The Screwball: “Now pinch-hitting for Pedro Borbon…”

Baseball fans recently learned of the tale of Alex Meyer, a 6-foot-9 right-hander in the Twins system who’s been working as a substitute teacher this offseason. What the otherwise wonderful story ignores, however, are all the other tales of big-league ballplayers assuming substitute-teacher duties.

Herewith are snippets from their absolutely true encounters.

Adam Dunn

“Good morning, class. I’m Mr. Dunn. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m 6-foot-6, 285 pounds. So you won’t be giving me any trouble today, right?”

Student Jimmy Dugan: “Actually, sir, my dad says you couldn’t hit me if you tried.”

Khris Davis

“Hello, students. I’m your substitute, Khris Davis. That’s Khris with a ‘K.’”

Jimmy Dugan: “Awww, maaannn! We thought….”

KD: “I know what you thought. Now be quiet.”

JD: “I can’t believe I bought an Orioles shirsey. You really are the substitute Chris Davis.”

KD: “I see what you did there. Clever. But if you think you’re disappointed now, just wait till tomorrow when you have substitute Will Smith.”

Nick Swisher

“Bros! I’m Nick! Whose parents are out of town?”

Hunter Pence

“Hi, everybody. I’m Hunter Pence, and I’ll be subbing for Mr. Taylor here in home economics today. OK? OK, so I’m going to steer away from the syllabus this morning by teaching you some basic life lessons, just a few ways you can make your high-school experience a bit more enjoyable.”

Jimmy Dugan: “Mr. Swisher—I mean Nick—already did that.”

HP: “I’m sure he did, but I’m going to teach you something different.”

JD: “Like how to make Jell-O shots?”

HP: “Not exactly. Now be quiet and listen. First, whenever you walk down the hallways here at school, be sure to hold your arms very stiffly at your sides, as if you are carrying two extremely heavy buckets of sand while sleepwalking through an incredibly vivid dream about ancient zombies. Second, whenever you throw paper wads at Mr. Nosworthy in algebra, do so with a stiff, robotic throwing motion, as if you’re a 1950s wind-up toy.”

JD: “Sir, I’m wondering how you….”

Mental Health and the CBA
A particular bit of language in the latest CBA could have negative consequences for some players.

HP: “Quiet. Finally, should you get into an after-school fight with the Baseball Furies from the movie The Warriors, snatch one of their baseball bats and swing it at them in the manner of an arthritic lumberjack who is protecting the artisanal ham sandwich that his wife made him for lunch. I mean you need to look awkward, man, very awkward, but ferocious, too, like, ‘You’re gonna get this artisanal ham sandwich over my dead body!’”

JD: “Honestly, sir, how did you even become a substitute?”

HP: “I’m really not sure. Heart? Hustle? Inspirational speeches?”

Evan Gattis

“Good morning, class. My name is Evan Gattis, but you can call me Evan, OK? I mean, ‘Mr. Gattis’ is my dad, right? Anyway, you might be wondering if I’m the type of teacher who wears comfortable Birkenstocks, takes off his Van Heusen dress shirt to reveal a faded Phish T-shirt underneath and then sits cross-legged on the desk while talking to his students ‘at their level,’ you know, just really connecting with them, really reaching them, really understanding who they are and what makes ’em tick.”

Jimmy Dugan: “Well, are you?”

EG: “Yes, I am.”

JD: “OK, well, I enjoy violent video games that really warp my mind.”

EG: “Oh.”

JD: “I also like to hack into my teachers’ accounts and change their profiles to say stuff like, ‘I enjoy slathering my body in vegetable oil and sitting for several hours on a park bench while whistling the theme to The Love Boat. Other hobbies include: Snoring; signing my name to things; shrugging; collecting dust mites; and writing letters to Popes.’”

EG: “I see.”

Adam Rosales

“Good morning, class. I’m . . .”

The door opens. In walks Principal Smith.

PS: “Mr. Rosales, I’m sorry, but we’re moving you to world history.”

AR: “OK, should I take my stuff with me?”

PS: “Something tells me that you should just leave it here.”

Ryan Braun

“Hello, class, I’m your substitute, Mr. Braun. Now, before Ms. Dixon returns from her ‘personal day’ tomorrow—glug-glug—to administer the mid-term, I need to tell you exactly how to beat that test.”

Jimmy Dugan: “But, sir, isn’t that cheating?”

RB: “Kid, it’s only cheating if you get caught.”

JD: “Really? I know I’m only in high school, so perhaps I haven’t taken the philosophy courses necessary for this sort of high-level discourse, but it seems to me that cheating is cheating whether you get caught or not.”

One student nods. Three shake their heads. Seventeen others sleep.

RB: “No, it’s not cheating if you don’t get caught. I looked it up.”

JD: “Looked it up where?”

RB: “Trikipedia.”

Seventeen students sleep. One shakes his head. Three jot “Trikipedia.”

RB: “But that’s beside the point. The point is, we’re living in a competitive world. It’s just how Darwin described it: survival of the fittest.”

Student Jenny Nerdlinger: “Actually, sir, that wasn’t Darwin, that was Herbert Spencer. And it didn’t refer to competition so much as adaptation.”

RB: “Adapt this, nerd. Now, quickly, I’m going to tell you how to beat that test, and then I’m going down the hall to get Mr. Blackburn to pee in a cup for me. Can you believe they make substitutes take drug tests these days?”

JD: “Yeah, well, Mr. Palmeiro is still claiming he took a sip from Mr. Tejada’s coffee.”

RB: “I’ll have to remember that one. Anyhoo, here’s what you do: Take the test as usual. If you need a cheat sheet, cool. If you need to look up the answers on your phone, do it. But the main thing is that when you turn in your test, make sure that at least one other student helps pass it to the teacher’s desk. Then, later, you can raise all sorts of chain-of-custody issues. Capisce?”

JD: “Sure, but even then, we’d still have to take the test again.”

RB: “True, but you’d know what’s on the test, right?”

JD: “Well, they can always change up the test.”

RB: “I hate change-ups. It’s almost like the pitcher is cheating.”

JD: “You’re an idiot.”

Jayson Werth

“Good morning, class. I’m… why are you all quivering in terror?”

Marc Rzepczynski

“Hello, students. I’m Mr. Rzepczynski. Mr. Johnson is out with the shingles, so your assignment for the next two weeks is”—dramatic pause—“to spell my last name.”

Class: “Noooooooo.”

MR: “Now go ahead and split into three study groups, one for each syllable.”

Jimmy Dugan: “Mr. Dunn was a lot nicer.”

MR: “Dugan, you take the middle syllable.”

Pablo Sandoval

“Good morning. What time is lunch?”

Mat Latos

“Good morning, class. I’m Mr. Latos, and I’ll be teaching your art class today. Now, it is often said that art is in the eye of the beholder.”

Jimmy Dugan: “Actually, sir, it’s ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’”

ML: “Aw. There goes my lesson plan.”

JD: “Just run with it, dude. Most of us aren’t listening anyway.”

ML: “Well, all right. It is often said that art is in the eye of the beholder, but it is also on the arms, legs and torso of the beholdee!”

Jenny Nerdlinger: “Sir, ‘beholdee’ isn’t a word.”

ML: “Quiet, nerd. So, behold my tattoos!”

JD: “My dad has one that says ‘Tina.’ Too bad my mom’s name is Teri.”

ML: “It happens. Now, the tattoo was first recorded by the explorer Captain Cook, though he called it a ‘tattaw,’ which sounds more like a spicy Cajun dish or maybe a bird in the macaw family that divulges infidelities, am I right?”

JN: “Ha-ha!”

ML: “Thank you, nerd. Class, your assignment today”—dramatic pause, much like the famed Rzepczynski Pause—“is to design my next tattoo.”

JD: “I’m going to do one that shows Evan Gattis sitting speechless on the desk.”

ML: “No, here’s your assignment: What I want is for you to somehow depict Joey Votto’s plate discipline and Brandon Phillips’ mouth.”

Forty minutes later.

ML, looking at Nerdlinger’s design: “Nerdlinger, I’ll admit it took me awhile… but your design of a walkie-talkie is absolutely brilliant!”

Alex Rodriguez

“You know who I am. Your assignment is to gaze upon my innocence.”

Trevor Bauer

“Greetings, class. My name is Trevor Bauer, and I’m an iconoclast.”

Jimmy Dugan: “Begging your pardon, sir, what’s an iconoclast?”

Jenny Nerdlinger: “I’ll field this one, Mr. Bauer. Jimmy, an iconoclast is a supporter of the 8th- and 9th-century movement in the Byzantine Church that sought to abolish the veneration of icons and other religious images.”

TB, to Nerdlinger: “Ah, you must be Nerdlinger. (Turning back to the other students.) Nerdlinger is partly correct: That is the origin of ‘iconoclast.’ But now it refers to anyone who challenges conventional beliefs.”

JD: “Like what? Do you not think Michael Young is a ‘winner’?”

TB: “Well, no, but that’s not what I mean. What I mean is that as a big-league pitcher, I do things my way and not the way everyone expects. For example, before each start, I warm up with a regimen of isometrics, resistance-band exercises, medicine-ball workouts and long toss.”

JD: “Do you also do the hokey-pokey and turn yourself around?”

TB: “No, but that’s not a bad idea. Anyway, using my pregame routine as a guide, I will teach class today by wearing a Moroccan kaftan made entirely of Kraft macaroni while simultaneously turning at precisely one one-trillionth the rotational velocity of the planet Mars and explaining in Pig Latin the symbolic meaning of Brave New World.”

JD: “OK, but how can we be iconoclasts, too?”

TB: “Just pay attention.”

Brian Wilson

“What’s up, kids? I’m Brian, and I’ll be teaching your theater class today. For what it’s worth, Ms. Simmons is out putting her theatrical skills to use in a complex insurance scam involving several expensive vehicles.”

Jimmy Dugan: “Cool.”

BW: “Speaking of theatrical skills, I’m here to tell you that I’ve entertained fans for nigh on five seasons now, first by having too much awesome on my feet and then by sporting a spectacular Mohawk. I also have a talent for spectacular quotes such as ‘having too much awesome on my feet.’”

JD: “How long…?”

BW: “Shut up, kid. I have the floor. Later I delighted the masses by growing a very thick beard. People loved my beard I guess because it reminded them of Santa Claus or Rutherford B. Hayes. I’m really not sure. They also loved it because of all the entertaining things that came from mouth hole inside that beard, things such as ‘my beard is dark because we play a lot of day games. It’s tanned.’ Yep, even without a laugh track, you can understand how utterly funny that is. But it’s not all comedy with me, not at all. I like drama, too, because at the same time I established the beard as an amusing prop, I also established it as a necessity for playoff success. I mean, without me there’s no Napoli, no Gomes, no World Series title for the Red Sox.”

JD: “When will…?”

BW: “Quiet, kid. I’m on a roll. Still later I exploited my consensus appeal by eating tacos on television and by creating a beloved character named The Machine, who perfectly embodied the esteemed leather-fetish ethic. Of course America suffered a staggering blow when I sat out pretty much the entire 2012 season due to injury, but America then breathed a sigh of relief when I made my triumphant return by giving my beard its own ponytail.”

JD, whispering to Nerdlinger: “Sheesh, where’s Saved By The Bell when you need it?”

Munenori Kawasaki

“Good morning, class. I am Mr. Kawasaki, your substitute teacher.” (Reading from Japanese-English translation dictionary now.) “I really don’t know why they are having me teach Spanish. I am Japaneeeeeeeeese!”

Bartolo Colon

Buenos dias, estudiantes. (Reading from Spanish-English translation dictionary now.) I would like to echo my . . . um . . . confrere Munenori Kawasaki by saying I really don’t know why they are having me teach P.E.”

C.J. Wilson

“Hello, I’m C.J. Wilson, and I’ll be filling in for Mr. Nosworthy today. Seems he inhaled a paper wad yesterday and is currently recovering from emergency surgery.”

Jimmy Dugan: “Will this be on the test?”

CJW: “Well, I could certainly ask you to calculate the arc length of that paper-wad throw, but no, that’s more appropriate to Algebra II.”

JD: “Cool.”

CJW: “What I’m actually going to teach you today isn’t algebra, exactly, but it is math—polymath, that is!”

Waits for laughter. Gets none.

Holds for applause. Gets none.

CJW: “OK, so clearly you don’t know what ‘polymath’ means.

JD: “Nerdlinger would know, but she got expelled for engineering a weaponized paper wad.”

CJW: “Indeed. Anyway, a polymath is a person of wide-ranging knowledge and education. Ladies and gentleman, I am a polymath. And I’m going to teach each one of you how to be a polymath, too.”

JD: “Neat.”

CJW: “Let me begin the primer with an illustration. You know how whenever you see Yanni, he’s playing two keyboards at once?”

JD: “Who’s Yanni?”

CJW: “Yanni? He’s that guy who looks like a Chia Greek, with all that thick black hair, and who’s always facing an industrial fan.”

JD: “Does he also have a Magnum, P.I. mustache?”

CJW: “That’s the guy. Anyway, as I said, he’s always playing one keyboard with his right hand and one with his left, fusing separate expressions into a single, unified form. That’s how I want you to envision yourself. Like me, you should always unite the left side of your brain with the right side, always practice photography on the one hand and meditation on the other, always race cars on the one side and woo supermodels on the other. Got it?”

Nerdlinger, sticking her head through the doorway: “Mr. Wilson, you had a 2.21 K/BB ratio last season. So maybe you should just drop the ‘poly’ and concentrate on that particular aspect of math, OK?”

Print This Post
John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Ray Gryder
Ray Gryder

MLB substitue teachers!  What a topic! Funny stuff.  One not on your list, was Johnny Oates.  I remember him being a sub and the PE teacher at my elementary school (Walton) back in 1968-69 in Prince George Co., VA.  Later on I remembered liking the fact that I had his TOPPS Orioles card from the 73 set. He was a great asset to the game.  Just remember him out on the playground being a little hardnosed with us kiddies making sure we knew who was in charge.

Azure Texan
Azure Texan

That’s a fantastic anecdote. Thanks for sharing it. Incidentally, I’m a lifelong Rangers fan, so I’m pretty familiar with Johnny Oates – not as familiar as you, of course, but he always seemed like a really good guy. That playground experience of his must have been pretty good training for handling a big-league clubhouse, eh?

Joe Heyman
Joe Heyman

Not as interesting as the major leaguers working as teachers, but along the the same lines, my gym teacher in the 4th grade in Pittsburgh (John Minadeo elementary) was Bob Smizik, when left the next year to become a sportswriter (covering the Pirates) for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

dennis Bedard
dennis Bedard

Dave Kingman:  Good morning class.  I am your substitute teacher.  80% of you will think I am completely unqualified for this job.  Just one big strikeout in your eyes.  The other 20% will love me.  My teaching will be a home run every day.

Azure Texan
Azure Texan


That’s interesting. For contrast, please note that I’m a product of the Dallas Independent School District. For any teacher, let alone a substitute, that ain’t a plum assignment. So my substitutes went on to do things like drink too much, bang their heads against the wall, question their choices in life and retire from substitute teaching.

Azure Texan
Azure Texan

@ dennis

Indeed. And Kingman would definitely be on the roster of scariest substitutes ever. Who else would be on the roster? Off the top of my head, I can think of Ty Cobb, Jim Rice, Al Hrabosky, Milton Bradley, Vicente Padilla and Kyle Farnsworth.


Cal Ripken would probably be the worst. Lots of hallway talks.