NEW BRITAIN - With two outs in the top of the eighth inning of the New Britain Beesâ€™ home opener last Friday night, Sam Gervacio forced Somerset Patriots leadoff hitter Craig Massey to bounce a harmless grounder right back to the mound, suggesting the end of a clean inning for Gervacio.
Always energetic and expressive, the reliever fielded the bouncer at about eye level, but kept his hands raised as the ball settled into his glove. Hands held above his shoulders, Gervacio let out a quick shimmy of his hips, rocking back and forth to celebrate the end of an effective outing.
But before Gervacio threw over to first to retire Massey, first base umpire Mario Rosas broke into a waltz of his own, heaving his arm upward towards the Beesâ€™ dugout, promptly ejecting Gervacio from the game. Gervacio, who didnâ€™t realize the ruling until after he completed the out and headed for the dugout, raised his arms above his head once again, this time in disbelief rather than celebration.
â€śI definitely wasnâ€™t expecting it,â€ť Gervacio said. â€śI like to have fun out there. It was nothing malicious or anything like that.â€ť
Nevertheless, Gervacioâ€™s night was done, and he wasnâ€™t the only one on the field surprised with the decision.
â€śI thought that was a quick hook,â€ť Bees manager Mauro Gozzo said. â€śI thought a warning would have been more proper in that situation. At first, I thought it was their player jawing at Gervacio, but then I saw the umpire walking towards me and telling Sam heâ€™s gone.â€ť
Gervacio has been in the Atlantic League for four seasons and has always been known as a playful talent who embraces the sportâ€™s new â€ślet the kids playâ€ť movement.
Pitching with his cap tilted so the side and upward, like Fernando Rodney with a higher tilt on the brim, Gervacio often breaks out a quick dance after a strikeout, much like a less subtle version of Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, or Pirates starting pitcher Chris Archer. Like in the major leagues, there are a remaining group of players, managers and umpires who prefer the old school mentality of â€śacting like youâ€™ve been there before.â€ť For Gervacio, he doesnâ€™t need his reactions to be accepted. He just wants them to be understood.
â€śI always have fun pitching,â€ť Gervacio said. â€śThatâ€™s my game. Some people might take it differently, but Iâ€™m just trying to have fun. It is a little frustrating when I canâ€™t put on a show like I like to.â€ť
Gervacioâ€™s ejection represents a conflict around baseball as a whole. Up in Major League Baseball, the sport displays ads and promotions encouraging players to celebrate and show emotion, yet the game can still have a tendency to still be policed the way it was decades earlier, when Gozzo was in the major leagues. Now with the Bees, Gozzo has no problem with adding a little flair to the game, whether it comes from his team or not.
â€śI may be old school, but I donâ€™t have a problem with it,â€ť Gozzo said. â€śThere are batters pimping home runs too. [Gervacio] typically does a dance after every strikeout. He did it all last year. I just hope they donâ€™t have it in for him.â€ť
Gervacioâ€™s teammates feel the same sentiment. The man dancing on the mound is the same man who brings a positive energy into the clubhouse, and they donâ€™t want to see Gervacioâ€™s playful enthusiasm sapped by a dated, yet lingering way of thinking.
â€śEveryone knows Sammy is an awesome guy and a loving teammate,â€ť starting pitcher Christian Friedrich said. â€śI donâ€™t even think that was taunting. Heâ€™s just having fun with the game. We all know Sam as the most fun guy on the team.â€ť
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org