Spring training, for all of the good it portends, can be a slog. Sure, it signals that baseball season–and by proxy, summer–are right around the corner. And yeah, it gives fortysomething fans an excuse to hit up Florida or Arizona for a couple weeks and exist on nothing but fuchsia daiquiris. But for the players, long days bleed into long nights, bus trips into pink slips. So, to keep spirits high, elaborate pranks have become a ritual at camp.
And sometimes it isn’t enough to just ask the intern to find the left-handed fungo bats. Or call Rawlings and get a box of curve balls. Or send an 8-year-old batboy to the plate to ask the ump for the key to the batter’s box.
So, at a time of year when anything seems possible–unless you’re a Mets fan–we took it upon ourselves to bring you some of the best pranks that spring training has ever offered.
Kyle Kendrick is huge in Japan
Just after pitchers and catchers reported to camp in 2008, Phillies hurler Kyle Kendrick was called into a meeting with manager Charlie Manuel and then-assistant (now full-on) general manager Ruben Amaro. “Kyle,” they said, “you’ve been traded to Japan. You couldn’t keep your two-seamer low in the zone. And, kid,” they said, “you’re gonna be a Yomiuri Giant. They’re sending us $1.5 million. Go pack your bags and learn some karaoke.”
Kendrick, in disbelief, stumbled out of the office and called his agent, who confirmed the trade. A few minutes later, he met with the media. “I don’t know what to say,” he said. Just then, Brett Myers jumped out, telling Kendrick he’d “been Punk’d!”
Understandably, Kendrick was relieved. Just like in the third inning of his starts.
Back in 2008, Cubs strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss’ car was struggling.
So, the Cubs pitching staff decided to do a little remodeling, in the form of total demolition. And when Buss came out, he found his car in the parking lot with dents canvassing the sides, every piece of glass shattered and baseballs everywhere–a lot like the wall at Wrigley when the Cardinals come to town.
Well, turns out the car belonged to Buss’ wife. “It’s a shame,” pitcher Jon Lieber said with a straight face. “What kind of person would do something like that? It really just shocks me. I’m sure she’ll understand.” Later that day, after Buss had gone through every possible thing he could tell his wife, the pitching staff rewarded him with a new car and, five months later, a first-round exit in the playoffs.
Baseball, as we know, comes with a bunch of rules. And for every written one the game has a dozen unwritten ones. Don’t bunt late in the game to break up a no-hitter. Retaliate when somebody throws at your pitcher. Don’t change your underwear in the playoffs. Or, ever, if possible.
On Monday, Angels prospect Mike Trout learned another one: Rookies only speak when spoken to. So, when Trout spoke out of turn during a team-building exercise, an unidentified Angels player (allegedly ace Jered Weaver) took it on himself to make sure Trout could do a whole hell of a lot of talking.
He had the stats guy post a sign on the scoreboard that said “call Mike Trout directly with your baseball questions”–directly next to Trout’s real cell phone number.
Suffocation By Team Spirit
It was a hot day in ’86, and outfielder Mickey Hatcher thought he’d celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in style. So he found some green paint lying around and decided to apply some layers to himself.
Then, he went out, led an Irish jig with the paintbrush and even played for a while, delighting the crowd and not realizing the paint was enamel. His pores couldn’t breathe, and Hatcher had to be doused with alcohol in the clubhouse to strip the paint.
It’s similar to what Charlie Sheen does with The Goddesses.
“The Curious Story of Sidd Finch”
Siddharta “Sidd” Finch, a Mets pitching prospect in 1985, reportedly came from an English orphanage with nothing but a giant hiking boot and a pitching motion that threatened to knock him over–but boy could he throw. Reports had him clocked above 160 mph.
Said then Mets pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre: “I don’t understand the mechanics of it. Anyone who tries to throw the ball that way should fall flat on his back. But I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it a hundred times. It’s the most awesome thing that has ever happened in baseball.”
Sports Illustrated broke the story. The subhead of the article? “He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent lifestyle, Sidd’s deciding about yoga–and his future in baseball.”
What do the first letters of each word spell? H-a-p-p-y A-p-r-i-l F-o-o-l-s (s) D-a-y …
Back when David Ortiz was a Minnesota Twin–nine years, 291 home runs, two Red Sox World Series titles, a nickname and a fleet of hot sauces ago–he had still managed to put together a reputation as a connoisseur of the prank. But despite what Garrison Keillor might tell you, even Midwesterners have a tipping point.
So one day, Corey Koskie had had enough–well, that, and some peanut butter. And before Ortiz got into the locker room, Koskie smeared a couple layers of PB&J into Papi’s underwear. Ortiz, in a hurry to get to the post-game buffet, pulled on the drawers and took a couple steps.
Then the entire locker room lost it.
“I was feeling funny,” he tells Costas. “I walked back in, and it was either people on the ground laughin’ or people running… . But I was going to kill somebody.”
No. 21 In Your Programs, No. 1 In Your Bathrooms
In Jay Johnstone’s book “Temporary Insanity,” the former outfielder tells a story about getting sick of taking urine tests every year–even in the pre-steroid era. So he took it on himself to fill a vile with apple juice, then handed it to the nurse, who told him that it just didn’t look right.
“She reminded me of Nurse Ratched from ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’ This lady never had a nice thing to say,” Johnstone wrote. “So I handed it to her, she looks at me and says, ‘We’re awful cloudy and dark this morning. What have you been doing lately?’ I don’t know what made me do it, but I said to her, ‘Let me see that.’
“She handed it back to me, and I looked at her with that snarl on her face and said, Let me run it through again for you, and I drank it. She freaked out. And the three rookies behind me, their mouths just hit the floor.”
Tim Hudson Can Hear You Scream
If you look closely, you can actually see Eddie Perez’s moustache jump off his face for a second.
Catalina & Mouse
Even back in the ’20s, pranks were a part of the game. Take the Depression-era Cubs, who used to head to Catalina Island, in San Diego, to open the year. There, they just terrorized rookies–in that dignified way your grandfather would, at least.
In the late ’20s, the vets designated Roy Hansen, a super-Rube, as the leader of the Snipe Hunt, wherein Hansen would stand at the bottom of a canyon with a burlap sack and two other ballplayers would chase the snipe–an animal that would resemble the jackalope if it actually existed–down the hill to the player.
Hansen stood there for hours. When he got back, the team fell apart in the lobby of the hotel and handed him the nickname “Snipe”–and when you read the Baseball Encyclopedia today, that’s how you’ll see him listed.
Carter Rings the Bell
All right, so maybe this one didn’t happen during spring training. But it did happen in Canada, and the seasons are flipped up there or something.
Anyway, it was Fan Appreciation Day up in Toronto in 1992, and the Jays were giving away a free car. The P.A. guy would come on and announce that a lucky fan had won and slugger Joe Carter would drive the prize onto the infield. Meanwhile, Carter’s teammate Derek Bell took it all in from the dugout. And when the P.A. crackled and a fan was selected, he watched as Carter, on cue, drove onto the field…in Bell’s car.