The Day I Beat Troy Percival
Sunday mornings offer me a time when I’m able take you on a personal road trip with a sports related story that has happened during my career. Today is no different.
Ever since I was a young kid, I have always enjoyed playing racquetball. It started when I was living in Chicago and my parents used to take me to a racquetball club. My father says I have a great memory and if I am not mistaken it was called the Courthouse and was located in Northbrook. During one visit as a young boy, I was able to meet a couple of heroes of mine in Cubs shortstop Don Kessinger and Ron Santo. If you are an older Cubs fan who know who these guys are. I remember watching them in awe and they seemed larger than life.
I have played on and off throughout college and well into my adult life. Never consistent but have always had fun.
Until they build a good Pickleball court near my home I will continue to play racquetball. One of my favorite stories happened on a fog filled morning during the off-season after the 2004 Major League Baseball campaign. I was invited to play cut-throat with Angels closer Troy Percival. My days of looking at players as if they were an idol were lost a long time ago, yet I had immense respect for the Angels legend as an athlete. I immediately began to wonder as I took the court if I even had a chance against the 6′-3″ right-hander from Fontana, CA.
Cut-throat, by the way, is a three man game of racquetball where each player plays against the other two in a rotating fashion.
One of the advantages I have always had playing sports, be it baseball, basketball, tennis or racquetball was that I am left-handed. Most people are used to playing other right handers and in a racquet sport, it certainly can help. Well, I was dreaming if anything was going to help in the first game of cut-throat. I did not win the game. When it was finished, my friend tossed me the ball and said, you guys go one and one and I will take on the winner. He disappeared to another court and I was left to see if I could keep up with Percy.
He began serving and immediately scored a point. I do not recall point for point, but we had a decent battle of a game. I certainly remember that I could not use a ceiling shot easily to move him to the back of the court since he was so darn tall. In the end I was able to close out the game and beat the Angels pitching legend.
What made it so interesting is that I am an average athlete yet was able to beat a world class athlete in a different sporting event. There has been no stopping Troy on the mound, but on this morning, I had enough for a win.
It is not the first time I have played a major leaguer in racquetball. While working for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1990′s I was often asked to travel with the team on road trips and serve as the company spokesperson. I was always happy when we would travel to Philadelphia to play the Phillies. The hotel that we stayed at always had a half a dozen racquetball courts built into the facility.
The problem was, I was not able to ask a player to play racquetball and risk injury. Those types of bonehead moves could have cost me my job. I did find a player however and it came in Dodgers coach Ron Roenicke. Currently the bench coach on Mike Scioscia‘s current Angels team, Rags was always up for playing when his back cooperated. He did be me some, but I think I got the better end of our times on the court. I do not think there is a nicer man in baseball. Ron Roenicke deserves his shot at being a manager.
As for racquetball, I still remember the day I beat Troy Percival.
If you not know the rules of racquetball, I have included a short video I found on the web. it is not more than a minute.