Monday, June 25, 2012

The Legend of Shakabrodie

            It’s weird to think that it’s been 12 years since I really gave much thought to this. I’ve been using the name so casually for almost everything I do that I never would have expected it to be my moniker.

            It was April of 2000 when I was brought back for my second and final season as the bat boy for the Bakersfield Blaze. (For those who don’t know, the Blaze was an affiliate of the Giants at the time, and a few notables from that roster include: Carlos Valderrama, Guillermo Rodriguez, Cody Ransom and Joe Nathan.) However, with the new season, came a lot of fresh faces and a lot of attitudes to back them up. The most notable coming from a kid named Fletcher Lee.

            Now, the thing about Fletcher Lee is that he was a bit strange. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just in the same sense that most people find me a bit strange at times. Fletch, as I called him, was born and raised in Hawaii and unfortunately never made it beyond Bakersfield as a pitcher. But for the time he was there, he made everyone laugh by talking like John Wayne, prancing around like a ballerina, and he would routinely prank the other players. From what I recall, the one thing he had going for him was that he was a family friend of then manager Lenn Sakata, as they were both from Honolulu. One thing that I will never forget about Sakata is that he is the answer to a very important trivia question: “Who was the shortstop for the Orioles when Cal Ripken, Jr. started his consecutive games played streak?” Anyway, Fletch was one of the new pitchers that year and clearly one of the few guys who had no idea who I was the first time I walked into the clubhouse that year.
            “Who the fuck is this kid!?” he yelled, as I was clearly the youngest person there.
            “I’m the bat boy. Who the fuck are you?” I replied.
            Only the few guys who returned from last season really laughed at my retort, as they all learned a lot about me and the way I interact with people from the previous season. Despite their age and talent, I never let any of the players or managers push me around or think they were better than me. (Notable others I told to fuck off and/or gave the finger to: Keith Comstock (jokingly), Eric Byrnes (jokingly), Robby Thompson (jokingly), Adam Piatt and my favorite, Bobby Bonds (definitely not jokingly).) 
Fletch just kind of stood there for a moment and stared me down as I went to my locker. As I put my stuff away, he slapped me on the ass and walked into the shower. Kind of an odd start to our relationship, I know, but with me, a lot of encounters start like that.
            To really understand the rest of the story, please take a moment to really analyze the photo below.

            Yes, that’s me with the spiky, blonde hair. And yes, I thought it looked awesome at the time. Moving on… I was an avid surfer back then. Fletch, as it turned out, was as well. I mean, yah, he’s Hawaiian, but I usually don’t stereotype. Anyway, once he found out I was he took a bit of a shine toward me. We’d talk about awesome spots to go to on the coast and I’d always bring him photos when they got back from a trip on the road as I didn’t travel with the team. Toward the end of May Fletch started doing something more regularly when I walked into the clubhouse. As I stepped in, he’d jump on the bench in front of his locker, crouch and say, “Shaka bro” to me with his right hand in the form of shaka (hang loose). He even did on a random night after a game when we both happened to be at a Food 4 Less across from Sam Lynn Ballpark. Everyday for a little over a month he would do that, everyday until the middle of June when I got to the stadium early. Fletch had just been released by the Giants and only a few of us were there when he received the news.
            This wasn’t the first time I had seen or known anyone to get demoted, called up or even cut, but it was one of the few that I will never forget. Sakata was trying to console him, to let him know everything was going to get better and that he was going to catch on with another team. Fletch was in tears, which ultimately made me well up a bit, and a few of the other pitchers gave him hugs and well wishes. I then went over to him, gave him a hug and said my goodbye… at which he then jokingly told me to fuck off and get some work done. That was the last time I ever saw him, and the last time he played professional baseball.

            The “Brodie” part of the story is a bit shorter and confusing to me. That same year, when all the bleached hair grew out and was cut off, a few of my high school chums said I looked like Jason Lee, the actor/professional skateboarder. Specifically, they said I looked like his character from Mallrats, Brodie. At the time I didn’t see much of a connection; however, nowadays I kind of do. But I’ll let you be the judge.

            Since those days I’ve combined the two nicknames I had bestowed upon me and made them join forces for the ultimate badass user name ever! No… the main reason I started it was as a tribute to Fletch. As I got older I got lazy and decided to use Shakabrodie for everything. To be honest, I never would have expected so many people to take a shine to it. I thought I was just being silly and paying tribute to an old friend.