ROGER & ME: A BRAVE BASEBALL STORY

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by Aristotle “Mugsy” Sakellaridis

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TAMPA, FLHot Dogs and Baseball are as seemingly synonymous as Ruth and Gehrig, except when the very hungry Atlanta Braves came here to Tampa to take on the New York Yankees in an innocent Spring Training game. That’s when America’s pastime had it’s foundation rocked a bit;
By a cheeseburger.

A Gulf of Mexico storm forced the Braves, Yanks and the rest of us to get our feet wet with Rain Delay Activities prior to the first pitch. Yours truly chose the munching of a tasty cheeseburger as his activity. Innocent enough, right? No big deal, right? Well, it wasn’t until current Braves pitching coach and ex-NY Mets reliever Roger McDowell got sniff of it and started toward me near the Braves bat rack. (I jumped in their dugout to keep from getting soaked). He stared at the burger the same way he would as he got the sign from Gary Carter before staring down a hitter. Then our eyes met:

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ROGER: “Mmmm… That’s looks good. Can you get me three of those?”
Overcome by hunger, he pulled some loose bills from the back pocket of his his baseball pants. The man needed food. My answer was assumed.

ME: “No, no, no… I got you.”
ROGER: “Let me pay for them.”
ME: “No, I got it.”
ROGER: “I’ll take care of you when you get back.”

With a nod, I was off to the kitchen. I informed
Joel The Cook, that “I need three cheesies for take-out for the Braves’ McDowell.” An Atlantan and huge Braves fan, Joel The Cook was eager to oblige. “Are you kiddin’ me?! You got it!” He gushed about how much he idolized Bobby Cox, Atlanta’s legendary manager as pounded the beef. Hot off the grill, he Saran-Wrapped AND aluminum-foiled the order. I thanked him and bolted back to the famished former hot-foot and bubble gum hat prankster, McDowell.

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Despite the rain, I was able to complete my mission: The burgers were delivered to a shocked McDowell, who:
A) Couldn’t believe I actually got them. And…
B) Was stunned by the swift service.
He took out a Sharpie and some baseballs and was about to sign them. Aside from this being taboo for Press Credential bearers, I didn’t want his autograph.

ME: “I’ll tell you what, have Cox sign one to Joel.”
McDowell understandably gave me a You’re kidding, right? look, but I held firm.
ROGER: “Who’s Joel?”
ME: “The cook who made your burgers.
ROGER: “Okay.”

McDowell went to Cox and told him what was up. Cox nodded and signed the brand-spanking-new ball. Roger handed it to me:

    To Joel – Great Burgers, Bobby Cox

I hurried to the kitchen to unload the taboo token on Joel The Cook. He read the writing on the ball and looked at me as if I was Beyonce in an I Dream Of Jeanie outfit. I took off before he tried to kiss me.

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Back in the dugout, McDowell and fellow coaches Glenn Hubbard and Eddie Perez were having themselves a little picnic. Looking at Roger, I couldn’t help but think of Wimpy from Popeye offering: “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

All in all, it was obvious that despite the game being called and 10,000 fans going home unhappy, happiness found its way to three Braves coaches and one short order cook. A Brave New World? No. But it’s a nice baseball story, all thanks to the Gulf Of Mexico, a Yankee cook, a tasty cheeseburger and… Roger & Me.

Oh, and one more thing…

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TALL MATT!!!
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