© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Kyle Kendrick really had no chance.
The second-year pitcher became the victim of an elaborate practical joke pulled off expertly by those in Kendrick's circle of trust, though that ring has been broken.
After the Phillies' workout on Saturday, Ruben Amaro Jr. summoned Kendrick into manager Charlie Manuel's office at Bright House Networks Field. With a straight face, the assistant general manager told his gullible pitcher that he'd been dealt to the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese
Central League for a player named "Kobayashi Iwamura."
Presented with a letter printed on Phillies stationery with official-sounding language, Kendrick was convinced of the "deal," and given an itinerary of things he must do so the swap could be completed, supplied by traveling secretary Frank Coppenbarger.
Manuel assisted with the rouse by offering advice, since he made a career in the Far East. Kendrick's agent, Joe Urbon, who also represents Japanese import Hiroki Kuroda, gets credit by confirming the deal when he received the stunned phone call from his client.
The media (who were clued in) played a part as well, asking
Kendrick questions about being traded halfway around the world. The shell-shocked 23-year-old stammered through most of his answers, not knowing what to say."
"Do they have good food in Japan?" Kendrick asked reporters, as the first words out of his mouth. "I don't know what to think right now. I guess it's going to be a whole new chapter, huh?"
Eventually, as a crowd gathered to watch the proceedings, the joke's originator, Brett Myers, chimed in, "You've been punk'd."
Breathing a huge sigh of relief, Kendrick said, "I've never been so happy. Seriously. Wow. I was not going on that flight in the morning."
So surprised and trusting of those in his life, Kendrick actually believed that he was traded to Japan, despite the fact that it's prohibited. The clubhouse erupted in laughter when Myers let his fish off the hook.
"I wanted to cry," Kendrick said. "I'm going to call my agent and tell him he's fired. I'm pretty gullible. I trust people, maybe a little too much. I thought it was real. The itinerary was in there, the contract and everything. Then, the media was in on it, I thought, 'I guess this is
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Asked if he was planning retribution for Myers -- and he'd likely receive plenty of unsolicited ideas and assistance -- Kendrick smiled and said, "I don't think I can get him that good."
Myers better watch out.
"You'll be on TV," Myers yelled, as Kendrick patted his chest. "You're on candid camera, son."
He will because cameras stalked Kendrick to record the joke, chronicling the reaction. Veteran members of the organization recalled a similar prank being orchestrated on former first-round pick Wayne Gomes by convicted practical joker Larry Andersen.
The gag got many players recalling moments in their careers that made them less than proud. Manuel, who has been on either side of such frivolity, was impressed by the scope of this one.
"He definitely was worried," Manuel said. "I asked him if he wanted to talk to me. He said, 'Not now. I don't know what to say.'"
Manuel wanted to take it a step further.
"I would have loved to see him fly to Japan and get off the plane," Manuel said. "That would have been the best. As a matter of fact, I would have paid his fare."
A full clubhouse howled in delight at Kendrick, likely happy that they were spared, and chided him long after the joke had ended. Shane Victorino called him "Mr. Baseball," a reference to the Tom Selleck film in which a player has his contract sold to Japan.
Ryan Howard, who once wore a dress as part of a rookie hazing, simply shook his head at the spectacle.
"Nobody's safe," he said. "Nobody."