On the Road: Bullpen Banters with Ben’s Biz in Beloit
While it wasn’t necessarily my intention, one thing led to another and I ended up getting a lot of bullpen-related content on this trip. Enough for an MiLB.com “Bullpen Trilogy,” in fact, which began with last week’s riveting look at the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ “Quarter Game.”
Part two of the trilogy is a doozy, as it features an MiLB.com interview with none other than the Whitewall Ninja (aka Dakota Bacus.) Click HERE to read it.
My interview with Bacus was about more than just the Whitewall Ninja, however. What follows is the remainder of our conversation, in which he and one-time bullpen partner in crime Taylor Vail shared the details behind some of their other arcane rituals.
Ben’s Biz: Outside of the Whitewall Ninja, what have been some other bullpen highlights this season?
Taylor Vail: We did the sign game. So, say we’re playing Peoria, we’ll throw a ball to their bullpen that says “Sign Game?” You know, with a question mark. If they respond with “Yeah” then we’ll play.
Say our pitching coach [John] Wasdin goes out to the mound. While he’s out there someone [from the Peoria bullpen] would have to run out and touch one of the outfield signs. They might run to [the Regal] sign, for example, and however many signs that is the next time their pitching coach goes out we’d have to top it.
Vail (cont): One time there was a pitcher, who got released, he’s not with us anymore.
Bacus: Rest in peace.
Vail: Rest in peace to him, Drew Tyson. There was a pitching change and he went from pole to pole, got a cup of water from their Gatorade [cooler], and ran back. That was the best I’d ever seen.
Ben’s Biz: Once you do that, you’ve beaten the game.
Vail: Yeah, yeah, we beat them. That was against West Michigan, I think, in the bottom of the sixth inning. Game over. We won.
Ben’s Biz: When I was in Wisconsin I talked to the Timber Rattlers bullpen about their Quarter Game. Do you guys do anything like that, finding ways to supplement your income?
Vail: We sell broken bats. In Kane County we sold a few and got, like, almost a hundred dollars. Then when we went to Burlington [Iowa, home of the Bees] we put it all on black, playing roulette. And each of us [in the bullpen] walked away with $50 bucks I think it was.
Ben’s Biz: That’s funny, as the guys in Wisconsin also said that they spend their bullpen earnings at the casino in Burlington. [For the record, and also hilarious: this casino is named "The PZAZZ!"] So does everyone in the Midwest League just save their money until they get to Burlington?
Vail: That’s what I do, yeah. The casino is right in the hotel, so when you’re bored you just go there and lose it.
Ben’s Biz: Any other bullpen highlights from this season that I should know about?
Bacus: There’s the National Anthem stand-off, where you see who can keep standing the longest after the anthem [Note: I wrote about these last season]. Stuart Pudenz lasted nine innings and then 20 minutes after the game! That was against Peoria. We won that one.
Ben’s Biz: Dakota, you’ve recently been moved into the starting rotation. Are you still welcome in the bullpen now that you’re a starter?
Vail: Of course, he’s always welcome down there.
Bacus: You can take the kid out of the bullpen, you just can’t take the bullpen out of the kid.
Stay tuned for next week’s concluding installment of the Bullpen Trilogy, in which a quartet of Lansing Lugnuts talk about playing “Follow the Leader.”