February 28, 2012
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — It was late on Tuesday morning and the day at Mets' spring training was coming close to being dangerously boring and routine. Hitters wrapped up batting practice. Pitchers dawdled after their long toss routines. Coaches huddled under the sun.
And then relief pitcher Tim Byrdak came strutting out of the clubhouse wearing red pants, yellow wristbands, a red feather boa and a real fu manchu mustache he had bleached earlier in the week. Hulkamania had officially taken over spring training and the 38-year-old southpaw had hilariously turned an unsuspecting Matt Cerrone of MetsBlog into Mean Gene Okerlund for the day.
Watch the video as "Hulk Hogan" Byrdak ambushes what would have otherwise been a routine report from Cerrone:
I caught up with Byrdak after he had instructed his fellow camp mates to say their prayers, eat their vitamins and be real Americans (while flexing their 24-inch pythons, of course) to find out exactly why he stormed the practice fields at Digital Domain Park dressed as the most famous wrestler of all time.
Believe it or not, Byrdak claimed the stunt was conceived as a teaching lesson for the team's younger players. The Mets had held a team meeting earlier in the morning and the power of social media was stressed. Byrdak wanted to demonstrate how anything a baseball player does can zoom around the Internet in seconds. Sure enough, Cerrone's tweet and a few from the team's official account made their way around Twitter faster than a Hogan legdrop.
But Byrdak couldn't claim in good faith that he was just being an instructor because he enjoys having a bit of fun in the clubhouse. He dressed up like a football referee before a game last season and handed out penalties to teammates. He even started re-growing his Hulkster goatee before the season because he thought it'd look cool on photo day.
"I just want to let these younger guys know that it's OK to have fun and that spring training doesn't need to be so serious," he said.
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