Veteran Who Tricked Astros Into Cheating Tells His Story
What I hear in Astros clubhouse: they were convinced by a very veteran star player that “everyone was doing it.” “Steamrolled” is way too strong a word. Star struck might fit better. Feels like they’re not sure what to make of that now. They were a young, impressionable team.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 20, 2020
Twins Daily: Thank you for agreeing to this interview.
Very Veteran Star Player: No problem. Been waiting to tell my side of the story.
TD: First of all, I think the question on everyone's mind is, who are you?
VVSP: My name is Rick Crabtree.
TD: That is not the name of, and I quote, a "very veteran star player."
VVSP: No, but it is the name of a 47-year-old theater actor from Plano, Texas.
TD: I'm confused.
VVSP: The year was 2016. My production company had just mounted a successful production of Cabaret at the Shoreline Acres Senior Villas in Galveston. My day job at a local cellular telephone store left me wanting more, so I checked for other opportunities. I saw a listing for "Master of disguise, must be male, 35-45, in relatively good shape, competitive pay, no snitching." I figured why not? I go to the interview at this strip mall in Katy (a Houston suburb), and these two guys with polo shirts that say MCKINSEY GOLF SCRAMBLE 2012 CHAMPS on 'em say they need a charismatic, persuasive guy who can lead young men.
TD: This interested you?
VVSP: We were doing eight shows a week at the Villas, including a Sunday matinee. The young men in the cast didn't know Kander & Ebb from a hole in the ground when we started, and I rounded them into shape tout de suite. This was a perfect fit.
TD: What did they want you to do, exactly?
VVSP: It was quite simple, really. They wanted me to portray a World Series-winning veteran who could convince his young charges that there was a new method to win baseball games. It involved watching television and beating the hell out of garbage cans. Everyone was doing it, and they should be too.
TD: Which leads me back to how Rick Crabtree was supposed to do this?
VVSP: I developed a character, one I'd honed at many an improv session in the Fort Worth comedy scene. His name was Kenny "Juice" Palomino. Five-time All-Star. World Series champ. Voice of authority in the clubhouse.
VVSP: Those McKinsey guys, they're amazing. They planted everything. Juice Palomino on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Juice Palomino busted in a brothel on Deadspin. Juice Palomino giving a tearful interview to Tom Rinaldi. The young kids, they didn't know any better.
TD: But there'd be highlights?
VVSP: Copyright bans on all of it. You'd try and play it and it would redirect you to the FBI warning that's at the start of old videotapes.
TD: Still, how'd you fake it? They'd have to know you were a real or fake ballplayer.
VVSP: Big elbow brace. Bigger knee brace. Always limping, spending time in the cold tub, never not leaning against something with my arms crossed, Oakleys on my ballcap, Cabela's manager goatee, spitting sunflower seeds. McKinsey gave me a dossier of chatter and stories about minor league bus trips. I'd tell my stories, and if anyone wanted me to step into what they called "the cage" or perform a "long toss," I'd motion to my back and go to the clubhouse for a massage.
TD: That...sounds like a veteran.
VVSP: From there, it was simple to sell the sign-stealing hustle. Those kids, they ate it up.
TD: Were you there when they implemented it?
VVSP: Oh no, once I laid the groundwork, management wanted me out of there before anyone got too wise. I watched the World Series on TV from backstage of a production of Cats at Earl Campbell Middle School in League City. As they recorded the final, dirty, cheating out, some of my fellow actors may have heard Skimbleshanks yelp. A job well done.
TD: Thank you for your time.
VVSP: Thank you.
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