Call to the Pen: Boston, Mascots and More

As the Red Sox showed us last weekend, sports can be a great distraction from reality. The pregame ceremony at Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon called to mind the post-9/11 game at Shea Stadium, an inspirational gathering after a week of terror. While nobody would argue the game itself was “necessary” or “important,” it was great to see Boston fans cheering on their team just five days after the marathon bombings. As a reminder that sports, especially baseball, can be silly and fun, I am keeping it light in this week’s “Call to the Pen.” Enjoy.

Did you see that?

Maybe the internet is just getting better, but it seems like there have been an awful lot of memorable fan catches this season. It’s only April and we’ve already seen the Catch and Chug, the Popcorn Explosion, the Baby Catch, and Super Glove.

He could always buy it back

Bryce Harper, who has yet to send a tweet that doesn’t include an exclamation point, was not happy when he found his Opening Day jersey being auctioned online. “They just take my jersey away from me and don’t ask if I want it or anything!” Harper tweeted, along with a photo of the auction listing. “First opening day! Jersey gone!”

For those scoring at home…

There’s an old baseball saying that “you can’t steal first,” meaning that even a player with exceptional speed has to find a way to get on base in the first place. On Friday, Jean Segura of the Milwaukee Brewers proved the saying wrong. In a sequence that is beyond bizarre, Segura stole second after leading off the 8th inning with an infield single. On the next pitch, Ryan Braun walked. Three pitches later, Segura made a break for third, but not before the pitcher had released the ball; Segura was caught in a run-down and ended up on second base with Braun. Both Brewers were tagged, and the rules say Segura is safe and Braun is out. Segura thought he was out and started retreating to the dugout. On his way, he realized he was not out and scooted back to first. Three pitches later, with two outs, Segura tried to steal second for the second time that inning, and was thrown out, thus completing possibly the most unusual base-running adventure in history.

Segura probably should have been called out before he tried to steal second for the second time—after he thought he was out when he wound up on second with Braun, it appears he was tagged after he came off the base. Even if he wasn’t, there is a rule about returning to a previously occupied base (Rule 7.01) that would indicate Segura was out as soon as he retreated back to first. Online play-by-play accounts listed it as “R Braun caught stealing second, pitcher to third to second. J Segura to first,” which may be more confusing than what actually happened.

The next day, Desmond Jennings recorded an unassisted double play for the Rays. Not that crazy, you say? Jennings is a center fielder.

Mascot madness

Speaking of the Rays, their mascot, Raymond, recently got into trouble for holding a fan-made sign that had a tasteless reference to Steve Irwin, better known as the Crocodile Hunter (Irwin was killed by a sting ray). It was another reminder that not all mascots are created equal. Here are some of my thoughts on various MLB mascots:

Dinger: Because he is a dinosaur, the Rockies’ mascot is one of my favorites. You can often spot him on television behind the plate in the late innings, dancing and waving in a sad attempt to distract the visiting pitcher. According to the Rockies’ website, Dinger will appear at your event for $300 an hour. If you’re a non-profit, that rate is cut in half. But the real bargain is a birthday party: Dinger will show up for a flat fee of $250, give your kid a present, and provide goody bags for up to 12 guests. He will also shovel your driveway.

Bernie the Brewer: Seems like a decent enough guy. He charges $200 for an appearance ($100 for non-profit), but he’s a busy mascot: maximum visit time is one hour. Bernie came to be in 1970 when an elderly fan camped out in a trailer atop the stadium scoreboard, vowing not to come down until at least 40,000 fans attended a game. It took two months.

Mr. Redlegs: You can get this bum for as little as $80. While he is a poor man’s Mr. Met, at least he is not as terrifying as the previous mascot, Mr. Red. The Reds also have another mascot, Gapper, for no apparent reason.

reds mascots
Caption: One sick mascot family.

Phillie Phanatic: The Phanatic doesn’t make appearances. That’s probably a good thing, since he was sued last year for assaulting a woman at a pool, where he allegedly flipped the woman’s lounge chair, tossing her into the shallow end of the pool and injuring her head, neck, back, arms, legs, bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and tissues, the same body parts the Phillies’ pitching staff injured last season.

The Pirate Parrot: Essentially the Phillie Phantic with a beak, “the Parrot does not come dressed in his costume” for appearances. “Due to the size of the costume, he will need a large, private room to change.” Not worth the inconvenience if you ask me.

Mr. Met: A personal friend of mine, Mr. Met will make an appearance, but his rates are not listed on the Mets website. Why? Because Mr. Met has class, that’s why.

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