Ramos stood stunned, blank-faced and speechless — totally fooled for a blink. Then infielder Andres Blanco started cracking up. “I see, I see,” said a laughing Ramos, who was kidnapped in November, held captive in a Venezuelan mountain shack for two days and freed after a gun battle.
McCatty’s day will come. No baseball gag goes unsettled.
Reporting day may be baseball’s most relaxed and talkative day. The game never neglects a tradition. Few are sweeter than this day of greetings.
“What did you think when you learned your pitching staff had added Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson,” McCatty was asked.
“I thought, ‘Our team just got better, but I got dumber,’ ” he said. “Now, it’s always going to be either ‘They pitched good’ or ‘I coached horsesheep.’ ”
Ah, the first horsesheep of spring, that mythical baseball creature that, used as all seven parts of speech, is a surer harbinger than any robin.
The optimistic Nats walked into their clubhouse to get physicals and immediately started yacking, just like all big leaguers on their first day back together, as if their words had been saved up, stifled, for four months.
John Lannan told how, on his honeymoon in Tahiti, he ran into Nats free agent target Prince Fielder, who was there to renew his marriage vows. Renew vows. In Tahiti. At 26? The Married Guys Union will file a protest.
Ryan Zimmerman said that ardent hunter Adam LaRoche had killed a buffalo. With a bow and arrow. LaRoche, with a large biceps tat of a buck with huge antlers, did not confirm this info, but did say animals are smarter than you think, communicate well and “so I hide [the tattoo] when I hunt.”
This is the eternal baseball tone, better than a Florida fountain of youth, addictive for life, where absolutely anything might be true or a setup line. When a player such as LaRoche or rookie Steve Lombardozzi had a big league dad, then the stone-faced playfulness, the put-on, the mimicry, is ingrained.
After a winter of golf, what is your handicap down to, Davey?
“Are we bettin’ or braggin’?” said Manager Davey Johnson.
Who cares about scores when Johnson can quickly turn the tale to his lifetime total of deadly snakes killed on his build-on-a-swamp home golf course in Winter Haven. “Three rattlesnakes and a water moccasin,” he said. “I use a 2-iron. You take it up high above your head and hit down.”
Like a bunker shot?
Why a 2-iron?
“To keep ’em far away from you. Then, when they strike, you hit them when they’re in mid-air.”
Aren’t witnesses required for “Dead Rattlers,” like holes-in-one?
“Oh, that sounds like Davey. Only three?” said Danny Espinosa slyly.
Baseball lives in details as small as a handshake. This spring, Espinosa’s grip will bring tears. Off-handedly, Johnson mentions that last year Espinosa hit well right-handed but poorly left-handed. “That’s going to change dramatically this year,” said Johnson. Why? Because of that handshake.