Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Claw Comes to Citi Field

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The moment he stepped on second base, Jose Reyes turned to the Mets' dugout and smiled. From his seat on the bench, Willie Harris knew what was coming.

[SPRTS_FEATURE1]David Goldman/Associated Press

Jose Reyes, celebrating a double against Braves on April 17.

"Give it to him," Harris said, laughing along with teammates Scott Hairston and Justin Turner. "Give it to him."

After Reyes' leadoff double Tuesday, the three of them ran to the top step of the dugout. Reyes, as has become his custom, threw his right hand over his head and spread his fingers in the shape of a claw. And with that, Harris, Hairston and Turner returned the gesture.

Some players call it The Claw. Others call it The Spotlight. Reyes doesn't know what it's called.

But it became trendy in baseball last year when the Texas Rangers made it the signature gimmick of their run to the World Series. And Reyes has adopted it.

"I do it for my teammates," he said. "I just want them to have a lot of energy like me."

Reyes said he isn't entirely sure what the gesture means. But Hairston described it as a form of congratulations among teammates.

"It's kind of like a high-five, like, 'Good job,'" he said. "It's a spotlight, like you're shining. Like if you're on stage, the spotlight is on you."

Reyes said he started making the gesture last season at Razor Shines, who was then the first-base coach. But it has become more ubiquitous this season, for two reasons. The routine involves a handful of Reyes' teammates now. And the way he is hitting, he has had more reason to do it.

[SPRTS_FEATURE3]Getty Images

Vladimir Guerrero celebrates during last season's ALCS.

Reyes entered Wednesday's game with a .325 batting average, which ranked first both among major-league shortstops and among leadoff hitters (minimum 100 plate appearances). And with 11 walks, his .377 on-base percentage also was the highest of any shortstop in baseball.

That has given Reyes a chance to utilize his speed. He was tied for the major-league lead with 11 stolen bases.

In short, Reyes is wreaking havoc the way he did from 2006 to 2008, before injuries raised questions about whether the prime of his career had already passed.

"It's been a couple of years since I've felt this way," Reyes said. "I feel like me now, like I can do everything on the field with no problem. It's a good feeling."

The emergence of The Claw as a popular gesture in baseball can be traced back to San Francisco Giants infielder Miguel Tejada, who started doing it when he played for the Baltimore Orioles.

Tejada was cagey when asked about it Wednesday. He declined to say precisely when or why he started the gesture.

"One day…just having fun in a game," he said. But for whatever reason, it has caught on with other players.

Reyes picked it up from Tejada when they played together for the Dominican Republic in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Hairston noticed Tejada doing it when they were teammates in San Diego. And Turner saw Tejada do it when they were teammates in Baltimore.

Associated Press

Rangers fans do The Claw.

Harris got the idea from watching the Rangers in the playoffs last year. But with a .222 batting average entering Wednesday, he's done it more to congratulate Reyes than the other way around.

"He does it with emotion," Harris said. "When you're Jose Reyes, you can do that. When you're me, you kind of just keep it down."

The gesture has yet to become widespread among the Mets, though, the way it has with the Rangers.

While a handful of players do it to acknowledge Reyes' feats at the plate, many remain oblivious to it.

When asked about Reyes and The Claw, David Wright shook his head and smirked.

"I don't know what he's doing," Wright said. "God knows what goes through his mind most of the time."

—Mike Sielski contributed to this article.

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