It doesn’t take the watch-every-inning-of-every-game type of Red Sox fan to recognize that many of Boston’s players have repetitive daily “habits” – actions they perform before each at-bat or after pitching a successful inning. Many of them are pretty easy to recall: Before leading off each game, Mookie Betts draws initials in the dirt with his bat. Prior to stepping into the box, J.D. Martinez takes a long, slow deep breath.

Just as commonplace – and far more universally – we see our hometown heroes motion a cross over their chests when stepping out of the dugout or after a productive plate appearance. Xander Bogaerts subtly crosses himself twice when walking up to the plate. Big Papi famously would step on home plate after jacking a ball out of Fenway and point two fingers to the sky.

Often we would describe the quotidian mannerisms of players like Betts as superstitions, and the faith-based gestures of players Bogaerts, Ortiz and many others as religious devotion – a blessing for good luck or a sign of thanks. But with no disrespect intended toward the religious mysticisms of many of the world’s top baseball players, many of whom hail from countries other than the United States, it is somewhat intriguing to ask: Are these two acts really different?

Needless to say, this phenomenon is not particular to the Red Sox, or even baseball for that matter. But if I needed to stand at the plate in front of a sellout crowd in Boston – perhaps one of the most unforgiving (and therefore rewarding) fan bases in all of baseball – I would probably do whatever it takes to consistently get hits. But I do wonder, what is the role of religion in the game, and how does it vary from superstition?

Jacob Morrow-Spitzer


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