There's something about Luis Arraez's presence in the batter's box that makes it seem like he could drop the bat and fling out some jazz hands at any moment.
It's almost choreography.
Swing. Step. Quarter turn. Step. Step. Slide. Hop. Criss-cross. Prisyadka. That's the squat-kick move from Russian folk dancing, which is likely not what the Venezuelan was trying to emulate. But the moves certainly are unmissable, especially when he vigorously shakes his head at a pitch outside the strike zone.
Those at-bat theatrics have garnered the 24-year-old admiration from fans since his 2019 rookie season, when he infamously pinch-hit for injured Jonathan Schoop down 0-2 in the count and joropo-ed (the national dance of Arraez's home country, obviously) his way to a walk.
"That kind of solidified what Luis Arraez was going to be," pitcher Taylor Rogers said, adding Arraez has become a favorite among the bullpen when it comes to imitating teammate tendencies. Though Rogers likely wouldn't enjoy those performances as much if he were pitching against Arraez, as Rogers said that is definitely a trash-talking — well, trash-dancing — tactic.
Rogers likened Arraez to Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, who also makes his plate appearances whole-body workouts with his crouched over, catlike shuffles. But Arraez attests his head-shaking routines are completely original.
"It's mental. It gives me confidence," Arraez said. "I don't do it to be disrespectful to anybody. I just do it because it works for me. So I'm going to keep doing it because it works for me, and it's part of my game, and I don't feel like I have to change anything."
Arraez's three-season batting average (. 333) and on-base percentage (. 462) have made him a leadoff choice for the Twins, though he batted ninth against a lefthanded starter in Thursday's 10-2 victory against Seattle at Target Field. And whether he's the first batter up, the last, or pinch-hitting in the final inning, Arraez treats every outing as opening night.
"I don't think there's a difference in my mind," Arraez said. "My dad used to tell me that hitting ninth is like leading off. It's basically the same thing. It doesn't matter the order, so I don't look at it that way."
The offseason addition of shortstop Andrelton Simmons, which moved Jorge Polanco back to second base, left Arraez as a super utility player this season. Josh Donaldson's first-game injury made Arraez more or less the regular there, for now, as the three-game series with the Mariners resumes after Friday's built-in off day.
He left a game against Detroit this week because of heartburn, and a game without Arraez means a couple fewer smiles from manager Rocco Baldelli.
"He turns into, like, a little energetic hitting machine when he's out there, and he almost loses himself," Baldelli said. "When he's at his best, he's in that kind of state, and we fully encourage our guys to find that spot. And Luis, of course, finds that spot a lot."
Arraez's exertions might annoy some baseball purists, but even they can't argue the motions as superfluous. Through six games this year, he has scored four runs, has eight hits, five RBI and four walks. He also added a two-run homer on Thursday, although designated hitter Nelson Cruz can maybe take some of the credit for that.
Ahead of the near-400-footer, Arraez went to his father figure and resident Bomba Squad captain for help.
"I touched his hands, and I said, 'Hey, Nelly, give me something, give me something good,' " Arraez recalled. "And then, I mean, I got the homer."
Cruz didn't seem to receive any of the Arraez rhythm in return, though. The ability to trip the light fantastic must transfer through the feet instead.