MLB: Most Outrageous Spring Training Moments in Baseball History
Spring training brings a change in seasons and renewed optimism amongst players and fans alike.
Droves of players, old and new, converge on communities in Florida and Arizona for roughly six weeks of practice, training and team-building.
But spring training isn't all work—players, managers and even owners have fun at the each other's expense.
Of course, it isn't all fun and games—sometimes players get injured, and some of those injuries are brutal and bizarre.
The point is, spring training makes for some outrageous moments both on and off of the field.
Lets take a look at some of the most memorable.
No. 17: Alex Rodriguez Struggles with the Truth
After coming clean to ESPN's Peter Gammons a week earlier with the revelation that he had indeed experimented with performance-enhancing drugs at one point in his career, New York Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez decides to hold a press conference during spring training to address the issue.
It is amazing how difficult it is to take Rodriguez at his word—even when those words are being read from a prepared statement.
No. 16: Dance Dance Revolution
In a mix of reality shows—Dancing With the Stars and America's Got Talent—the Texas Rangers put on a show for their fans before a spring training game in 2011.
Watch as outfielders Julio Borbon and Nelson Cruz and All-Star infielders Michael Young and Ian Kinsler entertain those in attendance before the game starts.
No. 15: Robin Ventura's Gruesome Leg
During a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox in 1997, Chicago White Sox All-Star 3B Robin Ventura suffered one of the most gruesome leg injuries in recent memory.
He was running full speed towards home plate when he slid—and immediately screamed out in pain. Between the weight of his body and his momentum coming into the slide, Ventura ended up dislocating his right ankle and suffering a compound fracture of his right leg.
The injury was so severe that Ventura refused to allow his wife to see the damage up close.
No. 14: Three Man Lift
Players like to keep things light during spring training, and the veterans on the Colorado Rockies are no different.
Three rookies in camp during spring training in 2008 were subject to a heinous act, one that involved the trio being tied together and one of the skinniest players on the team "attempting" to pick them up at the same time.
A teammate would be the reason that they'd rise off of the ground, but it had nothing to do with them being lifted.
Instead, a bucket of garbage from the refrigerator in the clubhouse, including ketchup, old cold cuts, pickle juice, milk, eggs, rotten fruit and anchovies, got them to their feet.
No. 13: Magnum P.I. Comes to Florida
Known more for his mustache and the Hawaiian shirts that he wore on Magnum P.I., Tom Selleck is a life-long baseball fan who finally got to live out his dream of playing in the big leagues thanks to Sparky Anderson.
Selleck, who had spent time with multiple teams in 1992 as he prepared for his role in the fairly miserable movie experience that is Mr. Baseball, said that he felt most comfortable with the Detroit Tigers.
"I really felt I belonged in spring training with Detroit when some of the guys put Atomic Balm (a fiery muscle salve) in my jock. If the players kid you, you know they like you," said Selleck.
Towards the end of his time with the Tigers, Sparky Anderson put Selleck into a game against the Cincinnati Reds as a pinch hitter.
Selleck recalls his lone professional at-bat: "As I like to remember it, I made contact with the ball four times. But they were all foul balls or foul tips and I eventually struck out. That pitcher was cutting me no slack. He was looking for a job."
No. 12: Carlos Silva Can't Take It Anymore
After a first inning that saw Carlos Silva pitch poorly and three members of the Cubs infield, including 3B Aramis Ramirez commit errors, tempers were running hot as the team returned to the dugout during a 2011 spring training game.
The story goes that Silva uttered something towards either the entire team or Ramirez himself, but before long Silva and Ramirez were in each other's faces jawing at one another, though no punches were thrown.
Silva, who was battling for the final spot in the Cubs rotation, was released near the end of spring training and appeared in seven minor league games for the Yankees in 2011.
Mike Quade, manager of the Cubs at the time, summed up the situation: "If we were going to have everybody fighting who made mistakes this spring, we'd have the cage match of all time.''
No. 11: Matt Williams Breaks the Same Foot Twice
For the second time in his career, Arizona Diamondbacks All-Star 3B Matt Williams broke his foot with a foul ball.
Williams, who was coming off of an outstanding season in 1999 that saw him hit .303 with 35 home runs, 142 RBI and 190 hits, broke the second metatarsal bone in his right foot by hitting it with a foul ball in a spring training game against the Chicago White Sox in 2000.
The injury would cost Williams 43 games of the 2000 season, an improvement on the 63 games that the same injury forced him to miss in 1995.
No. 10: Battle of the Late Night Stars
During spring training in 2011, David Letterman sent comedian Andy Kindler down to George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa to cover the New York Yankees as they prepared for the season.
Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixiera, Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Derek Jeter all take part in the act, but former Yankees pitcher David Wells might have stolen the show.
No. 9: Dude, Where's My Car?
When I sat down with CC Sabathia and Adrian Gonzalez just over a week ago, one of the things we talked about were hijinks that take place during spring training.
One incident in Cleveland stood out in Sabathia's mind.
CC did not recall the player's name or exactly what year it was, but during one spring training the Indians had a young player in camp for his first taste of the big leagues. The player parked his car and made his way into the clubhouse.
Indians 3B Travis Fryman arrived at the facility to find a random car parked in his parking spot.
None too amused, Fryman found out who owned the vehicle, then enlisted the help of some of the veterans on the club who proceeded to pick the rookie's car up, move it across the lot to another parking space, and put it down—without wheels and atop cinder blocks.
Needless to say, the rookie never made the mistake of parking in Fryman's spot again.
No. 8: Scream 5
There have been four official film releases in the movie franchise Scream, the most recent coming in 2011.
But technically, there have been five, as Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Tim Hudson shows us in this footage from spring training in 2005.
No. 7: Loose Lips Sink Ships
During 2011 spring training, Los Angeles Angels über-prospect Mike Trout found out that there are unwritten rules in place and violating those rules will be dealt with swiftly and severely.
Especially when Angels' ace Jered Weaver is playing the role of enforcer.
Angels' manager Mike Scioscia has team-building meetings throughout the season, especially in spring training, where the younger players are forced to make presentations to the rest of the team. There are a set of unwritten rules that come along with these meetings, one of them being that rookies are not to speak unless they are spoken to.
Mike Trout broke that rule.
In order to make sure that his point was received loud and clear, Weaver arranged with the scoreboard operator to have the following message be shown throughout the day's exhibition game: "Call Mike Trout directly with your baseball questions" followed by his cell phone number.
By the time Trout returned to the clubhouse after the game, his voicemail was full and he spent the next few hours attempting to change his cell number.
No. 6: Charlie O. Finley Strikes
Oakland A's owner Charles O. Finley is well known for having "different" ideas for generating interest in the game and his team.
In 1973, then commissioner of baseball Bowie Kuhn refused to allow Finley to use colored baseballs in a regular season game. So, Finley decided to use the balls in a spring training game against the Cleveland Indians, a game the A's would ultimately lose 11-5.
Fans and umpires were fans of the orange ball, claiming it was easier to see. Fielders also found the ball easier to pick up off the bat, but batters, the prime focus of Finley's experiment, complained that the red laces disappeared into the orange on the ball, making it virtually impossible to pick up the spin of the ball.
Finley would tinker with it and replace the red laces with white ones but it was to no avail—the commissioner's office refused to allow the colored balls to be used in regular season games.
Interestingly enough, baseball did seem to be intrigued by the idea as photos have surfaced of an official major league ball prototype, in orange, with the Spalding stamp on it.
No. 5: You Have the Right to Remain Silent
Boston Red Sox 1B Adrian Gonzalez told me this story when I sat down with him and Yankees' ace CC Sabathia just over a week ago.
During his time with the San Diego Padres, he recalled a teammate who was walking around the clubhouse boasting about something he'd done—Adrian neither recalled who the players involved were or what the boisterous player was bragging about.
After awhile, some of the veterans in the clubhouse began to grow tired of the act, so they arranged to have a police officer walk into the clubhouse one day and arrest the player on some completely invented charges.
"The look on his face when the officer slapped the cuffs on him was priceless," said Gonzalez.
After a good laugh was had by all but the victim, the culprits confessed to the prank and peace returned to the Padres clubhouse once again.
No. 4: You Look Marvelous
As comedian and life-long Yankees fan Billy Crystal prepared to celebrate his 60th birthday in 2008, the team gave him the opportunity of a lifetime.
Billy Crystal stepped into the batter's box as the leadoff hitter for the New York Yankees against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a spring training game. Facing Pirates' lefty Paul Maholm, Crystal didn't look overmatched.
In fact, after hitting a chopper past Pirates 1B Adam LaRoche that landed a few feet too far in foul territory, Crystal found himself with a 3-1 count.
"I tried to lay it in there for him. I definitely didn't try to blow it by him," said Maholm, who would strike Crystal out on two consecutive cutters.
"I was mad at myself for swinging at 'em," said Crystal, and home plate umpire Mark Carlson did nothing to make the comedian feel any better: "It was ball four," said Carlson.
No. 3: You Said You Liked Your Steak Rare, Right Skip?
During spring training in 1995, Seattle Mariners manager Lou Pinella made a wager with Ken Griffey Jr. as the team took batting practice. Pinella bet Griffey a steak dinner that Griffey could not hit three consecutive home runs on three pitches—one to left, one to center and one to right.
Griffey took the bet and lost. Being a man of his word, Griffey sought to pay the bet by bringing "Sweet Lou" the freshest steak he could find.
Not known for his raucous sense of humor, Griffey is lucky that Pinella did not try and attack him with the cow.
No. 2: George Brett Has an Accident
When was the last time that you had an accident?
Not in a car, but in your pants?
It's probably been much longer for you then it's been for Baseball Hall of Famer George Brett.
Brett entertains the masses during spring training with the Kansas City Royals in 2007 with his tale of woe.
You can see (and hear) the full video here—note, the video is not for the weak of heart due to it's colorful language and graphic descriptions.
No. 1 (Tie): Randy Johnson's Pinpoint Accuracy
Randy Johnson might have the best accuracy of any pitcher in the history of the game.
Arizona Diamondbacks starter Randy Johnson, working on an eight-strikeout performance against the San Francisco Giants in a 2001 spring training game, threw a 95 mph fastball to Giants outfielder Calvin Murray. Unfortunately for Johnson, the pitch never made it into catcher Rod Barajas' glove—not because Murray got a hold of it, but because it smashed into a dove that happened to be flying past home plate.
Said Murray: "It exploded, feathers and everything, just 'poof!' There were nothing but feathers laying on home plate. I never saw the ball, nothing but feathers."
Murray argued that the pitch should have been called a ball, but the umpire called a "no pitch" and after a brief cleanup, they started the at-bat again.
No. 1 (Tie): Kyle Kendrick Gets Traded to Japan
In 2008, Brett Myers pulled off the most elaborate prank in baseball history, one that people still talk about to this day.
The premise is simple—Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick is told that he's been traded to a Japanese team for a player named Kobiyashi, who in reality is perhaps the greatest competitive eater in the world.
The execution is complicated—the sheer number of people that Myers needed to involve to make it work is impressive.
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