The Yankees Have Discovered the Transformative Power of Human Touch

Outfielder Cameron Maybin’s ‘hugs for homers’ challenges traditional notions of masculinity, and experts say that’s a very good thing

Thomas Page McBee
Forge
Published in
4 min readSep 20, 2019

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NY Yankees teammates Gleyber Torres and Cameron Maybin hug as they celebrate a two run home run against the Toronto Blue Jays
New York Yankees teammates Gleyber Torres (#25) and Cameron Maybin (#38) hug as they celebrate a two run home run in the 6th inning of their game against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 14, 2019. Photo: Cole Burston/Getty

Cameron Maybin is hitting a solid .284 for the Yankees, but the outfielder’s most winning contribution to his team is the hugs he delivers in the dugout.

After each homerun, players walk through the dugout getting high fives, then get one last reward: a warm embrace from Maybin. Now fans are hugging in the stands, too, and even making T-shirts to commemorate this new baseball tradition.

“Hugging just makes people feel good,” Maybin told the New York Times. “Everybody needs a good hug sometimes. Even when you don’t think you want one.”

He’s right. And beyond building team spirit, hugs could actually be fueling the Yankees’ winning streak. A 2010 University of California-Berkeley study of the NBA showed that basketball players and teams that hugged more at the beginning of the season played better all season long. In 2012, the Wall Street Journal reviewed 25 hours of that year’s Olympics to measure the U.S.’s “touchiest” team: It was men’s volleyball, which beat out even women’s volleyball for displays of affection — and made it to the quarterfinals.

Butt slaps and bro-hugs have, of course, been ubiquitous in male jock culture since at least the 1970s, but Maybin’s hugs aren’t “bro-y.” They’re not quick with a couple pats on the back. They’re embracing and warm. They’re affectionate. They’re something baseball has never seen before.

Indeed, pro athletes are generally expected to conform to a traditional image of hyper-masculinity, and have long been celebrated for traits such as dominance and stoicism, not spontaneous displays of genuine affection.

The stubborn notion that there is one monolithic, “natural” kind of masculinity — and the enforcement of its unyielding rules — has been blamed for an alarming litany of health risks in men, including suicide and heart failure. Part of the problem is that “traditional” or dominant masculinity has as its central tenet the notion that expressing emotion or, crucially, asking for help, is “feminine”…

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Thomas Page McBee
Forge
Writer for

Writer exploring the relationship between gender, culture, and history. Most recent book: Amateur (Scribner). Essays/reporting: NYT, The Atlantic, GQ, more.