Friday, September 05, 2008

Junior Handles Stadium Heckler with Style

Last week the Chicago White Sox were in town, visiting my Orioles at Camden Yards. My friend Frank and I bought two sweet seats at the scalp-free zone (one of Baltimore’s best ideas) for $30 a pop, six rows from home plate, and the visitors’ dugout.

We sat next to a nice gentleman, Howard, a 78-year-young season-ticket holder. I really enjoyed our conversations. We also sat behind a foursome who scored sweet seats like we did. Nice enough crew, but one of the guys was the self-designated heckler. You know, that guy who tosses a few back and then throws out lame one-liners. No one really laughs, except for maybe a few nervous chuckles. The most annoying part is the constant repetition of the same “jokes”. We didn’t laugh the first time; what are you expecting the second and third?

Anyway, with great seats like these, this guy kept bugging the batters on deck, especially Ken Griffey Junior. Hey, we’ve got no problem with Junior. We were all excited to see a future Hall-of-Famer just a few feet away. And when he was warming up, everyone would whip out their cell phones and try and grab a quick picture, mostly of his back. Our local heckler tried to get him to turn around for a picture: “Hey, you’re no A-Rod but you’re still pretty good.” Cute, but obnoxious.

The third time Griffey was on deck, Frank asked me, “How do these players tune out the fans?” With authority, I said, “Aw, Frank. These guys are pros. The fans are so close in stadiums these days, and they’re at an opponent’s park half the year, they just tune them out. They have to.”

Dumbass repeats his taunt again, and Ken turns to him and says, “He’s behind me.” He pauses a beat, then adds “ every stat.” Classic heckler comeback. All of us are rolling, even the heckler.

I was totally impressed, and laughing even harder because it was brilliant timing: silencing the heckler and totally negating my statement. But it did have me thinking…leading Alex Rodriguez in every stat? Really? Hey, it’s Junior. I’m not going to argue with him. I was actually hoping he would step up to the plate, look back at the defeated fan, call his shot pointing to right field and then belt one out, hitting the warehouse. But this guy wasn’t worth it, and it would have added another run to the routing they were giving Baltimore anyway.

Of course I had to check Junior’s stats against A-Rod tonight. Junior certainly isn’t leading him in 2008 in virtually any stat, except for his one triple (A-Rod has none). He is leading in most lifetime cumulative stats (so far), but in fairness, he has a five-year head start. And A-Rod still has a better lifetime batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. But I bet he can’t shut up the hecklers.

What a great night!

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