It all started when Royals outfield coach Rusty Kuntz was showing some of us his fungo bat. (And if that sounded dirty that’s on you, not me.)
Just in case you don’t know: a fungo bat is lighter than a baseball bat and is used to hit grounders and fly balls to players during practice.
Where were we?
Oh, yeah … Rusty was showing us his fungo bat and explaining that some fungo bats are shorter and lighter and used for hitting grounders to infielders, and some fungo bats are longer and heavier and used to hit fly balls to outfielders.
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I wanted to know how accurate Rusty was while hitting fungos and he told me he could hit a fly ball to an outfielder and the outfielder wouldn’t have to move his feet to catch it.
So I asked him to prove it.
That’s when Brad Fanning — 610 Radio sports-talk-show guy and all-around irritant — chipped in and said I should go stand in the outfield and see if Rusty could hit me with a fly ball, and Brad did mean “hit me.” I’d put on catcher’s gear and wouldn’t try to catch the ball; I would just let it hit me.
Which I had to admit sounded like a pretty funny idea.
So now I was thinking about where a fly ball could hit me and hurt me if I was wearing catcher’s gear. And if your mind went south of the border, we think alike.
I brought a baseball glove to spring training just in case we did any how-to videos, but didn’t think about bringing a protective cup. So I began to consider what I could jam down my pants as protection and started to search the condo Rustin Dodd, John Sleezer and I are staying in.
Eureka … a frying pan!
I went through the condo’s cupboards and found a frying pan just the right size.
The next morning I went to the Royals’ clubhouse intent on scoring some catcher’s gear, but you don’t borrow that kind of thing from a player. Rule number one: never touch a player’s stuff.
Players don’t get much privacy and they guard what little they have. Their lockers are sacred; you never touch anything in one and probably shouldn’t even stare at what they have in there. If that seems odd, think how you would feel if a stranger stood outside your living room window and checked out your flat-screen TV and the pictures on your walls. It would probably feel a bit creepy.
So I was looking for the equipment manager to see if I could borrow some spare catcher’s gear when I saw Rusty and explained what I was up to. Rusty said he’d thought about it and didn’t want to hit me with a fungo; instead he thought I should just stand still without moving my feet and catch the ball if it was going to hit me. I said that was a great idea except for the part where I would actually have to catch the ball.
Nevertheless, that was the plan.
I wear a GoPro, a Shoeless Joe and a Green Light
Sleezer is the Star photographer responsible for many of the sensational sports pictures you see on this website and in the pages of the paper. He has a lot of cool toys for taking pictures, and one of those toys is a GoPro camera. If you’ve watched the video, that’s what you see strapped to my chest.
He wanted to get some video from my point of view, but his GoPro had problems; every time I moved, it would flop down and provide an excellent view of my stomach.
We figured we’d try it anyway, so I walked to the outfield wearing the GoPro and a Shoeless Joe baseball glove. I tried to jog, but that’s not easy with an 8-inch, non-stick Green Lite frying pan shoved down the front of your pants. (And thank God it was non-stick.)
Rusty told me where to stand and then started hitting fungos at me. The deal was I couldn’t move my feet.
Rusty then asked me to give him a target, and I pointed to the frying pan; the next fungo one-hopped and hit me in the Green Light.
So what have we learned?
First: Spring training is long and boring and that means a reporter who’s willing to get hit in the frying pan with a fungo is a welcome distraction.
Second: I’m no brighter now than I was when I intentionally got hit by a 92 mph slider.
Third: If you rent a condo, you might not want to use the cookware provided. Who knows where it’s been?
In conclusion I have to say I really hope you enjoyed the video and the story behind it. I also hope the condo owners don’t read this story, or The Star might not get its deposit back.
But let’s end this on a positive note: If you ever need to shove a frying pan down your pants, I’d suggest a Green Light.
(The Shoeless Joe baseball glove company probably isn’t going to offer me an endorsement contract, but if the people who make Green Light frying pans want to talk business, I’m all ears.)