with the better option of sunflower seeds.
Sunflower Seeds in Baseball
As times changed, sunflower seeds became more ingrained in baseball culture.
Technically, the athletes are not chewing on the seeds of the sunflower. Baseball players actually chew and spit out the sunflower kernels encased in a shell.
The seeds are sold in packs and come in different seeds flavors. A common way to use these packs is to put several seeds in the mouth and squish them between the teeth and cheek.
Players also chew the seeds in their front teeth to crack the shells and spit them out. They would mainly bite on the kernels inside instead of the outer hulls.
It is recommended to avoid chewing the shell as the sharp fragments could be hazardous to the players. Then, all that is left to do is spitting sunflower seeds when the taste and flavor are gone.
Reasons Why Baseball Players Chew Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds stay as a part of baseball culture. And here are some benefits they have, causing the chewing practice to stay throughout many decades:
- Prevents discomfort and bad taste.
As the game progresses, the field gets dusty and dirty. Players run around, and sediments and other particles get trapped in their eyes, nose, and mouth.
The problem with thirsty and tired players is that their dry mouths catch all this dust. And it is an uncomfortable experience as the bitter, unpleasant taste registers!
Chewing the seeds help stimulate their salivary flow and lessen dry mouths. Therefore, the discomfort and bad taste eventually get washed away much more easily.
- Cheap and practical
Nothing is better than finding a cheap but practical alternative to tobacco. Chewing MLB sunflower seeds are a more practical choice due to their relatively low costs.
Furthermore, some brands like Bigs Sunflower Seeds even come in different flavors like barbeque, ranch, and original. Of course, anyone would prefer to chew something tasty in their free time!
Each packet of sunflower seeds can also conveniently fit pockets. So, it is a quick grab for players waiting for their turns.
- Nutritious and healthy
Sunflower seeds may be a light snack, but they are also packed with nutrients! Players greatly benefit from the unsaturated fats and vitamins in these seeds.
They also help in boosting our immune system and energy levels. Plus, the salty taste from the seeds helps bring back the body’s natural salts lost by sweating a lot.
- Relieves stress
Baseball is also a mentally tiring sport. Chewing and spitting sunflower seeds are helpful to reduce stress and anxiety.
The seeds contain magnesium, which may be linked to minimizing one’s stress. However, some would say that the mere act of chewing something helps the brain focus better and feel less anxious.
- It is part of the baseball culture
It may sound a bit cliché, but chewing sunflower seeds had a colorful history and is deeply ingrained in baseball culture.
As seen in history, the practice has been passed down to many generations, and young players have seen their idols do the same thing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are other options besides sunflower seeds?
A modern alternative to sunflower seeds is chewing gum. This one is not as popular as sunflower seeds because it is seen as a hassle to discard the gum after using. Plus, it does not have as many health benefits as the sunflower seeds.
Moreover, the age-old alternative was tobacco, which was long removed from baseball culture.
Has MLB ever implemented a ban on sunflower seeds?
The MLB sunflower seeds ban happened during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. The rationale for the ban was to prevent spitting and the subsequent spread of the virus.
However, as the pandemic ends, the ban has been lifted.
For decades, players have been chewing and spitting sunflower seeds when they wait for their turn on the baseball field.
Why do baseball players chew sunflower seeds? They do this to relieve their anxiety, reduce the bad taste of dirt in the mouth, and keep the culture going for this practical alternative to tobacco.
Playing would be much better if athletes do not suffer from dry mouths getting stuffed with the dirt from the fields!
Chewing sunflower seeds may seem like a small part of baseball, but it has an eventful history that molds the sport we know today.
A powerful swing and the ball is flying across the field, just one hit, and we might never forget the thrill it brings. I do not know about you, but I never do. Every baseball game is the chance to compete with others and cooperate with your teammate. It is among my biggest passions.