You see them every game in the far corner of the Blue Jays’ dugout. Laughing, joking, sometimes duct-taping Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to the bench (OK, that only happened once). The boys of “the Barrio” are always up to something, and always with huge smiles on all their faces.
What started out a few years ago with Teoscar Hernández playfully pouring bags of sunflower seeds down his teammates’ backs after they hit a home run evolved into a home run jacket ceremony last season, and who knows what they have up their sleeve for this new year.
Whatever it is, the fun that Hernández , Guerrero, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., George Springer and often Santiago Espinal have in their dugout corner rubs off on the rest of the team.
“That corner just likes to have fun, man,” said catcher Danny Jansen, who is often too busy game-planning the inning to come with the pitcher and pitching coach to join in. “Baseball’s hard (and) those guys just spark up some energy in the dugout. Obviously when we go on the field, we’re going to work, but you need to decompress a little bit and just (have) some fun like that.”
“It’s a long season,” said Gurriel, who often seems to be the Jays’ fun fulcrum. “We’re going to spend a lot of time (together), so finding a way to have fun is the best way to feel comfortable, and I think we’re going to play better that way.”
Keep an eye on Springer and Gurriel this season when Vladdy Jr. comes up to the plate at the Rogers Centre, because they’ll be rocking out to his walk-up music. Gurriel on air guitar, Springer doing a little salsa dance — even if he happens to be on base at the time.
“Anywhere I am, when (Guerrero’s music plays) I will be playing (guitar) and George will be dancing,” explained Gurriel.
“It kind of happened organically,” said Springer of the new tradition, “and we just let it ride.”
Springer missed over half of last season dealing with oblique and quadriceps injuries, but whenever he was around the team, he spent the game in that dugout corner, seamlessly meshing with Guerrero and his fellow outfielders.
“I know Teo really well,” said Springer, who joined the Houston Astros organization in 2011, the same year as Hernández . “I’ve known him since we were kids (in the game).”
“He was the same guy (in Houston),” recalled Hernández , now the Jays’ longest-tenured position player. “(The) same happy guy, always joking around and just having fun playing the game that he loves like we do. He’s the right fit for us.”
Springer hasn’t confined the fun to just that corner of the dugout, though. He tries to get everyone in on the action, which led to him issue an interesting challenge to Alek Manoah while he was rehabbing a quad injury last April.
“(Springer) offered me $5,000 to eat 20 Uncrustables,” explained Manoah.
For the uninitiated, Uncrustables are pre-made, frozen peanut butter sandwiches with either honey, grape or strawberry jelly and, of course, no crusts. They’re not available in Canada, but are a staple in big-league clubhouses.
“I eat one before every game,” said Springer. Which flavour “depends on which one I think has hits (in it) that day. If grape’s not doing well, I switch.”
But back to the challenge.
“(Manoah) said he could eat 20 Uncrustables in 20 minutes,” Springer continued. “I bet that he couldn’t do it, so he said ‘name the price’ and I said ‘no, you go ahead and do it and I’ll go get my chequebook.’”
“I really started thinking about it,” recalled Manoah. “I was hungry and I (thought) I (could do it). I tried it out and I was only able to get through six.”
“I think,” recalled Springer with a wry smile, “he realized that that’s a lot of peanut butter and jelly in 20 minutes.”
The merry little wager in the dining room of a minor-league complex shows not just the fun side of Springer, but also how swiftly he made himself a part of the group. The new guy, who had just signed a $150-million (U.S.) contract but couldn’t answer the bell for his first opening day with his new team, was playfully holding PB&J-eating contests with a kid who had barely any professional experience.
It’s tough to be the fun guy when you’re not playing, but “I think you just get guys like (Guerrero) who like to have fun,” said Springer of his all-world teammate, who is ten years his junior. “(He) embraced me from day one, allowed me to be myself and enjoy being at the ballpark.”
It should be noted, as well, that the good times in “The Barrio” certainly didn’t take away from the production. Guerrero nearly won the Triple Crown, Hernández led the Jays with 116 RBIs, Gurriel posted a .994 OPS in September as the Jays battled for a playoff spot and Springer hit 22 homers despite playing less than half the season.
“Even though we’re having fun, we understand the magnitude of the situation (and) understand what we need to do,” said Springer. “But at the end of the day it’s just a game and you’ve got to have fun while you’re playing and enjoy it.”
And it’s very easy to tell that the Blue Jays are doing just that.
“Those guys,” smiled Jansen. “They’ll be loud in that corner, but it gets everybody going. It’s just fun.”
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Denial of responsibility! Planetconcerns is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.