June 9, 2010
Bonding and Ducks, with Brad Ziegler
Inside jokes are a big part of clubhouse camaraderie, and for Brad Ziegler, the most memorable involves a duck. Now in his third season working out of the A’s bullpen, Ziegler spent six years in the minor leagues, including one comedically-tinged campaign with the Single-A Stockton Ports.
In 2005, when I was playing in Stockton, there was a group of four or five of us who had been introduced to this comedian and we were listening to him almost every day. We would sit in the clubhouse, and on our iPods, or MP3 players, or our CD players, or whatever, we’d listen to Mitch Hedberg. Sometimes we’d play it out loud in the clubhouse, or if a buddy and I drove to the field together, we’d have it on in the car. We were listening to it non-stop for a good two- or three-week span. It was pretty much me, Jared Burton, Jeff Muessig and Chris Dunwell, and I think Trent Peterson was kind of in that group, too.
Hedberg had this shtick where he would say: “I was in downtown Boise, Idaho and I saw a duck walking down the sidewalk, and I wondered, ‘What in the world is a duck doing walking down the sidewalk in downtown Boise, Idaho? Maybe he’s hungry. So I went into a Subway to get him something to eat. I went up to the counter and said, ‘I need a bun,’ and the lady said, ‘I’m sorry sir, we can’t sell you just a bun.’ So I said, ‘Okay, put some lettuce on it.’ She said, ‘That will be $1.50’ and I said, ‘But it’s for a duck,’ so she goes, ‘Well, then it’s free.’ I said, ‘I did not know that ducks eat free at Subway. Had I known that, I would have ordered a much larger sandwich, maybe a Steak Fajita. But don’t bother ringing it up, because it’s for a duck! In fact, there are six ducks outside and they all want Sun Chips!’
So, it was just this thing about ducks eating free at Subway, and we’re on this bus trip, heading south from Stockton, and there was this little truck-stop area that we would stop at every single time that we went to play the southern teams. We’d all get out, go to the bathroom, and grab something to eat. Burton, Dunwell and I went over to this little deli that was in the gas station and there was a lady with two kids in front of us. We’re standing there, looking at what we’re going to order, and we hear this lady say, “Can I get just a bun?’ The lady behind the counter goes, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t sell you just a bun; you have to get something on it.’ So Chris says, ‘But, it’s for a duck,’ and we all just lost it. This lady turned around and looked at us, wondering what we were laughing at, and we literally couldn’t contain ourselves. We actually had to walk away for a little bit, because we were laughing so hard. Everything had been set up so perfectly, because we had been listening to this every single day, for several days in a row.
I still talk to Burton every now and then, and Chris is probably my best friend among guys from the baseball circuit, and we still bring that story up. Who goes into a sandwich shop and asks for just a bun? Who does that, and for it to happen right in front of us….
And maybe that says something about baseball players. We’re almost like a fraternity, because there are so many things we experience together in the locker room. In a way we’re like our own little family, and every family has their own inside jokes. What happened was something that almost no one else on earth would have understood, but because it was something that we had all kind of used as a bonding experience that summer, it was just that funny. Chris said, “It’s for a duck,” and we completely lost it.