According to an MLB.com report, the incident occurred when Valdespin decided to show up to AT&T Park for the Aug. 1 tilt between the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets, in a plain white t-shirt, violating the team's self-imposed "collared shirts only" dress code when going to and from a ballpark.
Tearing His Shirt To Shreds
Some Mets veterans took it upon themselves to cut tassels into the sleeves of Valdespin's white shirt, and wrote in sharpie messages like "El Hombre" -- "the man," in Spanish -- in large block letters on the back. On the front, the shirt read: "NY Loves Valdie" with a heart in place of the word "loves".
Valdespin, who had a history of off-the-field immaturity during his time in the Mets' minor league system, was momentarily annoyed, but later said "That's funny," and pranced around in the clubhouse wearing the shirt before the game on Aug. 2.
"At the time you get mad, but what can I do? I'm not going to fight with anybody in here," Valdespin said. "We're a family in here. Sometimes they do it to be happy, have fun."
David Wright had to take Valdespin aside to let him know that the team likes having him around, and that he shouldn't take the incident personally.
"I would never do that," Valdespin said. "You know why? Because you've got to respect everybody. The example here is this guy, David Wright. He's the captain of the team. He respects everybody."
I can't rip Valdespin for being annoyed with having his shirt ripped to shreds. Anyone would be bothered if that happened to them.
The important thing to take away from this, however, is that it didn't take long for Valdespin to accept that it was a playful moment in rookie hazing. He immediately recognized that this will help build team unity and camaraderie, and not serve as something that would break the family-like atmosphere apart.
The tension seemed to go away just as soon as it arose, and that is a credit to Valdespin. He could have stayed mad and escalated the matter, but he chose not to. He wore the chopped up shirt around the clubhouse, and even posed with teammates in cell phone pictures. In the end, it was just a fun little gag that will be a distant memory within a week.
That is sure to earn him some brownie points in the clubhouse, and keep him off the back pages of the New York sports newspapers for being a baby, similar to the way Lastings Milledge was treated when he reacted negatively to some rookie hazing in 2006.
Valdespin has mostly kept to himself in his rookie year with the Mets, as that's the approach taken by most first-year players.
According to the Mets report, Collins said that Valdespin hasn't done anything to disrupt the culture in the clubhouse, and he took it a step further by noting that the young athlete probably didn't even know about the collared shirt dress code.
Did The Team Cross The Line?
"He thought it was OK to wear a white t-shirt to the ballpark," Collins said. "This is the big leagues. So the guys said, 'No, we dress nicer than that.' They made the message."
The Mets probably won't make the playoffs this year, but these last 50 games of the season will be crucial in determining which players belong in the Big Apple for the 2013 season.
Finding out that Valdespin is showing growth and maturity in incidents like this, which could have turned ugly in a hurry in he stayed upset with his teammates, is an important development in the process of evaluating who to bring back next year.
A little rookie hazing is OK here and there, and Valdespin seems to have learned his lesson to wear collared shirts. In the process, we also learned a little something about him: He's a team player.
Did Valdespin properly handle the rookie hazing incident on Aug. 1? Let me know in the comments.
Eric Holden is a lifelong New York Mets fan. Follow him on Twitter @ericholden.
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