Jun 12, 2013, 11:40 AM PDT
OAKLAND — Like all lasting team rituals, the Oakland Athletics’ home run tunnel started organically.
With the large amount of people in camp during spring training, one player suggested they find a new way to congratulate teammates for hitting a home run. With all of the fist bumps, hand shakes, high-fives and hugs, it almost took a full inning before the last of the congratulations were in order.
The home run tunnel solved that problem. With just one quick sprint through the man-made tunnel that consists of two rows of A’s players with outstretched arms, they can go on with their business.
The idea was brilliant. Not only did it save time, it became the latest in a long line of colorful celebrations that fans noticed and rallied around. It hit its peak of popularity on April 12, when A’s players lined up at home plate to form a tunnel on the field to celebrate Josh Donaldson’s walk-off home run against the Tigers.
When asked about the tunnel and how it came to be, Donaldson piqued my interest with his response.
“I can’t remember who patented it per se,” Donaldson said. “It’s just kind of one of those things we started doing and having fun with it. So, we kept rolling with it.”
When the A’s started doing the Bernie dance, it was easy to find out that Jerry Blevins and Brandon Inge were behind it. The pies? That was obviously Josh Reddick. But for some reason, no one seemed to know who created the home run tunnel.
Typically when something fun or crazy is happening with the A’s, Reddick, the pie-wielding, spider-man suit-wearing, gold glover is the go-to guy to ask about the antics.
“I have no idea who started it,” Reddick said. “I think it started on a day I wasn’t playing. I think it started on the road, because when we came back home somebody hit (a home run) and I didn’t know what everyone was doing.”
“I want to lean toward [Evan] Scribner,” he added. “But I’m not 100 percent sure on that.”
Suspect #1: Evan Scribner
In spring training, players that aren’t scheduled to play in a road game often don’t accompany the team to the visiting ballpark. It would make sense that Reddick didn’t know who was responsible for the home run tunnel idea. The plot quickly thickened.
“I have no idea,” Brandon Moss said with a hint of surprise in his voice when asked about the tunnel.
At that moment, Eric Sogard chimed in.
“(A.J.) Griffin claims to have invented it,” he said with an emphasis on the word ‘claims.’ “Ask Griffin and then ask Coco [Crisp].”
Meanwhile, Moss remained in a state of surprise that he didn’t know how the tunnel originated and started thinking it through while Sogard helped set me on the right path.
“When did that start? Spring training?” Moss thought out loud. ” I just do it. I do what I’m told.”
“I remember somebody was fighting with Griffin early in the year about who came up with it,” Sogard added.
Suspects 2 and 3: A.J. Griffin and Coco Crisp
If Crisp was indeed the other party in the debate over who owned the idea, the mystery is solved. Only there’s two big problems. One: Crisp is a veteran and if he came up with the idea, no one would hesitate to give him credit. Two: It’s not his style to seek that type of attention. He’s always happy to talk about his teammates, but hates discussing himself.
“It wasn’t me,” said Crisp, taking himself out of the equation. “I was the one to confirm it. Somebody said something about it in spring training, and I kind of confirmed that it was a good idea.”
We’re getting closer. But while Crisp says he confirmed the idea, he couldn’t confirm who came up with the idea.
“I don’t remember who said it. I know it wasn’t me,” Crisp added. “I was right there when the idea spawned.”
That means it was either Griffin or Scribner. Griffin was on the field stretching and was unavailable for comment at the moment. Scribner is in Triple-A with the River Cats. Having narrowed the list down to two potential suspects, I stopped Griffin in the foul territory next to third base as he headed toward the dugout after shagging fly balls in batting practice.
Despite the reports of an argument over credit, Griffin instantly settled the debate.
“It was Scribner, I think.” Griffin said, essentially eliminating himself from the running.
There was one thing left to do. Phone a friend in Sacramento to get to the bottom of it. After explaining the situation to River Cats public relations manager Zak Basch,
he and River Cats broadcaster Johnny Doskow pulled aside Scribner and asked him about the home run tunnel.
They emailed the audio to me moments later. About an hour before the A’s took on the Yankees, I played the recording on my iPhone while sitting in the dugout.
“I feel like it’s always awkward when somebody hits a homer and goes through a whole dugout and does high fives and has to walk by everybody and bump into everybody,” Scribner told Doskow on the recording. “We saw the Cardinals do the high-five thing, so I just thought, ‘home run tunnel.’ We did it in spring training and developed it.”
In the end, Reddick’s inclination was correct. Surprisingly, it was a pitcher that created the A’s home run tunnel. Like the Bernie dance before it, the tunnel celebration has become one of the club’s goofy hallmarks and it looks like it’s here to stay.
The home run tunnel mystery has officially been solved.
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