Friday, November 8, 2013

The Metamorphosis of Rex Hudler (Nachos Grande BBC Rd. 2)

This is my entry for Round 2 of the Nachos Grande Blogger Bracket Challenge.  Feel free to go there and vote for your favorite post if you're so inclined.

Once again, no ballplayers were harmed in the making of this blog post.  I’m a huge fan of everyone in it and wish them all well.  Also, please enjoy my mad MS Paint skills.

One more thing: the Hudler Family’s Down Syndrome charity website can be found here.  The part about building an accessible baseball field might make you cry.


The Metamorphosis of Rex Hudler

Rex “Wonder Dog” Hudler, utility infielder and journeyman of the 80’s and 90’s, once ate a junebug for $800.  That’s not a joke - it’s a real thing that happened.  It was in the early 90’s when he was with St. Louis.  His teammates led by Tom Pagnozzi kept throwing money into the pot and egging our guy on until finally he caved and ate the poor little bug whole.

It earned Wonder Dog another nickname: “bug-eater.”  A bit literal, sure, but these are ballplayers not creative marketing types.  And you couldn’t blame the guy.  A cool eight bills tax-free just for munching a little bit of soulless protein wrapped in crunchy chitinous exoskeleton?  I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same thing.

Fast-forward to ’95 - Rex was in Anaheim playing infield for the Angels where his newfound love of tasty California bugs flourished.  Lady Beetles, Black Vine Weevils, Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs, Buffalo Treehoppers, they were all on the menu; but his favorite was the Monarch Caterpillar.  He could gobble them down by the handful while his teammates watched.  Some laughed, some were grossed out.  One time Garret Anderson threw up.  It was all in good fun…at first.

Before long Rex’s behavior began to change.  During Spring training Angels owner Gene Autry treated the whole team to a matinee of Johnny Mnemonic.  While everybody else munched on popcorn, Rex had Ziploc bags of caterpillar larvae he’d brought from home.  Soon the caterpillars replaced peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in Rex’s lunchbox, and eventually they were all anyone saw him eat. 

He also started to become more reclusive, spending his off days wandering around public parks and nearby wooded areas.  One day Jim Edmonds walked in on Rex huddled in the corner of the locker room, chewing on handfuls of milkweed.

It was a mild July afternoon when Rex first attached himself to one of the pillars in the dugout.  Everyone assumed it was just Rex goofing off again; but when he refused to move from the pole for hours, and eventually days, concern began to set in among his teammates.  Usually when someone ends up “on the pole” it’s to earn money for baby formula or to put themselves through “computer school,” but this was different.  Rex seemed to be physically attached to the pole, and none of them could pry him off.
Even Chili Davis couldn’t get him to budge which is amazing because when Chili tells you to get off the pole, you get off the pole.  

"Get off that pole, Rex!  You're acting like a damn fool!"

"Nope, stayin'."

Rex seemed to pay no mind at all to anyone’s attempts at reasoning with him.  By mid-season he had not only made it clear that he had no intention of separating from the post, Rex had become completely unresponsive to his teammates’ pleas. 

“He can’t stay up there forever, guys,” insisted hitting coach Rod Carew.  “Just leave him be.  He’ll come down when he’s ready.”  The team left for the All-Star Break with the hope that Rex would be back to his jovial, bug-eating self for the second half of the season.

A few days passed, and Jim Abbott and Chuck Finley were the first to arrive back at Anaheim Stadium after the break.  When they got to the dugout they were surprised to find Rex gone from his post, his cleats and uniform in a pile at the base of the pole.  “Where’s Rex?” Chuck asked.

“Maybe he heard we’ve got a three-game stint against the Mariners coming up and ran away,” responded Jim.

Finley grinned.  “You may be right.  They truly are the best in the West.”  The two shared an uneasy laugh of simultaneous fear and respect for the Seattle powerhouse when Chuck glanced out over the first base line.  Something there held his gaze.  “Hey, is that…Wonder Dog??”

“’Sup, guys?  I’m a butterfly now.”

“Uhhhh…yeah, I can see that, Rex,“ said Chuck in disbelief.  “H-how are you going to play ball, buddy?  You’ve got no arms.”

“Don’t know.  Hey, you got any nectar?”

Chuck patted his pockets as though looking for nectar while Jim just stared, mouth agape.  “”

“Oh….  Well, it was great seeing you.  Gotta get going.  I’m gonna go look for nectar, maybe fly down to Mexico.  Later, dudes.”  With a quick flap of his wings the Hudlerfly disappeared from view over the infield.

Chuck and Jim turned to each other in amazement, and Jim broke his stunned silence, “How do we tell the guys?  Nobody’s going to believe us, Chuck.”

“We’ll be put in the looney bin for sure if we tell the truth.”  Finley looked nervously around for anyone else who might have seen him talking to the insect, then back at the pile of clothes by the pole.  “Quick, hide that uniform.  This never happened.”

“Right.”  Jim began to bundle up the uniform from the ground but paused halfway through.  “Wait, was he still wearing his uniform cap?  That doesn’t make any s…..”

“Shhhhhhh….” Chuck interrupted.  “Never.  Happened.”

Weeks later Rex Hudler was still missing, and the search was eventually called off.  His loss had a devastating effect on the morale of the ’95 Angels that resulted in “statistically the worst late-season collapse in Major League Baseball history.”  They would lose their 10½ game lead at the break and eventually be put out of post-season contention by - you guessed it - the Seattle Mariners.


Seventeen years later, far longer than the lifespan of your average Monarch Butterfly, Rex Hudler flitted his wings to land on a microphone in Kansas City, Missouri where he began calling a Royals game.  The other announcers were impressed at the bug’s insight and knowledge of the game, and before long he was named a full-time color commentator for the Royals where he remains to this day.  He’s pretty good at it, too, though he does have to pause occasionally to sip nectar through his proboscis.