A Story from Spring Training’s Gone Past

But many of the Cincinnati Reds, and other teams around baseball are on their way out to sunny Goodyear, Arizona (pictured live today above).

There was just a certain amount of happiness that existed when Spring training rolled around as a ballplayer. And that brings me to a little story for you.

Back in college, we had our Spring Training down in Fort Myers, Florida. Beautiful area. This guy I played with, he liked to drink like most of the guys on the team. The night before our mid-week scheduled off day was always a time for debauchery. Most of the nights were, but all the boys went out that night. When we were in Fort Myers, we went to a place called the Lani Kai Hotel for what turned into one of the biggest fuckin’ parties you had ever seen on a nightly basis.

On this particular night, the boys are all drinking a special Lani Kai traditional drink called a rum-runner. They were these orange-pink colored slushi’s, and for an extra $3 the bartender was nice enough to fill the straw with an extra shot of fuck-sauce. We were all doomed.

So, one of our boys aparently gets thrown out. I don’t even remember why. Things were hazy. Oh, that’s right. This guy was so shitfaced, he walked out the back entrace of the Lani Kai dance club (and there were asses everywhere) and decides he’s going to go bare assed and piss on the beach which is the Lani Kai’s back yard. Just as he’s finishing up, with teammates from the balcony above cheering him on; a nice officer comes and tells him that he’s going to be kicked out of the club for pissing on the beach.

They snap a polaroid of the guy, and he’s outta there for the night. Or so they’d thought. I knew this guy well, and you had to do more then that to exterminate this termite. He was quite the bug.

He calls a bunch of his teammates, because they’re his ride back to civilization (the team hotel) which is a half hour away. All of them are inside the club and deciding not to answer his calls. After a few futile attempts and being sent straight to voicemail, he knows he’s got to think of something.

Now when we went to the Lani Kai, we were all dressed in our best. This guy was wearing a brand new Polo. A nice shirt. He has an idea in his inebriated mind that just might work.

He spots a kid passing by wearing a Tony Hawk t-shirt, and he starts talking to him. He barters with the kid and gives him $30 in cash and the polo shirt in exchange for a Tony Hawk shirt that fit the hulking young man like a muscle shirt. It was several sizes too small. He slides it on right there on the street and begins to head back towards the Lani Kai.

He gets back in the club and finds all the boys sitting there drinking, having a good time. They think they’ve seen the second coming to see him back in the club. Things are hazy, but I remember him being asked how in the hell he pulled off getting back in and why in the fuck he was wearing a Tony Hawk t-shirt. You see, the Lani Kai is real strict and they don’t tolerate any monkey-business whatsoever. He was really testing the waters. They eat spring breaker pieces of shit like this guy for breakfast.

He tells them the story and continues buying rum runners. Then that same cop who was stationed on the beachfront spots the young man again, and he’s escorted out again just slightly drunker then he was the time before. This time he knows he’s screwed because they warn him if he attempts to get back in again, they’re calling the cops. Polaroid flash #2 goes off and with that, he’s out on the streets again without food, water, and toilet. And he’s drunk as shit.

The biggest issue here is at some point he’s got to make it back to the team hotel so his family can pick him up bright and early the next day. And no one is headed back there this evening. All the boys were staying at the hotel with some of the girlfriends who had rooms there. He had to think of something. And wouldn’t you know that this idea man of sorts struck again.

Legend has it he was waiting at the corner to cross a street and go into a Waffle House to collect his bearings. He’d just gotten off the phone with his mother and told her the story. He was so hammered he could not tell her where he was. She was worried, and asked him to call her back once he figured that out. Before he could reach the Waffle House, some girls rolled up to a stop light by the crosswalk he was waiting at. Like the little angels they were they asked “hey what are you doing?”

“I’m a baseball player for the Boston Red Sox, and my teammates are in there partying. I need to get back to my hotel and I don’t have a ride” he tells them.

The girls were more then cordial. They tell the kid to hop in and that they’ll give him a ride. One of them was even a Red Sox fan.

They were on a double date. The two gentleman they were with had to move to the back luggage-carrying part of the SUV so that the drunken ‘Red Sox’ ballplayer could sprawl out in the back seat while he was swifted back to the team home base.

The girls start asking questions immediately.

“So what’s Curt Schilling like?”

“I can’t believe you’re a Red Sox player, that is sooo cool. Take me to Fenway!”

“Can I have your autograph or can you get me Johnny Damon’s autograph?”

He clarified that, he wasn’t actually a player yet; but rather a minor league hopeful who was trying to make the team. And if they got him back to his hotel he promised that he’d have tickets for all of them to tomorrow’s game. You see, the Red Sox back in 2004 were also stationed in Fort Myers for Spring Training. He was a thinking man on his feet, even when he was on his ass. The girls knew that; being the Red Sox fans that they were by chance. There’s Red Sox fans everywhere folks. Thank God for that.

The two gentleman in the back–and if you’re reading this fellas: I know the dude is sorry for ruining your date with these sweet ladies–were just beside themselves telling the girls that the young man was not a Red Sox player but a drunken bullshitting liar. They were right, but the girls told them to shut up and apologized to the ballplayer for their rudeness.

The issue remained that he had no clue how to get back to his hotel and at this point he was passing out in the back seat and when they asked how to get him to the hotel, he handed them his cell phone and said to call his mom; that she’d know where he was staying.

Apparently, mom not only didn’t blow the cover of the Red Sox player but told them how to get him back to Fort Myers in one piece. They carried him up to his room and got him into bed safely. And when he awoke in the morning, those two sweet girls had put their numbers into his phone, and then texted him just so he didn’t forget the tickets.

He went on with family day and had the hangover of a lifetime and a Tony Hawk shirt to show for his troubles.

I don’t know what I did with that Tony Hawk shirt. I don’t know what happened to those girls and their numbers. I’m sorry I never delivered with the tickets. I got a lot of numbers back then, I really did. Enough that I think I deleted them out of sheer shame of being such a dumbass. But if I still had those girls numbers, I’d call them up today and thank them again for throwing me a life jacket when I was swimming in the rum-runner seas of Spring Training life.

Don’t ever doubt it, baseball players; especially Major Leaguers get treated like kings. Especially during Spring Training in Florida. When they’re at their worst (this is according to David Wells).

As my grandpa would have put it: that was my 3rd trip to the Lani Kai. My first, my last, and my only.

Hat tip: John Fay for the pic, who is the man.