Screen Monsters

Baseball is known for its chatter, but thanks to modern technology, there’s less of it than ever in the Red Sox clubhouse.

screen monsters

Photo by Scott M. Lacey

Concerned that our smartphones, tablets, and iWhatevers are turning us all into automatons? Well, some Red Sox players share your fear.

In the face of technology, long-standing clubhouse traditions are falling by the wayside, with the culture of card-playing and cribbage on the verge of extinction. “Everyone’s got an iPad. There’s 97 TVs in the clubhouse,” says Sox reliever Daniel Bard. “It’s probably less social than it used to be, which is probably not a good thing.”

Outfielder Darnell McDonald says he tries “to keep it old school” by playing cards with Adrian Gonzalez, but acknowledges they don’t have much company.

Others have tried to capture the camaraderie of old through modern means. Before getting traded last month, Sox outfielder Mike Cameron enjoyed a mild obsession with Words With Friends, a Scrabblelike smart-phone app, often playing more than a dozen games at a time with friends, family, Sox beat writers, and teammates (Gonzalez was among his competitors).

In fact, a Words With Friends craze swept the Sox clubhouse in spring training of 2010, though Kevin Youkilis — after briefly joining the fray — became disenchanted. “I think people cheat on that,” he inveighs. “Some people who didn’t have that much knowledge of words were coming up with words that were just crazy.”

So Cameron proved unable to unite the team with phone Scrabble. And really, no single pastime has since commanded the Sox’s attention. While clubhouse solidarity remains strong, some of the once-defining forms of player interaction appear to be a thing of the past.

“Even when I was in Double-A, Facebook had just come out,” Bard says. “Twitter didn’t exist. IPads didn’t exist. Unless you brought your laptop to the field, no one was going to be on the Internet, so you played cards and hung out. That was only three or four years ago. In three or four more years, we’re not even going to talk to each other.”