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Jose Bautista's batflip was baseball at its absolute best

Baseball is stronger when we embrace the game's diversity and the emotion it generates.

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Who does baseball belong to? I know it doesn't belong to me. I'm pretty sure it doesn't belong to you. It doesn't belong to Sam Dyson or Cole Hamels or Jose Bautista or Alexander frigging Cartwright. It doesn't even belong to America, for that matter. Or to Canada. Or to Japan. Or to the Dominican Republic. Just because it was popularized here does not mean that we lease it out to other countries. No, those countries it and appropriate it, making it their own.

The players from those countries are courted and signed to play here, and they bring with them both their country's cultural take on "America's pastime" and their own individual flair. We want those players here because we want the baseball that we watch to be the best in the world. We want those players here because the diversity of cultures and perspectives they bring with them makes the game stronger and more interesting. We want those players here because they make baseball fun.

Last night, in the wake of Jose Bautista's dramatic and decisive seventh inning home run, a clearly frustrated and embarrassed Sam Dyson said some stupid stuff, such as:

Yet, I'm pretty sure that, if pressed, Sam Dyson would admit that those kids playing whiffle ball are trying to have fun. And that, in fact, one of the reasons Sam Dyson himself started playing and continues to play baseball is because the game is a hell of good time. Bat flips are, undeniably and objectively, an expression of how much fun a person is having playing the game and entertaining as hell. As evidence, I approvingly submit, for the first and only time on this site, ESPN sports business robot Darren Rovell:

You cannot deny the popular appeal of the bat flip and of the melding of Bautista's excitement, wherever it comes from, with the American game. You cannot fight against it. It has happened. It is here. It has won. There is no going back.

Baseball players are famous for actually loving to watch football. That's no surprise. Despite the fact that it's awful (perhaps because it is awful) America does too. And yet every one of those players likely believes that the NFL has gone too far in restricting the emotional expressions of football players, making rules against end zone celebrations, removing helmets, and even refusing to allow even the slightest differences in how players look in their uniforms to a maddeningly absurd degree. The NFL has worked hard to legislate personality out of its game, and is universally mocked for it. Baseball, though, allows these expressions. Fernando Rodney can shoot an arrow into the air. Jose Bautista can throw a bat. Rickey Henderson can literally pick a base up out of the ground and display it above his head.

These are good things. This is baseball. This belongs to all of us and none of our claims to the sport trump anyone else's. Jose Bautista destroyed a baseball in a key spot to give his team the lead in Game 5 of the Division Series after being down two games to none, as the climax to a ridiculous inning and series, following a hugely frustrating call by the umpires. And it has been one of the most shared clips on social media in recent memory, doing wonders for, to adopt Darren Rovell's favorite word, baseball's #brand. Jose Bautista's joy and excitement strengthens our sport.

Start respecting that.