Off The Bat, Episodes 12 and 13: Rap Game Big Donkey

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Last time we profiled how Off the Bat reduces, reuses, and recycles as often as the most environmentally conscious of citizens. This time, the show’s attempts to be “hip-hop” fall astoundingly short.


Just as a baseball player will have so many duds over the course of 162 long, long games, every now and then one of the people on Off the Bat just has to phone it in. It’s a long season, and even our MTV2 heroes are only human.

And so it was that, with Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista guesting, Bautista was not asked once about his exceedingly odd Twitter habits but was instead asked during three different segments about the origins of his nickname, “Joey Bats.”

Spoiler alert on this would be that, well, you see, it’s like a shortened version of his name, but changed a little bit because one of his names sounds like the name of a piece of baseball equipment. Repeat that spoiler alert two more times and you’re just about there.

This inspired Off the Bat to list the “most hip-hop” nicknames in baseball. Says Chris: “In the league these days, it’s hard to tell the difference between the starting lineup and the guest list at the Source awards.” A very good point indeed!

Topping the list is the delightfully insane Nyjer Morgan’s nickname/alter-ego, Tony Plush. That’s actually a pretty good one. (Speaking of, how good would a weekly Nyjer Morgan-hosted show be? How much better than Off The Bat would such a show be?) Coming in third is Joey Votto, who doesn’t have a nickname. But, okay, just as emcees like Kendrick Lamar or, heck, Kanye West don’t have nicknames, I could see Joey Votto being a rapper instead of an exceptionally patient and unusually cerebral Canadian.

Coming in at second is Adam “The Big Donkey” Dunn.

Am I missing what the kids are into these days? Are wolfing copious quantities of chili dogs and releasing big, meaty belches now “hip-hop” things to do? Oh lord, has Adam Dunn somehow been an influence on Chief Keef’s sound?


Just as Josh Donaldson nailed his guest Off the Bat appearance in our last installment, fellow Oakland Athletic Brandon Moss is also incredibly laid-back and awesome during his on-camera turn in this episode. Sincerely, it really must be the most awesome and fun thing to be an A, kicking the league’s collective ass alongside a ton of other hilarious dudes who are really into wrestling and unconventional grooming choices.

When Moss’ ballcap and uniform comes off, he projects nothing but the dadliest Dad Vibes. Chris, meantime, self-consciously projects his own vibes:


(I can’t be alone in thinking that Moss looks a lot like a buffer, three-true-outcomes version of living legend of short fiction George Saunders, right?)

The main thrills and spills in this episode come from Fat Joe’s journey to throw the ceremonial first pitch at a Miami Marlins game. This came as a surprise to me because Fat Joe is absent so often from the in-studio taping -- he’s seriously been there for about half the episodes -- that I actually checked the Off the Bat Twitter account while watching Episode 12 to see if they had removed his picture and, uh, designated him for assignment. Rest assured, Fat Joe is still part of the team. He’s just on the short side of a platoon with Melanie Iglesias, or a rarely-used pinch-hitter or something.

Upon his arrival in Miami, Fat Joe enlists the help of relief pitcher A.J. Ramos in the Marlins bullpen in order to learn how to throw a strike. More specifically, it appears that Fat Joe is actually looking for advice on what he must do in order to throw a ball. Fat Joe regards the white orb with red bumpy things in his hands with genuine bewilderment and curiosity. Ramos patiently explains that this is a baseball:  


Towards the end of their bullpen sesh, Fat Joe actually loops in an accurate-ish throw a full 60’6” away from Ramos. Success!


When Fat Joe actually takes the mound in front of a packed Marlins home crowd (just kidding, not packed), he skips a 55-footer into the batter’s box and immediately curses, which is by far the funniest moment of the entire series to this point, and certainly worth rewatching a handful of times consecutively, as I did.

Here’s the thing: I have never ever played organized baseball. Not at any level. Maybe I accessed a bizarro Norman Rockwell alternate dimension during my 21st-century suburban adolescence, but one thing I would do with friends in the summer is go to the local park and have a catch. Just, you know, throw the baseball back and forth, and for hours. This is mostly a normal thing.

No, my arm would not raise the eyebrows of a hypothetical scout walking past by happenstance -- “Great heavens, the cannon on that kid!” -- but I was at least a suitable throwing partner for friends who played the game, and even made local All-Star teams. Again: I never played organized baseball. I always thought throwing was, like tying your shoes or learning how to button your own buttons on a shirt, something that you just learned to do when you were a kid. No? Am I wrong?

If I were, for whatever reason, assigned to throw the ceremonial first pitch in a baseball game, I know the one and only reason why things could go awry, as they did for Fat Joe and rather infamously for 50 Cent: nerves. You’re in front of a heck of a lot of people if you’re on a Major League Baseball field. I could see how, with my boots a-shakin’ and my fingers a-tremblin’, I might produce a blooper of a first pitch. 

But, man, Fat Joe and 50 Cent, in their musical primes, basically lived in front of large crowds. Nerves aren’t an issue for them, right? They’re two grown-ass men, carefully cultivating images of bone-deep toughness and unflinching street cred -- and they don’t know how to throw a ball? What am I missing? What is Fat Joe missing? How is Henry Rodriguez somehow even worse at this?

Did you miss Off the Bat on TV because you were watching soccer YA DAMN SOCIALIST!?!? You can watch highlights of these episodes here and here.

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