It’s not difficult for a major league clubhouse to become a testy place. They’re populated with men facing enormous pressure, both externally and internally, to perform and win. When expectations fail to be met, tension can run high.
As a result, players have developed a variety of methods for keeping things loose. One of their primary tools in this regard is the practical joke. It can be directed at anybody on the roster, but three primary groups stand out as perpetual victims:
- Rookies: The lowest men on any totem, a barrage of (mostly good-natured) abuse serves as standard initiation into the big leagues.
- Those who don’t take it well: A negative reaction to being pranked will inevitably serve as inspiration for more of the same.
- Those who fail to fit in: If you’re not like your big league brethren, it’s not a stretch to think that they’ll let you know about it.
Astros pitcher Bud Norris only recently escaped rookie status on an official level, but he’s still close enough for the purposes of some of his teammates. He also falls into the latter category, in at least one way: his car.
Major Leaguers expect each other to present themselves as such. Jeans and T-shirts serve as accepted wardrobe in most clubhouses, but when it comes to vehicles, a player’s ride must sparkle. Even a vehicle so simple as a pickup truck—found more frequently than one might think in players’ parking lots—must reflect a level of class not ordinarily found in the rides of regular folk.
With that in mind it’s easy to see that although Norris has no problem driving a 1997 Accura, some of his teammates possess different opinions.
When Norris took the field for pre-game warmups on Wednesday, he was stunned to see, sitting on the center field warning track, his car. On the front windshield was a target, drawn in shaving cream, to give inspiration for players about to go through batting practice. Written on other windows were the sentiments “For sale,” and “$100.” (Watch footage here.)
“Bud’s been wanting to sell it for a while and the market’s been kind of low on him,” said Astros pitcher Tim Byrdak in the Houston Chronicle. “We thought he could use some free advertising.”
Byrdak went on, in an MLB blog post: “It’s got 116,000 miles to it. Fifteen hundred, or the best offer. The check engine light’s on, but that’s a mild thing.”
Astros players marked the situation by stretching out near the car in center field, rather than alongside their dugout, as usual. Brandon Lyon eventually started to hit fly balls toward the car, just missing with one.
If anything, Norris helped his own cause by refusing to get angry about it, and thus disqualified himself in at least one of the above three categories.
“I thought it was funny,” he said. “We’ll go with it. It’s fun.”