Adam LaRoche and some teammates pulled a prank on Bryce Harper recently, sending a signed bat to Ozzie Guillen after this week’s pine tar controversy. It certainly wasn’t the first locker room joke for this team, and the Nats first baseman explained to me why it won’t be the last.
“When you’re with guys for as long as we are, as far as hours go for basically six, seven months, you’re gonna find out just about everything about your teammates,” he told me. “Guys learn pretty quick that if you can’t take a joke in here, especially with some of the characters we got, then you probably just need to move your locker back into the showers because you won’t survive.”
What we know of these jokes – the bat and the rookie hazing of Harper, for example – only scratches the surface of what goes on behind the locker room door. LaRoche insists that, besides being funny, the jocularity serves a purpose.
“There’s enough pressure on the field and stuff that goes on,” he explained. “We don’t need it for the extra four hours that we’re at the ballpark. If guys are joking around five, 10 minutes before the game, I love it. More importantly, [Davey Johnson] is totally fine with it, whether he’ll admit that or not. He likes the camaraderie, he likes it being a big family. He likes when I go get on him when he screws something up and vice versa. He’ll come tell me it was a terrible at bat, or [ask] ‘What are you swinging at?’
“It’s all good nature. It’s all in fun. It’s in the spirit of boosting each other up and realizing that it’s still a game and we should have fun with it.”
While he obviously won’t be revealing all of the team’s secrets, LaRoche did share with me his favorite prank.
“[Michael Morse] is one that secretly does them all the time,” he laughed. “Last week, [Danny] Espinosa comes out of the bathroom, the stall, completely white. One of Mikey’s favorite tricks is to go in there with two full things of baby powder when you’re on the toilet standing over top of you, there’s nowhere to go, you can’t get out of the way, you just sit there and wear it. And then you gotta come out and make sure everybody knows you got it. Probably that one [is my favorite] because that’s one where guys will come out screaming, looking for whoever did it. And then they go in and get them back, and it kind of goes back and forth.”
Espinosa was not available to comment on the incident, although I suspect he wasn’t too pleased. Ian Desmond, whose locker is next to Espinosa’s, remembers the incident and says he doesn’t expect to be a victim.
“We’re having a great time,” he told me. “We got a great group of guys in here. We’re around each other so much we become like brothers in a fraternity, so you’re bound to have some pranks pulled here and there. I don’t really get too much of it because I don’t mess around. You get me, I’m going to double or triple it back to you.”
That sounds like a challenge to me.