Slappy stood next to Maddog in the middle of the complex’s minor league clubhouse with a smile painted across his face, head bobbing up and down in appreciation of the pure genius in their new business plan. At their feet were several open shoe boxes, and in those boxes were porn DVDs, dozens and dozens of them.
“Only four dollars, guys. Don’t be scared. Step right up and get your four-dollar porn,” said Slappy like some carnival caller.
“Get ’em here for four dollars or pay fifteen dollars back at the hotel on pay-per-view. You know you’re going to do it later, so you might as well save!” echoed Maddog.
Today was the official report day for minor league pitchers and catchers. The morning was dedicated to getting medical issues in order so we could be cleared to play. Various testing stations were set up around the complex to collect medical data, things like urine and blood, and if you had any lumps on your testicles. There were enough tests that if all the guys in camp evenly distributed themselves, the event would run smoothly. However, since everyone wanted to do the same tests first, namely the blood and urine, lines formed in front of those stations that wrapped around the complex.
The reason you give blood first is because you can’t eat until you do. The reason peeing first is so desirable is because it’s notoriously hard to go wee-wee with some doctor staring at your package. Since most guys have to pee first thing when they wake up, players hold their morning waterworks for the test, which means by the time they show up at the park, they’re all ready to burst. Attend enough spring trainings and you learn to show up early to beat the lines. Beyond that, there is really nothing else a player can do except endure the day. Or, so I thought—Slappy and Maddog found a way to make a profit on it.
Aside from getting us into season-worthy shape, spring training was also seven weeks’ worth of guys seeing nothing but other guys. Guys on the field, in the weight room, out to lunch, in the hotel, and in the shower. It’s absolute penis overload. In fact, if everything goes according to tradition, within the first twenty-four hours of spring training, management will make certain we know that if we’re caught bringing women back to the hotel room, we’ll pay a hefty price. Fines can get up into the two-hundred-dollar range, roughly two weeks’ worth of meal money, giving credence to a commonly heard spring training phrase: “Make sure you get your money’s worth.”
For some players, being chaste for a month and a half in order to avoid debt is a minor annoyance. For others, it’s a fate worse than death. Asking these extremely hormone-driven individuals to keep their pants on is like asking them to hold their breath for six weeks. Fortunately, bringing back an X-rated film to the room is not a fineable offense. While it may not be the real thing, it is a lot cheaper and also explains why there are guys on every minor league baseball team who can play entire rounds of
based solely on clues concerning Jenna Jameson. Some may call those players perverts, but for Maddog, who was now passing out business cards for
those players were big money.
All things considered, Maddog’s four-dollar dynasty was not only cheap, but practical, and many of the guys occupying the expanse of the clubhouse came over to at least investigate what kind of product was being brought to the market.
Rosco, a reliever from last year’s High A team, the Lake Elsinore Storm, plucked out a DVD and looked it over.
“Ravenous Asian Sluts, Volume Seventeen,”
he read. “Seventeen? There are seventeen volumes’ worth of
Ravenous Asian Sluts
“No,” said Maddog. “There’s at least twenty-one. The rest are in another box.”
“What’s a matter, Rosco? You don’t like Asians?” asked Slappy.
“Not these ones. Haven’t they ever heard of razors?”
“What do you expect for four dollars?”
“Why would I spend four dollars on this stuff when the Internet is free?” asked Rosco, holding two DVDs next to each other, doing a bit of comparison shopping.
“Because the Internet has viruses, especially
sites, and I know the ones you’re going to because we’ve roomed together. And, because Net access is like ten dollars a day at most hotels,” said Slappy.
“Shit, I don’t need a day’s worth. Most of the time I only need about a preview’s worth to get the job done,” said another player named Dalton, fumbling through the selection.
“Yeah, only perverts actually watch a whole porn movie, start to finish,” added another player nicknamed Blade, rooting through Dalton’s discards.
“You two are bad for business,” said Slappy.
“Yeah, where would America be with that attitude?” said Maddog.
“Besides, this stuff is good for your career. You can’t play all plugged up,” said Slappy.
“You may have a point there,” said Dalton.
Dalton was a regular wild man, and last year he immortalized himself as such by dangling from a bus’s luggage rack naked and tea-bagging other players as they walked from the bus lavatory—aka “spidermanning” them. Blade was another reliever from last year’s championship team. Unlike Dalton, who made himself famous for creative uses of nudity, Blade’s forte was his needling sarcasm. On the other hand, Slappy and Maddog, like Rosco, were relievers from last year’s High A Lake Elsinore team. That team was a madhouse compared to the Double A bunch, with the maturity bar set so low it made Dalton look like a high school principal. Slappy was the spark plug of the group, an easily excited lefty who seemed to function without any hint of a moral conscience. Maddog, a cool, near stoned-looking righty, never went looking for trouble, but he sure liked to hang around those who did, which was why he never seemed far way from Slappy. Rosco was the group’s balance, if you could call him that. He was the voice of wisdom who, every so often, would say something insightful like, “If you do that, you’re a complete dumb-ass.”
Since I split time on both teams last year, I made friends with both sets of relievers. Watching them together reminded me just how many different personalities there are in the baseball community. It also reminded me how fast they can overcome those differences when they share a topic of common interest, like porn. This was what player interaction was like in spring training: a constantly moving mass of personalities that bumped into one another like blind tadpoles wearing the same jersey. Most players will stick with the groups and teams they’ve spent the most time with because we’ll never all spend enough time together to become best friends unless we’re placed on a team, or in a hotel room together, or have a good reason to branch out, like Asian sluts.
“I never pay full price for porn because I ain’t gonna make it through more than five minutes’ worth,” continued Dalton.
“Think about it like this,” said Slappy, sliding next to Dalton. “There’s like eight scenes on every disk; that’s at least eight preview trailers. Eight trailers for four dollars is fifty cents a trailer. It’s still a bargain.” Dalton stopped to consider Slappy’s logic against the glossy, unshaven pictures on the DVD cases.
My locker was about ten feet from the clubhouse’s new and growing red light district. I had peed and bled already, and was taking a break from the rest of my tests, checking my issued uniform pants to see how the fit was. After coming to the Padres, Grady Fuson, the director of player development, had instituted a “must show sock” rule for which all the minor league players would be held accountable, starting today. Funny, you could get fined hundreds of dollars if you had your sister in your hotel room or didn’t show enough sock when in uniform, but there was no charge for vending pornography in the locker room.
Drawn to this spectacle, more players came to investigate the Four-Dollar Porn Company. Most of them picked up a volume of something with nurses or librarians, chuckled to themselves, threw it back in the box, and went back to their lines. Everyone in baseball has seen porn, even me, Mr. Goody Two-Shoes Hayhurst, who refused to drink for five professional years and was still waiting for marriage. I made this confession to the boys last year in an attempt to show unity when they started to wonder if I was gay for not being sexually active. Instead of debating porn’s objectification of women and desensitizing of the male psyche, I just told them I was religious, which was also why I sounded like a judgmental prick. They accepted this, and now that I was casually drinking, it was almost like I was a regular baseball player.
“So,” said the voice of a player not affiliated with either of the teams I played on last year, “when you talk to your girl tonight, what are you going to tell her happened in the locker room today?”
“Good question,” I said. One of the guys at the porn kiosk was now demo-ing a particular position he learned from a video referred to as “oil derricking.” “I think I will opt out of discussing this morning’s activity.”
“It starts already,” said my new friend, lacing his hands behind his head as if philosophizing. “Lying to protect your woman.”
I didn’t particularly like the sound of that. Probably because, in all my concern for how we would pull off a wedding while 3,000 miles apart, I forgot that baseball was infested with perpetual slimebag teenagers thinking under the full influence of their penises. I wanted my relationship with Bonnie to always be honest, and never based on omission. But how do you discuss things like affairs, cleat chasers, slump busters, and the locker room red light district with the woman who longs to be your wife because you’re supposedly a pure, noble gentleman who would never associate with such behavior?
After six years, I was desensitized to it all. But Bonnie was, for lack of a better term, a rookie. Sharing any of the details that happened in the world of baseball day-to-day could get our relationship in deep trouble. Then again, so could lying like none of it ever happened, setting Bonnie up to find out the ungodly truth behind the title when some veteran wife spilled the beans. Baseball has so much dirty laundry in it a player is practically guilty by simple association, and that was something I would have to own up to.
“You know, I think I will tell her,” I said. “I’m sure she knows groups of guys can be crude. This stuff shouldn’t shock her. I’ll just need to impress upon her that I wasn’t participating. You’ll be my witness, right?”
“How much is my testimony worth to you?”
“How much is me actually throwing the fingers you put down worth to you?”
“A fair point.”
My friend’s name was Aden, and he was a catcher. He was also my newest roommate back at the team’s spring training hotel. At about five years younger than me, he left me scratching my head as to how he managed a hotel suite since this was only his second spring training. When I was going into my second year, there was no way in hell I would have landed a suite.
“I wonder where they get their supply from?” I said, nodding to the porn.
“Asia, obviously,” said Aden.
“Is it just me, or does baseball seem more sexually deviant this year?”
“Feels like the same place it was last year to me,” said Aden. “Minus the, you know, porn salesmen in the clubhouse.”
“Yeah, it’s probably just because I’m seeing all this through the eyes of a man about to be married.”
“Hey, Diggler.” Rosco was talking to me.
another Dirk-spawned nickname, was not an ironic choice considering the current situation. “Didn’t you say last year that you liked the librarian-style, shy girl porn? Well, I just found the perfect twenty-DVD set for you.”
“That’s alright, I’m good,” I said.
“Yeah, Digs is getting married,” said Maddog.
“Oh shit! Really? In that case, you’ll need something a little crazier than librarians. You don’t want to disappoint your girl on your first night.”
“Yeah!” said Slappy. “Let me show you the Oil Derrick.”
“Shut up, Slap. You don’t do that to your wife. Marriage is sacred,” said Rosco.
“If you can’t do it to your wife, who can you do it to?” said Slappy.
I laughed at it all. Baseball season was definitely here again. “Thanks for your concern, fellas, but my wife-to-be isn’t a librarian.”
“But is she Asian?”
When I showed up at spring training last year, the Padres’ head minor league weight coach told me I was fat during the body mass examination. This distressed me greatly. For one, I disagreed. I knew what fat was because I had many role models in my family I could cite as references, and it was easy to tell the difference between them and myself. Second, there was a strong amount of hypocrisy involved in that statement because the person calling me fat looked like he’d made too many trips to the Twinkie box himself. Not only that, but this so-called expert in fat spotting told me players who want to make it to the big leagues can’t afford to be fatties. I found that statement offensive and ignorant, especially since David Wells was a member of our big league roster at the time.
To find out exactly where the fat was hiding, this overweight weight coach used special calipers to pinch and tug on the flab in my skin. The results were uncontestable: I was fat, and science was the one pointing the finger at my paunch and laughing. This sounds worse than it was because it’s not like I needed a motorized cart to get me around Walmart. If you placed me next to a group of non-athletes, it was easy to tell I was in good shape. However, when you placed me next to some of the best athletes on the planet, I became the ugly girl at the dance.
At first, I blamed this fat condemnation on my grandmother. Her cooking was chock-full of extra calories that she referred to as “flavoring.” Things like bacon fat, Crisco, and straight-up lard often accounted for the asterisks in her recipes. However, after the head weight coach gave a mandatory meeting detailing what players should and should not eat during the season, I realized the reason I kept my weight on was not so much Grandma as it was the minor league diet and lifestyle.
In every clubhouse, peanut butter and jelly is the main food staple. It is the lifeblood of minor league athletes. Unfortunately, peanut butter is fat, jelly is simply purple or red sugar, and both get spread on worthless white, bleached bread. Some clubhouses may have a fruit or a vegetable tray present on a daily basis, but these things are more garnish than meal, as the bulk of player nourishment will still come from what is pressed between Styrofoam breading and Jiffy. Sometimes you are served a bag of mangled, processed lunch meat that has more in common with hooves and eyeballs than meat. Sometimes it’s a collection of concession stand items like burgers and hot dogs. Occasionally, milk makes an appearance or a booster has pastries delivered. Whatever it is, it’s never organic salmon with fresh spinach, figs, and olives.
The weight coach gave a lecture on this minor league eating style, dubbing it bad and to be avoided. He showed us slides of guys eating fresh greens, lean fish, and special fruits, and correlated them to ripped abs, big muscles, and victory. What he failed to connect were big price tags and empty wallets. It takes time and resources to eat well, not something in abundance when you’re a minor leaguer living out of a hotel room. Furthermore, night games mean we eat heavy before sleep. Hard travel equals value menu feasting, and the formula for team chemistry always involves at least one part heavily fermented carb. Come the off-season, we’re unemployed, but we still have to eat.
I wondered what the hell this guy was thinking by telling us not to eat what we really had no choice eating. Was our athlete’s metabolism supposed to take care of it? Well, obviously, mine couldn’t, not like the Dominican kid with the metabolism of a jet engine, or the genetic freak who could mix a six-pack with pizza grease and still look like he was carved from wood. I was normal, and when normal people eat crap for extended periods of time, the fat doesn’t come off no matter how hard the calipers pull it.
I voiced my complaint about the minor league food system being broken, and for my trouble I was labeled a whiner—a fat whiner—who had a poor work ethic. Since permanently changing my eating habits was economically and logistically out of the question, I had to do the best I could with what I had, which simply meant I was going to have to eat less and work harder to burn off what my trainers thought my slothful reputation was putting on.
That was just what I did this off-season. I busted my ass, lifting weights and pride off the floor, over and over again. Bonnie might have been my largest motivation to get in shape, however, as getting trim for some bastard with a conditioning degree wasn’t nearly as motivating as enticing my girl to put her hands on me. Being a better athlete might have factored in somewhere, but it was just icing on a cake I wasn’t allowed to eat.
I thought about the weight testers when I got off the plane, when the Padres’ shuttle van picked me up at the airport, when I fought to make sure my seniority garnered me a suite at the spring training hotel. I thought about it all night because I knew that if I had a poor showing, the number of my body fat would be displayed in a prominent place in the locker room for everyone to see and, like last year, cause other players to start calling me “Double-Stuffed Dirk.“
The weight coaches were polishing the calipers when I walked in the weight room for testing. You can always spot a weight coach because he’s the guy wearing a conditioning-sloganed T-shirt that relays some line from a corny eighties power ballad lyric like, “In the hunt,” or “Hungry for victory,” or “Rock you like a hurricane.” Their shirts are typically tucked into mesh shorts, and their standard issue of equipment is a bale of rubber stretch bands and a handful of agility cones. Save the head coach, they don’t get paid much and most are interns, but that doesn’t stop them from yelling at you like veteran drill sergeants.
“Take your shirt off, Hayhurst,” said the boss meathead.
“You could at least buy me a drink first.”
The coach did not smile, but motioned with his pen to shut up and strip.
I started taking my shirt off. “You guys have no sense of humor.”
“Shorts, too,” said the coach.
It’s always this way. All the tests are about as tactfully delivered as a prison cavity search. A player feels more like a piece of meat on days like this than any other. As my shirt came off, my glorious pelt of chest hair was revealed. Upon sight of said chest, a few of the players who’d followed me into the testing room yodeled at me like a Wookie.
“Oh, you’re one to talk,” I shot back at them.
“Jesus, Hayhurst, mix in some manscaping,” said one of the ever body-conscious weight coaches.
“Now I know why you’re a virgin,” came a comment from the peanut gallery.
“Are we here to test hair or fat?” I asked.
The answer to that question became obvious when the cold steel tongs came out. First, my dimensions were measured with a tape measure: hips, chest, and height. Then I was placed on a scale to check my weight. Then it was pinching time.
Head Meat pulled my loose arm skin, then back skin, then chest skin.
“Stop flexing,” he said.
“I’m not.” I totally was.
“If you keep flexing it just hurts more.”
The coach continued pinching while reading the numbers as he went. When he got to my waistline, I cringed. This would be the deal breaker. The coach didn’t read the number off, but opted to punch it into the computer himself. Finished, they totaled all the data into their fat kid diagnosis machine. I held my breath until the coaches declared I had 16 percent body fat.
“Not bad, Hay, that’s a pretty good meltdown since the last time you were here.”
“Well, you guys really inspired me to get better,” I said.
“Whatever it was, it’s a good thing because the last time you were in here you had laid down some serious body fat. What was it the guys called you, ‘Double-Stuffed’?”
I stared at the boss meathead, a guy named Stan, thinking of what it would feel like to pinch those calipers around his neck.
“Well, that was before I had you guys here to teach me,” I said. “A lot of players don’t realize that you’re not just here to lay out cones, carry stretch bands, and click stopwatches. I mean, the Padres hired you to help us make our bodies better and that’s what I tried to do, take your wisdom and apply it.”
“Well, to be honest, it’s about time you applied something. You’re one of the older guys in this system and we shouldn’t have to tell you to be in shape at this point.”
“Thank you for being such a
role model,” I said through gritted teeth.
“That’s my job. Yours is running in group one’s conditioning circuit. Now get off my scale, hair ball.”