Most people don’t like to be on the receiving end of a prank, but watching them unfold at someone else’s expense is usually a real treat.
Sure, the internet has done what it can to bastardize the concept of a prank, but there’s nothing like a well-orchestrated practical joke—like the one Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel pulled off (with some help from pitcher Brett Myers and others) to temporarily turn Kyle Kendrick’s life upside down.
It may not come close to another prank a member of the Dodgers pulled off with Frank Sinatra’s help in the 1960s, but Manuel (known for being a pretty stern and non-nonsense guy) also doesn’t seem like the kind of person who’d do what he did—which is probably why it worked so well.
Let’s set the stage.
In 2008, Kyle Kendrick was gearing up to start his second season as a pitcher with the Phillies. He’d posted a 10-4 record with a 3.47 ERA in his rookie year, so while there was room for improvement, it seemed like there was a good chance he’d have a bright future with the organization that had drafted him in 2003.
It seemed like a virtual certainty he’d secure a spot in the starting rotation and it was hard to imagine the team was itching to trade him—so it’s easy to understand why he was shocked to learn the franchise had seemingly decided to do exactly that.
The day Charlie Manuel “traded” Kyle Kendrick to Japan
On February 16th, 2008, Charlie Manuel called Kyle Kendrick into his office.
Spring training has just gotten underway and the vibes were pretty immaculate; players were amped to be back in action and having fun with each other as they started to gear up for the season.
As Manuel put it “There’s a lot of people who like to tell jokes. There’s a lot of people who like to, you know, play jokes on people. Things like that. That’s always been a part of the game.” That included Brett Myers, who was actually the mastermind behind the elaborate prank that was about to unfold.
Myers actually recruited a few different people to aid the cause: in addition to Manuel, he was able to get Assistant GM Ruben Amaro, Traveling Secretary Mike Copenbarger, and the folks at Comcast Sportsnet in Philadelphia to make the prank as convincing as possible.
The goal was simple: convincing Kendrick he was being traded to the other side of the world to the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league in exchange for a made-up player named Kobayashi Iwamura (if it sounds familiar, it’s because it was constructed by combining the name of competitive eating champion Kobayashi with the last name of Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Akinori Iwamura).
Here’s how things went down.
First, Manuel called Kendrick into his office with Amaro by his side. The duo told Kendrick that he was part of a trade with the Japanese team, and Kyle sat there (not really saying a word) as Manuel and Amaro discussed the transaction, the travel itinerary, and even produced documents for him to sign.
After Kendrick certified them, he went into the locker room to start packing his stuff.
The first person to see Kyle after his meeting was, of course, Myers, who quickly expressed his condolences while holding back laughter. From there, the folks from Sportsnet asked Kendrick for his thoughts on the supposedly groundbreaking transaction, and he could really only say, “Is there good food in Japan?”
With a fake press conference held by Amaro and the cameras in Kendrick’s face, Myers burst out laughing and told Kendrick the whole story before the rest of the locker room joined in.
Kyle was “so happy to be staying in Philadelphia”—and he should have been, as they went on to win the World Series that year. Maybe a little fun prank in the locker room is all you need to loosen the guys up and get them to play their best (although Kyle is still a little torn up by it all).