Teammate Behind Epic Baseball Prank Tells All!

There is no place like a baseball clubhouse.  The amount of time players (and media, for that matter) spend inside of a clubhouse dwarfs that of the boys of summer’s counterparts in football, basketball and hockey.  The “locker room” culture of sports is something that could easily be studied within the social science disciplines of sociology and psychology.  Spending one afternoon inside of a baseball clubhouse, you’re likely to experience displays of hard work, friendship, indifference, energy, animosity, routine, boredom, exhaustion, and humor.  

Cody Decker, the first baseman for the El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres Triple-A affiliate), produced his fifth baseball-related short flick and this one is a doozy.  “On Jeff Ears” takes us inside the dugout, clubhouse and meeting room as the Chihuahuas play a hilarious prank on teammate Jeff Francouer.  

The veteran outfielder signed with San Diego in March and hey, why not prank a guy who has made around $25 million in his career and is back in the minors?  Here’s a summary.  Francouer’s teammates spent WEEKS pretending that Chihuahuas pitcher Jorge Reyes was deaf.  Coaches, players, and all kinds of folk in El Paso were in on the joke.  Decker’s film takes us inside the prank and the big reveal where Francouer learns that he’s been SO punked!

Decker shot all of the interviews in one day during a rain delay using his iPhone and edited using iMovie on his laptop over the course of a few days.  See kids, you too can make movies at home!  Decker told me that as a filmmaker, he had a clear vision for the film and knew exactly what he wanted from each player and coach when he interviewed them.

I spoke with Decker over the phone and here are a few highlights from our Q&A:

Jackie Pepper: How was Jeff Francouer chosen as the butt of this particular joke?

Cody Decker: Basically we thought he was the perfect candidate.  We put the hook in there early to see if he would fall for it and he did.  We picked Jeff because he’s such a high profile guy and he’s such a nice guy that  I don’t think he saw it coming.  He even admitted it was the best and most well executed prank that he’s every seen.  It was a whole team effort.

JP: Early in the film we see Francouer interviewed on camera.  What did you tell him the reason was for the interview? 

CD: I told jeff that I was shooting a short film for Jorge and his wife’s [wedding] anniversary.  That’s why I told him to annunciate his words [so that “deaf” Jorge would be able to read his lips in the video].

JP: At the end, we see the “big reveal” in which Francouer watches the interviews and learns that you’ve fooled him, hard core.  What happened at that moment that wasn’t seen on camera?

CD: We had a full-on 20 minute Q&A where he [Francouer] asked the entire team questions.  It was amazing.  He was laughing.  He said this is unbelievable.  He said i had no reason not to believe this.

JP: Your teammates verbally hammer the guy, calling him an “idiot” throughout the video.  Were you at all concerned, especially in an age where bullying is a key issue, that this joke was going too far?

CD: No.  Never.  Jeff is literally maybe the best teammate that any of us can ever hope for.  He’s an unbelievable leader, he’s fantastic.  He thought this was just as funny as we did and that just shows you what an amazing guy he is.  We weren’t picking on him, it was just a little thing that we just did and he was impressed.  He got a kick out of it and he bought us all dinner the next night.  

Dodgers Are Heading To The NLCS…But Did You See Puig Dance?

The Dodgers are heading to the NLCS for the first time since 2009, and the city of Los Angeles is going berserk.  Perhaps the craziest, most enthusiastic of us all is Yasiel Puig.

Before calling up the young phenom to the majors in June (BP), the Dodgers were 23-32 and on the brink of collapse.  After the 22-year-old Cuban arrived at Chavez Ravine (AP), the Dodgers went 69-38, finishing the season with a 92-70 record. 

That’s right folks…

B.P. 23-32

A.P. 69-38

Not too shabby.  But the Wild Horse -a nickname bestowed upon Puig by legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully- is good for so much more than just baseball.  

Not only is Puig stellar at spraying celebratory Champaign, but my gosh, does he have some incredible dance moves.  And by incredible, I mean, well…see for yourself.

This isn’t Puig’s first time out on the dance floor.  If you recall, Puig busted out "The Worm" and channeled his inner Soviet solider after the Dodgers clinched a playoff berth at Chase Field (resulting in pool-gate).

Even if you aren’t a fan of the Dodgers, how can you not root for more of this? 

Legendary Dodgers Broadcaster Vin Scully Pays Tribute To Todd Helton

What a season it has been for Major League Baseball.  An antiques roadshow of sorts, featuring some of the game’s most-respected veterans, has served as a reminder of just how great these men were for the game, before they ride off into the retirement sunset.  

Mariano Rivera.  Andy Pettitte.  Todd Helton.  

Like Rivera, Helton managed to play for just one team over the duration of his big league career, which in this day and age, is a nearly impossible feat.  In 17 seasons playing first base with the Colorado Rockies, Helton won the NL batting title once, earned five All-Star selections, four Silver Slugger awards and three Golden Glove awards.  Not too shabby.   

The accolades are not lost on Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, who, having worked in the Dodgers booth since 1950, has seen his fair share of baseball.  Yep, that’s 63 years.  Point being, when Scully takes the time to create a video tribute such as the one which aired during Saturday’s game between the Rockies and Dodgers (the final game of Helton’s career), that should tell you something about Helton’s place in baseball history.  

Making the gesture even sweeter?  The fact that nobody can tell a story like Vin Scully.  In his tribute to Helton, Scully reminisces about Helton’s short-lived college football career, playing backup quarterback at the University of Tennessee.  In Helton’s junior year, the Vols starting QB went down, thus Helton’s name was called.  Helton only lasted three weeks before injuring his knee and being replaced by a then-true freshman named Peyton Manning.  

Yes, by way of injury, Todd Helton gave us Peyton Manning.  Thanks Todd!  And perhaps had it not been for that knee injury and Manning’s dominance, professional baseball would never have known Helton.  Thanks Peyton! 

Anecdotes aside, Scully appeared truly touched and emotional in his tribute video to Helton, saving perhaps his best compliment for last, weaving words in only the way only Scully can.

"On behalf of all those Dodgers pitchers you mistreated for so many years, have a wonderful life after baseball." 

                           Bonehead Baseball Play of the Day

Remember that theory from your college Psyc or Soc 101 class stating that people are less likely to take responsibility or action when other people are around?  If you need a quick refresher course on diffusion of responsibility, you’ve come to the right place.  

Our “Bonehead Baseball Play of the Day” comes to us from San Diego, care of the Padres.  

See, what had happened was… with the L.A. Dodgers leading 4-0 in the top of the seventh inning, big boy Adrian Gonzalez hit a grounder directly between Padres short stop Ronny Cedeño and second baseman Jedd Gyorko.  What ensued (or, what didn’t ensue) was pretty funny in a “Dumb and Dumber” kind of way.  

But the best part of this debacle is that the bonehead play isn’t even the best part!  No, the best part is legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully’s call.  Gonzalez’ reaction ain’t to shabby either.  

*pay no mind to the laughing in the background of the video*

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If there’s one thing minor league baseball is good for, it’s hilarious ballpark promotions.  

The San Francisco Giants AA affiliate Flying Squirrels (located in Richmond, VA) is getting in on the fun with “Salute to Scandal” night during the Squirrels home game against the Portland Sea Dogs, a Boston Red Sox affiliate.  

What exactly does this “salute” entail? $1 hot dogs at the ballpark’s concession stands.

Why hot dogs, you ask?  Allow this press release from the team website to explain…

“‘Scandal night is meant to be a fun, tongue in cheek night and what hotter of a scandal right now than Anthony Weiner,’ said Flying Squirrels Vice President and COO Todd “Parney” Parnell. ‘His scandal just couldn’t have come at a better time in regards to the Flying Squirrels promotional calendar.’”

The fun doesn’t end with dollar wieners though does it?  Oh no, absolutely not.  

"Fans in attendance will be invited that night to tweet pictures enjoying their $1 hot dogs to @GoSquirrels for the chance to win prizes. Other select fans will be invited to participate in contests between innings that pay tribute to certain celebrities who have been in the spotlight for their scandals. Some examples include the “Brett Favre Football Throw” and the “Tiger Woods Closest to the Pin Challenge”. To end the night with a bang, the Flying Squirrels will have a postgame fireworks extravaganza courtesy of Coventry Health Care and Your Local Ford Dealers.”

To end the night with a bang… of course.  

I salute you, Flying Squirrels, primarily because the flying squirrel has to be one of the top five coolest animals on earth, but also, for your creativity in bringing inappropriate debauchery into the family-friendly, wholesome happening that is minor league baseball.  Bravo.  

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A few days before the brightest stars in baseball head to Kansas City, the All-Star Game has already seen several curve balls come its way.

From the surprising dominance of knuckle ball pitcher R.A. Dickey to the emergence of rookie Mike Trout and controversy surrounding fellow young buck Bryce Harper’s spot on the roster, baseball’s most famous heavy hitters seem to be an All-Star afterthought. 

Rookie vs. Rookie

Well hot diggity dog, look who snuck his way onto the NL All-Star roster?  Yes Harper-haters, the Nationals stand-out 19-year-old weaseled his way into a trip to Kansas City, thanks to Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton who will miss the game and undergo knee surgery.  Bryce Harper has felt the heat on a national level since gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old, and I’d say he’s met the challenge in his first season in the Majors. 

In 63 games, the right fielder is batting .282 with 8 home runs, 25 RBI and .472 slugging.  

Over in the AL, fellow rook Mike Trout blows Harper out of the water, statistically speaking.  The 20-year-old is hitting .342 with 12 HR, 40 RBI and .564 SLG in 64 games, not to mention his excellent fielding skills.  Oh ya, he also leads the AL with 26 stolen bases. 

While Trout had long been considered a stud by baseball insiders, he was relatively unknown to those outside “the know.”  Trout didn’t face nationwide pressure the way Harper has, or the expectations of carrying an entire big league ball club. 

Anyone in their right mind agrees that Trout is an All-Star (despite not making it as a starter) but the debate rages on in regard to Harper. 

Being selected to an All-Star team isn’t only about statistics.  It’s about representing each team in the league.  Sometimes it is strictly numbers based, other times it’s a popularity contest (decided by the fans), and once in a while the game is used to show respect for a player’s overall career rather than his accomplishments in that season.

What’s wrong with selecting Harper, whose numbers are absolutely respectable?  More importantly, he has reenergized a first-place team and its fans while drawing millions of eyeballs from all over the country to the sport.  With all of the BS tarnishing baseball over the last several years, the sport could use a guy like Harper, who thus far, has brought nothing but good PR, not to mention blessing the world with the great new catch phrase, “that’s a clown question bro.”

Hopefully the 2012 All-Star game will turn out to be an anecdote told in conversation several years from now:   “I watched those two share a field at an All-Star game in their rookie season, before they became two of the best to ever play the game.” 

You can’t go wrong having these two on the All-Star roster. 

The Unexpected Rise of R.A. Dickey

Nobody saw this coming.  Not even R.A. Dickey himself.  The Mets knuckleballer has had one hell of a ride.  The man has battled many demons in his life, from suffering sexual abuse to an injury expected to be career-ending to deep emotional depression.  At age 37, Dickey finally hit his stride with a 12-1 record and 2.40 ERA earning him his first-ever All-Star spot.

Dickey’s career seems to have played in reverse, starting out as a highlight touted first-round draft pick before doctors discovered he had an elbow injury, condemning him as damaged goods.  The more Dickey aged, the stronger he grew, learning, and now seemingly perfecting the art of the knuckleball pitch.  In June, Dickey made history throwing back-to-back one-hitters. 

Despite unquestionably earning a spot as an All-Star starter, the unique and rarely used pitch that got Dickey to this level may keep him out of the starting lineup in Kansas City.

Tony LaRussa, managing the NL team is concerned that his starting catcher, the young Buster Posey of the Giants might struggle to receive knucklers behind the plate.  Since the fans voted Posey a starter, LaRussa might feel forced to relegate Dickey to a backup spot.   Plus, the outcome of the MLB All Star game now actually means something to teams in World Series contention.

It would be an ironic shame if the talent that makes Dickey so spectacular forces him out of the starting lineup, but he is still an enigmatic figure with a story that fans love.  Being a first-time All-Star at age 37 is a great enough accomplishment to keep Dickey happy and the fans in his corner. 

Andrew Who?  Fans, Meet Andrew McCutchen

News of the injured Giancarlo Stanton proves to be the gift that keeps on giving.  First, Bryce Harper learned that he would replace Stanton on the NL All-Star roster.  Then, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen got the call that he would take Stanton’s place in the Home Run Derby.

The Pittsburgh Pirates don’t get a lot of love from the media, understandably so considering the franchise has been one of the worst in baseball for many years.  It’s mean, I know, but it’s the truth.  On the bright side, the Pirates have a potential superstar on their hands as McCutchen, in his third year in the Majors, is having an outstanding season thus far. 

In 81 games, McCutchen is hitting .362 with 18 HR (including two in Sunday’s win over the Giants) and 60 RBI.   His .362 average leads all of baseball.  Not too shabby for a 25-year-old playing in Pittsburgh. 

In fact, McCutchen has the highest batting average by a Pirate at the All-Star break since World War II. 

Win or lose, McCutchen’s Derby appearance should create some buzz for the emerging star by giving the country an opportunity to get to know the Pirates’ young standout.