By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In 2011, Major League Baseball and the players’ union came to an agreement: For the most part, players wouldn’t use chewing tobacco where fans can see them.

So, while some players still dip, many have turned to sunflower seeds and chewing gum. Outfielder Chris Colabello estimated 70 percent of Twins players chew seeds or gum during the games.

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So, that had Joan from Grey Eagle, Jake from Plymouth, and Rita from St. Paul wondering: Why do baseball players spit so much?

“You don’t see basketball players run up the court spitting,” Jake Ahlers said.

Spitting is as old as baseball. Back in the 1800s, chewing tobacco was common practice on and off the field. Players used it to stimulate their saliva on the dusty field and then use the spit to moisten their gloves.

But, by the 1960s, the dangers of chewing tobacco became more widely known and some players started to take up other oral habits.

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Twins great Tony Oliva said the dugouts used to be dirt when he first played the game, so no one had a problem spitting on the ground. He said he never chewed tobacco, but many of friends did. He said seeds and gum became more common in the 1970s and 1980s.

“When you play the game, you have to have something to entertain you, otherwise your brain goes crazy,” Oliva said.

Former first baseman for the Twins, Justin Morneau, said he chews sunflower seeds on the bench.

“You got a lot of nervous energy when you’re playing, so you need something that distracts you a bit,” he said.

And Colabello said much of the spitting has to do with tradition.

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“You saw guys on TV spit, you want to spit like the big league ballplayers,” he said. “When you’re 5 running around, you go out and spit.”

Heather Brown