Javier Báez is here to make baseball fun again.
Báez' flashy play has made him a fan favorite, from his daring baserunning to his swim-move slides to his lightning-fast hands tagging would-be base stealers. He plays with a ton of swagger, and though it may not follow textbook old school baseball, it works for him. His message has long been to take the game seriously but enjoy it at the same time.
Báez and Puerto Rican rapper Residente participated in "The Tryout," an MLB YouTube series where a celebrity ‘tries out' for a big league team after receiving personal coaching from a player. During the video, Residente notes Báez has his own style of play, asking the Cubs shortstop if it helps him play better or contributes to his daring nature on the field.
"It's not that it is not the correct way of doing it, it's just not the way many coaches teach it," Báez said in Spanish. "I was very criticized because of this, because I did things in a different way, but obviously you get used to hearing them.
"Just receive what's useful to you and leave the rest behind. That's why I have fun. A lot of people feel the pressure of the business, but in reality, it's just a game."
Báez has been criticized for his play in the past - former Pirates manager Clint Hurdle asked, "Where's the respect for the game?" in a 2018 postgame interview after Báez bat-flipped in anger on a pop out.
Baseball has a marketability problem among young people in this country. Rather than sticking to the sport's controversial unwritten rules, more players showing emotion like Báez could help fix that.
For young fans watching at home, the man known as El Mago has some sound advice.
"In my personal opinion, I would like to teach young people growing up to enjoy [the game]," Báez said. "And if they fail, fail having fun. And keep doing what is right. Let the kids play."
Cubs shortstop Javier Bez' response to critics: 'Let the kids play' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago