McCoy: Blandino undefeated in anthem stare downs

The Great Blandino insists that what he did Monday night in Pittsburgh is a long-standing baseball tradition, as traditional as the National Anthem itself.

Alex Blandino, the Cincinnati Reds affable and multi-talented utility player, is good at many things. But he may be best at imitating the Statue of Liberty.

What it amounts to is that Blandino wants to be The Last Man Standing, hat over his heart, when the Star Spangled Banner concludes. Before every game he remains standing long after the last note, staring at the opposing dugout to see if there are any challengers.

And there was Monday night in PNC Park. It was Pirates relief pitcher Jose Oviedo. Blandino and Oviedo stood in front of their respective dugouts in a stare down and it last almost to the game’s first pitch.

The umpires saw no humor in it and gave a cease and desist order. Oviedo conceded and Blandino bounded into the dugout to receive high fives and pats on the back.

A baseball tradtion? Well, MLB-TV and ESPN both believed it so unusual that both featured The Great Blandino and Oviedo in their stare down.

“It is one of my favorite baseball traditions or superstitions,” said Blandino. “Even before the first pitch, that’s the first battle, in my opinion, the Anthem. It has been understated so far, but it got put on the spotlight last night.

“I do it every game, always the last to move after the anthem,” Blandino said before Tuesday’s game. “Our won-lost record is 16-16, but in my book were 32-0 Anthems right now.”

Of Oviedo, Blandino said, “I’ve never met him or talked to him. I was surprised that he was ready to try me. I’m out there every day and I’m hoping somebody would.”

Home plate umpire Chris Conroy tried to shoo both back into their dugouts while Pittsburgh pitcher Mitch Keller warmed up and Oviedo relented.

“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, they were all on the rail supporting me, telling me to stay,” said Blandino. “I knew I couldn’t lose. But I was a little worried that the first base umpire was going to throw me out. He was threatening a bit.”

Blandino said he even had the support of manager David Bell.

“I knew Skip had my back,” he said. “He was really pumped up and when I won he came over and gave me a fist bump. It meant a lot to have them all behind me.”

Blandino admitted that winning away from home is easier and said, “It is easier on the road because the other guy is holding up his starting pitcher. As far as I’m concerned, if the umpire doesn’t make me move I’ll stand up there for the whole first inning. I think they should just leave us out there for as long as possible.

“It’s a battle of will at that point,” he said. “When I won, my teammates are thinking, ‘We’re already 1-and-0 and those other guys are in trouble.’ We already have the edge on them.”

Blandino said he started doing it in high school and continued through college and he is aware of it every game, “I’m standing there until I’m the last man and looking at the other team to make sure they all move first. We’re undefeated on The Anthem Standoff so far.”

Blandino doesn’t know his overall record and his record to standing at attention the longest time.

“I’m not sure, I kind of lose track of time,” he said. “It takes a lot of focus and grit. Time kind of flies by and I never know how long I’m out there. I focus on the flag and block out all the external distractions.”

Ah, well, boys will be boys and baseball players will be baseball players … and more.

Alas, Reds manager David Bell said the club received word from baseball commissioner Rob Manfred this afternoon that the anthem stare down will not be tolerated and is to be discontinued.


Reds at Pirates, 12:35 p.m., 700, 1410

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