Excerpt from first rough draft. Errors expected.
…He played catch with David Price, who, by contrast, was naturally cool and never had to try to be accepted at anything. Price oozed charm and charisma. He was like the entire team’s older brother who also happened to be the quarterback and prom king. Fans loved him. Players loved him. Coaches loved him. French Bulldogs loved him. He may not have had the time or service that Shields had, but it was obvious that he was a leader among the team.
Kyle Farnsworth was also a member of my work group. I wouldn’t say he was a leader among the group, not yet anyway, but you definitely knew where the man was at all times. He had a reputation for violence. Not on fellow teammates, but clearly upon opposing hitters.
Farnsworth was a modern day gladiator of the baseball field, massive, strong, and always ready for a things to turn physical. The MLB had done its best to get all the video of him tackling opposing hitters off the net, but if you searched hard enough—like I did—you could eventually find a video of him spearing Paul Wilson and beating his face into the back of his helmet. Ironically, Farnsy (as we grew to call him) was soft spoken and reserved. But there was this aura about him that suggested all you had to do was give him a reason to flip his inner murder switch and he’d gladly tackle, dismember, and go fishing with what was left of you.
Case in point, the Rays hold a talent show every spring training. It’s essentially a family picnic held at the Charlotte Stone Crabs beer garden—the same stadium the Rays use for spring training games— only instead of baseball, first year big league camp invitees are the entertainment. They have to showcase a “talent” of some sort, which usually ranges from a skits, songs, and imitations. The best act wins a cash prize. Minor leaguers are also invited. It wasn’t mandatory for them, but the big leaguers all kicked in a pool of cash for the winner to make it worth the effort—good entertainment costs money.
Weill, this year, one the minor league contestants made up a rap song about Kyle Farnsworth, during which allegations of baby eating, steroids, and eating babies who took steroids were made.
The switch was flipped.
Obviously it was meant as a joke, which might have been the only reason Farnsy didn’t drag the offenders out to the parking lot smash their heads on the curb. But you’d better believe he put the fear of God or worse in them when he pointed at them over the hush of stunned Rays talent show crowd and promised pay back.
A few days later, Farnsy was seen in a boat in one of the retention ponds behind the Ray’s complex, allegedly fishing for alligators to stick in the locker of a certain minor league jokesters. I can’t confirm that he actually caught an alligator, nor can I confirm that he was asked by the Rays to remove it from the clubhouse before someone got hurt. I can only confirmed that, with much sadness, he was reduced freezing the clothes of the offenders and filling their cleats with shaving cream.
It was easy to like everyone in the group, even Farnsy who I was a bit worried would kill me for being a writer. It turned out there was nothing to be afraid, from anyone. The entire team was accepting and chill. That might have stemmed from JP Howell, the team’s living, breathing, positive energy conduit. JP might have been one of the most genuinely nice people ever made. If he wasn’t a professional athlete, he’d be the friend that crashed on your couch and played video games all day instead of getting a job. And even though he didn’t help you with the rent on time, you’d still love him and rue the day your fiancée finally made you choose between her or him.