A young dude in Oakleys, a royal-purple polo and black pants — the Winston-Salem Dash staff uniform — strolled up to me as I waited in BB&T Ballpark’s will-call line for the Dash’s home opener.
“Can you help me out?” he asked.
Momentary confusion struck me, but I said, “Whatcha need?”
“Would you participate in the ’70s Dance-Off?” he asked. “The shades, the hair, the jacket — man, you just got the look.”
You probably don’t know me, so you don’t know how I look and dress. My hair is big — curly, thick, unruly. I rock large shades almost constantly. I don blazers nearly as often in springtime. You could say my jeans fit well. I’m a fashion anachronism.
Another, ironic thing: I hate inter-inning activities. Aside from singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch, I think they’re sophomoric. Call me a curmudgeon.
So when this guy ran up to me unsolicited, asking me to partake in something I roundly disdain, what else could I say?
“Sure!” I replied.
He took my name, handed me a slip of paper stating I should report to the customer service kiosk at Section 109 following the sixth and scurried away.
I looked at the little slip and muttered, “Oh, Jesus Christ…”
A woman behind me laughed, “What have you got yourself into?”
I had no idea, but the game soon started.
Last year, I covered two Dash games. They flaunted a roster loaded with five top White Sox prospects. But great players don’t stick around in the low minors.
I watched a very different team on April 14, literally and figuratively.
It’s early yet in the season, but Winston-Salem was off to a rough start, losing four of their first seven games. Perhaps this home stretch against the Salem Red Sox, a Boston farm team from Virginia, could pad their record.
The game started slow with three scoreless innings. I had plenty of time to formulate my approach to the dance-off.
Then it hit me: If my editors don’t get pictures of my public humiliation, they’ll never let me hear the end.
I began searching for photographers.
A guy carrying a camera with a zoom lens approximately the size of a water cooler stopped into the press box. I caught up with him at the door, learning his name: Andrew Dye.
“The [Winston-Salem Journal] would kill me if I took pics for you,” he apologized.
But he gave me a name: Jody, described as “a retiree wandering around looking like Santa Claus.”
I returned to the press box, tracing the first-base line for Kris Kringle.
With two outs in the top of the fourth, Sox third baseman Jordan Betts and catcher Bryan Hudson batted in back-to-back runs. Not to be outdone, Dash designated hitter Marcus Davis slammed a soaring double — painfully close to jumping the right-center fence — allowing first baseman Nick Basto to cross home.
I never spotted Jody.
After Dash third baseman Gerson Montilla’s RBI single tied it 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth, Salem tore the game open in the top of the sixth, going on a four-run streak. Winston-Salem had no answer, ending the inning 6-2.
When I arrived at the kiosk, a tiny brunette named Brooke was talking to my competitor, Kody. I sized him up — below-average height, buzzed blond hair, a cross hanging from his neck.
“Aw, you can’t pick up chicks like this,” he said as Brooke handed him a poofy black wig and purple cape.
I was confident in my ability to destroy him.
After the seventh-inning stretch, Brooke and I descended to the home dugout. Davis warmed up his swing nearby, massive, slow but powerful.
“We need a ’70s nickname for you,” Brooke chirped.
“Kinky Peacock,” I said.
“I don’t think we can do that.”
After the eighth ended, I strolled to the first-base coach’s box. The announcer called out “K-Dizzle Kody” — even my nickname kicked his ass — and “Big Wayno.” Chic’s disco classic “Le Freak” burst from the PA system.
So I freaked out.
I dramatically doffed the superfluous wig as I performed a gross approximation of the Hustle. I did the Travolta. I twisted down to the turf. I even mimed Nile Rodgers’ choppy, funky guitar, duck-walking towards the dugout. As the song faded out, I spun quickly, striking my pose, a disco finger jabbing the air.
The judging applause sounded equal. But Kody was announced the victor.
I stormed back to the grandstand, incredulous.
“Man, you got robbed, man!” a well-dressed guy told me.
“Right?” I panted. “What’d the other guy do?”
“He tried to do a split — damn-near killed himself.”
Insult to injury: I never received photos.
The Dash lost, too. Despite scoring three runs in the bottom of the eighth and silencing Salem, Sox lefty reliever Jake Drehoff smoked Winston-Salem in 17 pitches — 12 strikes — slamming the door shut on the rally, 6-5.
You can’t win ’em all, but the Dash didn’t win any of the series’ four games. They were close contests, though.
As we walked up the aisle, Brooke said, “Hey, you did great!”
“I didn’t win, though,” I replied.
“Well, you have the memory!” she peeped. “That’s all that matters, right?”
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