Among baseball aficionados, spring training has garnered a reputation for strangeness. In 2011, a batted ball struck Josh Beckett in the head as he milled about left field. Randy Johnson infamously exploded a passing birdÂ with a spring training pitch.
The Cleveland Indians continued that bizarre lineage yesterday when a privately contractedÂ chauffeurâ€”apparently not a baseball fanâ€”brought Carlos Santana the famed rock guitarist to team facilities instead of Carlos Santana the Indians catcher.
“What?” The chauffer, Denny Peebles, gave a shrug. “My sign said ‘Carlos Santana’ and this dude says he’s Carlos Santana. How am I supposed to know there’s more than one Carlos Santana?”
Apparently the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer had flown into Phoenix for a performance the day Cleveland’s pitchers and catchers reported to camp. Unaware, the “Smooth” guitarist boarded Peebles’ limo en route to Indians Spring Training facilities in Goodyear, Arizona.
The error went unreported until later that evening, when Indians catcher Carlos Santana gave a rave performance to 20,000 screaming fans at University of Phoenix stadium.
“I thought Carlos looked out of shape,” says Indians Manager Terry Francona, “but a lot of guys come in to training camp looking pretty rough. I figured I’d give him a few days to re-condition. Besides,” Francona says with a grin, “he was pretty good with the stick. Nice opposite field power.”
The two Santanas swapped places the following day. Guitarist Carlos rejoined his tour in San Diego and catcher Carlosâ€”dejected his rock star turn had endedâ€”found his place behind the plate. Word from GM Chris Antonetti’s office says the team will “strongly reconsider” hiring private contract chauffeurs in the future.
Team officials also say this joke has been beaten to death since Carlos Santana joined the Indians big league club in 2010 and donâ€™t expect any future columns milking cases of mistaken identity for cheap laughs.
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