Only one time in his life, former Rangers great Michael Young said, has he ever uttered the sentence, “Can you please zip me up?”
As a rookie for the Rangers in 2001, Young went through a long-standing Major League tradition where rookies are put through their paces by veterans, which includes forcing them to dress up in funny, cartoonish costumes, often female garments, on a road trip late in the season.
The new labor agreement ratified Tuesday prohibits players from “requiring, coercing or encouraging” players from “dressing up as women or wearing costumes that may be offensive to individuals based on their race, sex, nationality, age, sexual orientation, gender identify or other characteristic,” according to the Associated Press.
Young, now retired, sees both sides of the issue.
“It’s overboard, but I understand it,” he said. “There’s been a bit of a cultural shift in terms of hazing in sports, I do get it. I support a league that’s trying to be proactive on this issue.”
But at the same time, Young said, it’s a rite of passage for rookies and a long-standing tradition that players remember fondly. At least he does.
“I went to college so I understand the hazing, it’s part of every sport,” Rangers pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez, who was forced to wear a blue dress, short skirt and blond wig two years ago. It wasn’t a big deal, to me anyways. It doesn’t really bother me, but I guess it bothers some. I guess I’m a little sad that it’s out because I don’t get to do it to other players. We’ll find other ways to do it, away from the cameras.”
Nomar Mazara, 21, had to dress up like an oversized infant, including a diaper, as a rookie in August.
“It’s fun. It’s part of being a rookie. They treat you the right way,” he said. “When you come up you know you have to dress up, sing and other stuff. It’s nothing bad. It’s part of the experience of being a rookie.”
Many of the outfits weren’t necessarily offensive, Young said, so his only wish was that the league and player’s union had worked out some specific guidelines going forward. Instead of nixing the whole thing.
“Dressing up a guy like a giant M&M or a Star Wars action figure is a fun welcome to the big leagues moment,” he said. “I think what goes uncovered is usually the following day that kid gets taken out to lunch, gets talked to by a veteran player about what it means to be a major league player and the responsibilities that are included.”
The team building and tradition for rookies will have to be altered, he said.
“I’m not completely bent out of shape over it. The last thing you want to have happen is something to go terribly wrong and it goes public,” Young said. “It’s a welcome to the big leagues that every kid, even though they’re embarrassed as hell, they love every last bit of it. It’s just another sign that they’re where they always dreamed of being.