Joe Girardi drove up to the Yankee training facility in Tampa on Monday morning. As he stepped out of his car he heard the sound of hammers and a Skil saw.
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
He realized that Yankee hitting coach, Kevin Long had already gotten started building the barn that outfielder Brett Gardner had requested.
Gardner would use the barn to practice fouling off pitch after pitch until he could work a walk.
Girardi walked into the office area and at the end of the hallway he caught a glimpse of a woman with a long, loose dress and what seemed like a rag on her head. As she disappeared, Girardi literally bumped into Long.
“Kevin, who is that woman?”
“Joe, this is just getting weirder and weirder. It’s Gardner again.”
“What are you talking about?”
As Long related the story, the woman was a Gullah, a resident of one of the islands off the shore of South Carolina.
“After one of the hurricanes, she moved to Holly Hills, Joe. That’s where Gardner got to know her. He brought her down here.”
Long continued, “It’s about to drive me crazy. She practices voodoo. You know like in that movie, Garden of Good and Evil ."
Long had caught Girardi’s full attention. “Voodoo? Like what?”
“Man, she carries this little sack of bones and stuff with her and she shakes it around. Spooky. And she built a little fire down in the batting cage and was burning something and man did it stink."
“And she gave Gardner a doll she made. Had a pin striped uniform and everything. Had Randy Winn’s name on it. Gardner’s carrying it around and it has pins in it.”
Girardi: “Oh, man.”
Long: “That ain’t all. You remember I told you Gardner wanted a pet chicken?”
“You know how hard it is to find a chicken in Tampa? I got on the phone and finally found a place and they wanted to know whether I wanted a Rhode Island Red or a Dominecker, a layer or a fryer. What do I know about chickens?”
“Did you get him one?”
“Yeah, I got him one. But that crazy woman cut one of its feet off.”
“Cut one of its feet off?”
“Yeah, she cut one of its feet off. Stevie Donahue was around and he got the bleeding stopped. But that woman did something to dry the claw and now she’s got Gardner wearing it around his neck.”
“How’s Gardner dealing with it?”
“He seems to believe in it all and he’s actually motivated and working his butt off.”
“Great! Let’s find her an office and put her on the payroll.”