Greg Zaun earned notice recently with comments about getting hazed by Cal Ripken and other Orioles veterans during his rookie season in 1995. From an interview on Blue Jays radio: “They taped me spread-eagle to the training table, they wrote ‘rookie’ on my forehead with pink methylate, and they shoved a bucket of ice down my shorts.”
Zaun recalled this (and much more) as a good thing, and lamented its deficiency in the modern game. He’s since backtracked a bit, going so far as to apologize to Ripken (at least according to Ripken), but this was normal baseball behavior in Zaun’s day, and his fond reminiscences on the topic are hardly unique.
In the spirit of rookies getting tied down by veterans, here’s an unedited interview snippet from former Reds ace Jose Rijo, conducted for The Baseball Codes in 2007:
If I was going out early to eat, they would put me at a table and say, “You’re a rookie, you have to wait for a veteran before you can eat.” They tied me to a chair with my plate right in front of me. That’s the type of thing I went through. Now, rookies don’t even wait for the game to end to go in and eat, they don’t stay quiet when a game is lost, they are emotional. I hate that.
Who tied you to the chair?
Oscar Gamble and Don Baylor. Believe me, I learned my lesson, and I’m glad they did that to me. It was an honor for me. I was like the bellboy for the team. Believe me, looking back now, it was a beautiful thing—it’s something everybody should experience, to come onto this level and learn these things. You don’t learn how to be a leader unless you learn first by having it done to you.
They tied a hungry Jose Rijo to his chair, with a plate of food just out of reach. It’s behavior of a bygone era, obliterated by huge rookie contracts and early-onset egos that are tuned to automatically recoil at such overtures. Was that kind of hazing a good thing? According to guys like Rijo and Zaun it was. But societies evolve and methodologies change. Today’s 20-year-olds aren’t attuned to the same kinds of messages as their counterparts from 20 years ago … which leads to the occasional comment from guys like Mat Latos, bemoaning lacking clubhouse standards. But when that type of hazing becomes institutionalized, a subset of the culture that is drawn to the abuse more than the message is afforded significant leeway to unload as it sees fit. And whichever way one chooses to spin it, brutality for brutality’s sake doesn’t tend to make for better people.
All alone in the dugout.
We’ve grown accustomed to rookies getting the cold shoulder in the dugout after hitting their first home run, a process of good-natured icing by their teammates that serves to remind them that, even with their deserved accolades, they’re still rookies.
On Saturday in Houston, however, the Diamondbacks took things to an extreme. After Ryan Wheeler hit his first big league jack into the left field stands, he was left to wonder . . . and wonder . . . and wonder just how long his teammates were going to maintain their charade. (Watch it here.)
As a smiling and solitary Wheeler took his seat on the bench, cameras trained in on him, waiting for the moment at which Arizona players would jump up and congratulate him. Stephen Drew, sitting next to him and unable to stifle his grin, had to pull his jersey up over his mouth.
Eventually, however, Astros pitcher Chuckie Fick threw another pitch to the next hitter, Patrick Corbin, which the telecast was obligated to show. They quickly cut back to the dugout camera, without much luck. Wheeler was still sitting, alone, when Fick delivered again. It wasn’t until Fick was winding up for the third pitch of the at-bat—a span of some 40 seconds—that Arizona players finally relented and gave the rookie his just due.
If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing thoroughly, I guess. Don’t believe anybody who says that the Diamondbacks are not committed to their craft.
Spring training is a time for players to prepare for the season ahead. Typically that would mean on-the-field business … except that somebody keeps stocking clubhouses with rookies.
And veterans need to prepare their hazing chops just as much as their batting eye.
For a simple prank we turn to Dunedin, Fla., the spring home of the Toronto Blue Jays. Ricky Romero took some gum, blew a bubble, and stuck it to the cap of rookie Kyle Drabek. As is customary, none of Drabek’s teammates pointed it out, leaving him to bear the shame of the bubble-cap through much of the team’s workout.
The prank is as old as bubble gum itself. The fact that the Toronto Star meticulously documented it with a fabulous photo essay, however, makes this one particularly worth our while.
More serious business occurred in Arizona, where, during the Angels’ game with the A’s, a scoreboard message appeared imploring fans to call “Mike Trout directly with your baseball questions,” and included a phone number. Trout’s actual number.
The player who got it posted: Jared Weaver.
At 19, Trout is among the most hyped players in the minor leagues. Which doesn’t do a thing to alter his rookie status.
Or keep him from needing a new phone number.
(Thanks to reader James Ho for the Blue Jays tip.)