His parents called him Alex, but to all of us he was Johnny Calves (or just Calves for short). He invaded our clubhouse day after day, a welcome intruder that cleaned our cleats and provided us with water. He was a 17-year-old batboy, and he had used his enormous gastroc-soleus complex to start a prank war. No one knew it would end prematurely.
Like most wars, the engagement began with the slightest of insults: a hockey uniform. Brooks, a Canucks fan from Vancouver, arrived one day to find a Boston Bruins uniform proudly dangling from his locker. The response: Calves’ entire at-the-field wardrobe was confiscated, soaked in water, and frozen.
Classically, the war escalated. Brooks came to the field the next day, put on his shoes, and an hour later found that that they had been tainted by Koolaid powder. For two days, his feet emitted the color and smell of kiwi-strawberry. The Iceman’s response: stealing and freezing Calves’ car keys in a bucket of ice. The kid however wasn’t deterred.
That night, Brooks and I sat in our hotel room (the Canuck was my roommate). We wordlessly watched TV, flipping from Conan to Sportscenter, back to Conan, pausing on Univision as a chica caught our eyes, finally stopping on a Seinfeld rerun. Suddenly our phone rang.
“Just wanted to let you know that your pizzas are ready. They’ll be at your door in just a bit,” said the Domino’s guy.
“We didn’t order any pizzas,” I confusedly told him. Almost immediately I knew what had happened. The kid had ordered pizza for us.
“No problem,” he responded before gladly giving us the ordering individual’s phone number, which we stored away for future use. “I’ll cancel the order.”
With that we resumed our TV watching. I checked my e-mail a dozen times and browsed Facebook, thinking that eventually I would find someone interested in actually conversing with me. Twenty minutes later, Seinfeld ended and a knock came to our door.
“Two medium cheese pizzas?” asked the Papa John’s deliveryman. The kid struck again.
“All right, we gotta do something now,” Brooks said.
“Should we sign him up for Eharmony.com?” I asked. “Or how about AshleyMadison.com? We can make him a fake profile and say he’s looking for other dudes or something.”
“Let’s just flood his e-mail with a bunch of medical newsletters,” Brooks suggested. Using Facebook, he found his e-mail address. Soon we were on our way.
“Let’s see, what all does he have? Psoriasis?”
“Might as well.”
“Pregnancy? Fibromyalgia? Hypertension?”
“Probably pregnant. Definitely hypertension. His blood pressure can’t be good with those calves.”
“What about colitis? Asperger’s syndrome? How about Hyperthyroidism?”
“Oh, he’s got everything.”
With that, he had been signed up for approximately 25 e-newsletters. We weren’t done though.
“Let’s send him some free samples.”
Using the information that we had, Brooks found his address. Soon free samples of makeup, condoms, lubricants, and tampons were on their way—to his parent’s house.
“What else?” I asked.
“Let’s sell his car on Craigslist.”
The next day, Brooks took photos of the kid’s car and listed it on Craigslist.
“No cash for clunker here! 2008 Ford Escape. Like new. Need money for school, must sell—$8000.”
Soon, his e-mail address and phone became flooded with people looking for a bargain.
Alex no doubt planned a stunt to equal our own. He won’t be able to do so, however, as four days after we left New Hampshire, Brooks was released. He arrived at the park one day, was pulled into the coaches’ office, and was told he was going home. A day later he left, and the war was over.
After six and a half years in the organization, Brooks’ stint with the Giants ended in a period of a few seconds. A sight I have witnessed far too many times was repeated once more: my catch partner, my road roommate, and one of my last best friends in the organization slowly packed his things and walked out the door.
That evening, driving home from the ballpark, I felt a little more alone, and missed my wife a little more. True friends are priceless in this emotionally exhausting game. I’ll surely miss him, as he won’t be easily replaced.