Joe Girardi's phone rang early this morning.
It was Kevin Long, the New York Yankees hitting coach.
"Hey Kevy. How's the bunting going with Gardy?"
"Not as well as you'd like. And Andy and Mo hate being here just to pitch to this guy. But that's not why I called."
"Oh man, Gardner wants us to build him a barn!"
"A barn? Did you say a barn? What are you talking about?"
"Yeah, I said a barn. Man, it's a long story."
Turns out that during a break from Gardner's day-long bunting practice, the outfielder showed his bunting coach a book he had brought with him from his home in Holly Hills, S.C.
The book was one Gardner's grandfather had from the 1950s called "The Kid Who Batted 1.000."
There was a kid who lived on a farm and had no one with whom he could play ball. So he tossed his baseball onto the barn roof and hit it as it fell off. He practiced this way hour after hour until he had such bat control that he never missed the ball.
The only problem was he could hit nothing but foul balls. But that turned out to be a blessing in disguise because when a washed up major league pitcher found the kid, he discovered that the boy could foul off every pitch thrown to him until he worked a walk.
Gardner got the idea that if he only had a barn, he too could hit 1.000.
As the telephone call resumed, Girardi was not certain of what Long said next.
"What did you say?"
"I said, Gardner also wants a chicken."
"So, get him some chicken. Wade Boggs used to eat chicken before every game. Maybe Gardy thinks it will help him."
"He doesn't want to eat chicken. He wants a live chicken."
"What are you talking about, he wants a live chicken?"
"Well, you see in the book, the kid who hit 1.000 had a pet chicken and Gardner wants to do everything just like the kid did."
By this time Girardi was probing the possibility that his favorite player might have hit on the secret that would keep him on the big league roster.
The whole point of having Long working all day long on Gardner bunting was to get him on base. If Gardner could foul balls off until he walked, that was even better.
"Build the barn and get him the chicken," Girardi told Long.
"But don't you have to ask Hal first?"
"Just build it. If Hal won't pay for it, I'll pay for it myself. I gotta have this kid," Girardi concluded and hung up the phone.
("The Kid Who Batted 1.000" is a real book written in the 1950s by Bob Allison. It is a book aimed at kids about 10 years old. Corny and unrealistic, but fun.)