Japan Calling, Please Hold
See also: Non-Prospect Diary Archive
You can dominate the Triple-A level and not move up. It's a cruel reality in baseball, but reality none the less.
It could have nothing to do with your performance; maybe the guy above you is just that much better? He's a downright amazing player with big pile of chips invested in him. What you do think the guy behind A-Rod feels like?
Sure, you could play for the big club if you could just get the chance, but what if it never comes? How long should you wait? You're only in your prime for so long, and you want to cash in before it slips away. All this time busting your butt to become a big leaguer only to find yourself trapped under a glass ceiling. Maybe it's time to consider other options.
You've earned the right to make some good money for your talent; have you considered something other then the big leagues? Have you thought of something overseas? Maybe Japan?
Yeah, Good ol' Japan, land of the rising sun, or for you, the land of opportunity!
One of the fine young men on my team was doing well enough to earn a shot at the grande club. He was more than pulling his weight in Triple-A, but the timing for a promotion just wasn't good. He knew there were clubs overseas, well-paying clubs, who would like to take a look at him. He'd never considered something that drastic before, but, the situation being what it was, he decided to give it a shot. He made a phone call and, in hopes to strike while the fire was hot, had his agent out and on the prowl looking for a needy overseas interest. If it all worked, it would be his first experience with anything of this nature.
As with any novice of the overseas market, he was operating on hearsay of teammates and friends-of-friends who had been abroad. What was and what wasn't truthful in those tales was anyone's guess.
As the stories came in, his interest grew. He began to fall in love with the idea. He'd talk often about it, excited, hopeful, dreaming of how great it would be if it worked out.
And it would be great. It's true that overseas clubs pay cash up front. You may not know how many days you'll rack up in the bigs, but overseas you know exactly what you'll make for showing up—guaranteed. You can go over and wet the bed, but the check is in the bank, usually to the tune of $250,000 for a first timer.
Good work if you can get it, and he just might.
The chance for it was worse than no chance at all. He didn't want to bet on it, but he didn't want to stop dreaming about it either. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars . . . Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars . . . a new house, a nice car, a ps3, a flat screen . . . A fella could fall asleep thinking about. I'm sure he did on more than one occasion.
Days began passing and there was no word. No real word anyway, the defining kind that lets you know where you stand. No one was saying yes or no. A few said maybe, which really means "hold your breath," and that's exactly what our young man did.
It was hard to watch him, all worked up and infatuated. All the stories of good money building his anticipation. The indefinite answers teased him. The comments from other players like, "Yeah, my buddy went and made twice that and he isn't even as good as you," breeding false hope. Mixed with his lack of real understanding, it made him a nervous, anxious, naive wreck.
He was the perfect sucker.
Setting The Scene
I don't know if you've ever used Instant Messenger before (IM for short). If you have, you'll know it's a nice way to keep up with friends even if you are worlds apart. I used it all the time in college, and I use it every so often now to talk, for free, with my friends back home. It's a handy tool if you have a computer with internet access.
These days you can live video chat through IM, send pictures, files, and even share desktops. One thing you may not know is you can text to voice and back via IM using an operator proxy as well. Let me explain: a person can use IM to ask a live operator to transcribe the words you write to voice if you wanted to contact a land line. Like having someone read the words live, then type the words said in response back to you. Who might use this? Maybe you, if you were some place overseas and you wanted to talk to someone back home, like your grandmother who doesn't have IM. International phone charges could cost you a fortune but IM is free. Grandma may not know what's going on when the operator calls, but she'll figure it out once you start typing, if you want her to.
Of course, if you know the person you are contacting has never heard of this process, and most people haven't, you could neglect the who you are part and tell her anything you wanted. You could tell her you were a long lost relative. You could tell her she won Publishers Clearinghouse. You could tell her, if you felt so inclined, you were a Japanese baseball club willing to offer her a multi-million dollar contract . . . (Cue maniacal laughter).
As good as it was, the idea was not without flaws. We would have to time things right to get the desired result. All the elements would have to be in place. We'd need a computer, Wi-Fi, and a clear view of the party in question. Our target would have to be operating below 100 percent, preferably drowsy so as not to catch all the stuff being thrown at him. After all, why would a rich Japanese team contact him through IM?
We came up with work-around reasoning. Strong stories, not perfect ones, but definitely flexible enough to work. As new ambassadors to Japanese baseball, we decided a cheap and easy way to contact an American player was to use the free translator provided by text to Voice via IM. It was a simple and efficient way to break down the language barrier using technology Americans could understand.
We decided to become a mid-market Japanese team with a need for our target's services. Not some big market team that wouldn't take a shot a first timer. We also got all the lingo down about what type of player we were hoping for, complete with dummy questions about versatility and role changes. Next we thought up living arrangement inquiries, family concerns, travel issues—the little details that would make it convincing. Finally, to top it all off, we decided on our offer.
Knowing full well 250K was the standard, we decided to exceed it, ludicrously. Enough to make the pulse quicken, and make this go from silly pranksters to utter ***holes. We figured a cool million for a year's work would do the trick.
We had been setting this prank up by casually talking, within ear-shot of our intended, of players who made that sum as if it was candy being handed out at a parade. After all, why bait a trap with a worm when you can use a steak?
A 3 a.m. travel day was on the horizon—what better time to put operation "Japanese Offer" into effect? We would all be up early and knew from experience a player just isn't in his right mind on days like that. Airports usually have Wi-Fi. We always fly as a team so we'd all be in plain view, able to gauge reactions and make adjustments on the move. It was the best set-up we were gonna get.
The Stage Is Set
We touched down in Vegas at around 8 a.m. Some of the boys went to the little boys room. Others went to forage for food. We had a long layover to endure, and after taking care of bodily needs, we were back at the gate, lounging around like it was gang turf.
It was time. We hopped on IM and let it rip.
We logged in, punched in our target's number, and the operator dialed.
A nearby phone began to ring with a rock music tone. Our target got up to check his phone. A quizzical stare crossed his face as his eyes ran over the caller ID. He silently mouthed, "who the **&%… is this?"
"Hello?" He answered.
The operator greeted him and explained the process of text to IM.
More quizzical expressions. "I don't understand."
The operator began again.
"Fine, if it's free for me, then fine."
It was our turn.
"Hello Mr. *******, We represent the ********* ******, a Japanese baseball organization. Perhaps you have heard of us?"
The operator translated, and typed the reply even though our target was close enough to hear.
"Oh, I'm sorry, yes, I have heard of you. I was a little confused by this IM thing," he said, suddenly jovial and enthusiastic.
"Please excuse, we thought this best way to communicate because of language issue," we replied.
"No problem, it's fine. What I, uh, can I help you with?" He ended with a non-typed comment to the operator, a nervous question, "Am I doing this right?"
We assume the operator said yes because he responded, "Oh, OK, good."
We replied, "We calling to discuss possibility of you playing for our organization. We are interested in your services very much."
"OK, well, I am interested very much in playing baseball in Japan. However, I usually let my agent handle these types of things," he said. A pause while his reply was typed. It appeared on our screen though we'd already heard him and planed our response.
"We understand the importance of agent in this process, however, we like to contact for ourselves, the player in order make better understanding of him and our needs. It is our way."
Amongst each other we whispered, "It is our way? Did you just type that? This is Japan calling, not Star Trek." "Dude, it's cool, he'll buy it, now shut up before he hears us."
"OK, I can respect that. What would you like to know, how can I help?" he said, anxious to sell himself.
"We would like to know more of you personally to see if would be a good fit for our organization."
"Sure, ask me whatever you want."
We grilled him with questions for a good 10 minutes. Questions about family, significant others, injuries, health conditions, travel issues, language barriers, translators. They were all very convincing queries, especially since we kept using the broken, Mr. Miyagi-speak on him. Once we had him on the hook, we decided to pull the line a a little.
He was already pacing around nervously and answering in the most decorative, look-good ways he could.
"We here at the ********* ******," we continued, "are prepared to offer you one million American dollars for the remainder of this year and the entirety of 2009 season. A one and half year contract. However, there are some personal questions we like ask you concerning team life here."
We watched him anxiously to see his reaction. He put the phone down to his side and smoothed his hair back and took a big breath. I'll bet a million bucks has that effect on lots of people. He put the phone back to his head.
"OK. Go ahead."
"In Japanese baseball, it is team custom that players bathe fellow teammates. Is this something you have trouble with?"
What Will You Do For A Million Dollars?
It's funny how some things grab your focus.
When I'd talk to hot girls at college parties, even when they rambled on like village idiots, I'd treat them like heads of state. It didn't matter if their mindless jibbering contradicted everything I held dear, all that mattered was what their fluffy, pink sweaters were barely containing. All my scruples and philosophies disappeared, eclipsed by nature's curves.
When faced with something we really want, we tend to change our views on things. In short, we sell out. I went from Dylan fan to N'Sync fan faster then you can say, "is he like, an actor or somebody?"
Our Japanese hopeful would never touch another man in a bath situation. Not ever. That is to say, if by not ever you mean touch another man in a bath situation without first offering him a sum of one million dollars. If said million was up for grabs, well then, so were other things.
"I'm sorry. I know that you are reading this from written word, operator, but could you re-read that?" said our prospect.
"In Japanese baseball, it is team custom that players bathe fellow teammates. Is this something you have trouble with?"
Meanwhile, the pack of evil sadists that started the whole thing were struggling to control their emotions now. They twisted and convulsed trying to keep the adrenaline of the colossal lie under control. It was squeezing out, like water through a damn close to its breaking point.
Other teammates came to investigate what was so interesting. Soon, we were all packed together, heads piled on one another, staring down at a computer screen when words were typed, then up again at the target who received them.
"Can you type back, 'Can you explain what you mean by team bathing?'"
The words appeared on our screen. We replied.
"It is custom that our players perform ceremonial washing of one another as part of team bonding expression."
As soon as the words were typed, laughter erupted from the pack of jackals hovering over the computer. The targets eyes looked over at us. Everyone's heads went separate ways as if all were engaged by a different distraction simultaneously. All except the writer who simply said, "You gotta see this video when you get off the phone, man." The Target gave an angry expression and motioned for silence.
"Shut the hell up you guys!" came a stern whisper from the author. Nudges and smacks were passed out by the pack of Orcs as they clamored back into place.
"Uh . . . God this is so awkward telling you to type this," said the target. "Don't write that. Write, 'What parts am I expected to wash?'" We watched him say the words like he just took bad cough medicine. They appeared on our screen and we replied in turn.
We knew the operator spoke the words because our man's head dropped like he, well, just got asked to wash another man's . . .
"How important is it that I do this? Is this something the team really cares about?"
"This is ancient Japanese tradition adopted by team. Based on Samurai code. Warriors bathe each other before battle to increase bond and trust. Team has played very well since adopt bath ritual. We wish very much for you to participate. Refusal have negative impact on team's spirit."
We didn't give him time to think of a response. We kept after him with, "Your rejection of this custom may force us refuse contract offer."
There was a long pause. The target paced around saying nothing, running his hands through his hair and occasionally taking his cell away from his head to look at the screen—a nervous tick. Then he spoke, "Yeah, I'm still here. I just need a minute. Tell me this isn't the weirdest thing you've ever heard? Ya, ya, I know your job is just to translate . . . Ah crap—oops, Don't write that!"
He took deep breath. Cracked his neck. A long look out the window. Planes moving up and down the tarmac. A cloudless sky. A carnival of slot machines doodling in the background.
"OK, tell them 'I'm fine with participation in the ceremonial washing thing.'"
The words appeared on our screen. Time to bring it home.
"You are accepting of team bathing?" we replied.
"You are comfortable with washing other men?"
"You are OK with washing Japanese players?"
"You are excited about washing Japanese penis?"
"Ugh . . . Just tell them I'm fine with it for Christ's-sake!'"
Laughter was building now. Almost the whole team was present for the climax.
"Oh my God you are sooooooo disgusting!" I am not sure if the operator got the right inflection on it or not.
A confused look came over our targets face. "What?"
"You just said you were excited about washing a dude's junk, what's wrong with you?"
"What!? You . . . They . . . YOU just told me it was important to the team, samurai code and what not. Now I'm disgusting? What the hell?"
"We very sorry. We only surprised by your strong desire to bath Japanese player. We have representative in the airport now who would like to sign you immediately so you can start washing Japanese player ASAP."
"What the hell are they talking about? Ask them that, ask them, 'What they hell they're talking about!?'"
We replied before it was typed. We could hear him now, yelling into the phone, and the operator was no longer necessary.
"Please look to your left, our agents are standing by to sign you to a one million dollar deal."
There was no money. No deal. No Japan and certainly no ceremonial washing. There was just us, a pack of savages falling all over ourselves, laughing at the red-faced foreigner-to-be.
Our poor sap knew he'd been had as soon as he saw us. He closed the cellphone and his arm fell limp to his side. His shoulders slumped. A smile curled up on his red face. He looked away, embarrassed, eyes up towards the ceiling while his head started to lean, then shake in disbelief.
We kept laughing. Some of us stood, slapped our hands to our sides and gave a low bow to him. Others shouted, "Konichiwa!"
With a face full of embarrassed disgust he pointed across the gate and condemned us, "YOU MISERABLE SONS…………."
He took it well.
Which is a good thing, because he'll never hear the end of it.
I hope you enjoyed my tale of Japan Calling. I enjoyed writing it for you. The young man who was the recipient of the prank is doing just fine. He laughs about it whenever it's brought up and has a lot of respect for the powers the put it all into motion. It was a grand and impressive prank, after all.
Yet, not to be out done, our prankee did return the favor—it really was too good of an idea to not be used again.
In respect to the architect of the original, no prank can be done the same way twice. So, if you are good bloggers and bloggettes, maybe someday I'll tell you about the time we, incognito of course, called a certain player to inform him he tested positive for illegal drug usage.
You can contact Dirk Hayhurst at email@example.com