- ESPN reported that ex-Phillies slugger Carlos Santana destroyed a clubhouse TV after catching teammates playing "Fortnite" during a September game. It's the latest example of how popular the game is among the current generation of MLB players.
The quest to understand Fortnite is so desperate that The New Yorker dispatched a reporter-at-large to write a parenting guide masked as an analysis of the contemporary teenage zeitgeist. From pre-teen boys to professional gamers and working adult men, the XBOX game's popularity is more akin to religious orthodoxy than, say, the Cabbage Patch Kids and Tamagotchi fads. It has forced media companies to grapple with a future where its most trusted consumers of generations past—young-to-middle-aged men—may prefer watching prolonged video game battles to regular-season sporting events infested by product placement. Samsung created a new selling strategy on their Galaxy Note 9 just so fans could play from their mobile devices.
Carlos Santana, formerly of the Phillies and now of the Indians, understood enough about the video game to put a bat through the clubhouse television.
Per ESPN's Jeff Passan, the usually placid Santana destroyed the clubhouse after he discovered teammates playing Fortnite during the final series of Philadelphia's 2018 season. Firmly in the playoff race to begin September, the Phillies lost 18 of the 24 games before that series and guaranteed that they wouldn't finish the season above .500 for a seventh straight campaign. The team's morale was so low that some unidentified players retreated from the dugout to the clubhouse to satisfy their Fortnite fix. Santana found them and, in a scene evocative of Carlos Perez battling a water cooler or John "Bluto" Blutarsky confronting an aspiring Elliott Smith, destroyed the clubhouse TV. "I see a couple players—I don't want to say names—they play video games during the game," Santana told Passan. "We come and lose too many games, and I feel like they weren't worried about it. Weren't respecting their teammates or coaches or the staff or the [front] office. It's not my personality. But I'm angry because I want to make it good."
To longtime baseball fans, the incident may conjure memories of the "chicken and beer" scandal involving Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jon Lester and the 2011 Red Sox. To the public, it's another example of Fortnite's influence among young athletes. Whether it's Atletico Madrid forward and French star Antoine Greizmann dancing like a doofus, Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster making lifelong fans out of some local kids or the Canucks banning the game from roadtrips, the Fortnite phenomenon is embedded in the international sporting lexicon.
In Major League Baseball, the game's influence might be most potent of all.
— The Astros are the most visible and active Fortnite lovers. Last May, the team could be seen doing one of the game's countless dances after victories. Whether it was a leg gyration or arm wave, Houston players brought their fandom to the field and clubhouse. Star third baseman Alex Bregman told Bleacher Report's Joon Lee that "we used to chase girls and now we play Fortnite."
— The Brewers set up a gaming session on the Miller Park jumbotron.
— The video game is so popular in the Red Sox clubhouse that manager Alex Cora stated that he did not think David Price's bout with carpal tunnel syndrome was due to excessive controller usage. Xander Bogaerts did the "L" dance after doubling against the Rays. Even the likes of Chris Sale and Dustin Pedroia joined postgame Fortnite sessions with their teammates.
— Minnesota Twins pitcher Trevor May is a respected and established e-sports professional. He's the co-founder of Esports Lab, is a brand ambassador for Luminosity Gaming, once sat on a Sports Innovation panel at the world-famous Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and even offered to throw a bullpen on Twitch, the massively influential hosting site on which May has over 122,000 followers. May and other esports pros hosted FortDay at Target Field last season, and the four-year MLB vet has logged hours with Ninja, the most famous esports celebrity in the world. Ninja has over 13 million Instagram followers. That's over three times as many as Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton combined.
— Longtime Yankees and Twins starter Phil Hughes killed Ninja, triggering some witty banter between the two and May.
— When former Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp asked teammate Cody Bellinger if he'd be going out in New York City after a great game against the Mets, the 23-year-old declined so he could retreat to his hotel and his XBOX. "You can't even get that kid to eat dinner," Kemp said. "He just wants to play Fortnite." As a 25-year-old outfielder in Los Angeles in 2010, Kemp dated Rihanna. He stated that, at Bellinger's age, he was not inclined to play video games after finishing up at the ballpark.
Perhaps the names of the Phillies' gaming addicts will be released (if they're even still apart of the organization). They can take comfort, even after Santana's outburst, that they are not alone when feeling withdrawls from the sporting world's most popular video game.