USA TODAY Sports
The Pirrates lost to the Blue Jayz 5-4 in 19 innings on Wednesday, just hours after cutting their Spring Training roster to 51. Down several pitchers, and Anderson Hernandez, after their tragic round of cuts, the Pirrates were forced to depend on long reliever Daniel McCutchen, who gutted his way through six scoreless innings. Meanwhile, Cristhian Martinez kept matching him, inning for inning, until, in the 19th, Scott Proctor hit a grounder to third and Julio Lugo darted toward the plate. Pedro Alvarez's throw home beat Lugo by a mile, and Michael McKenry visibly tagged Lugo on the knee.
Umpire Barry Bleals, deliriously thirsty after six and a half hours in the Florida sun, was about to call Lugo safe, but before he could, an enormous pink bird, larger than a jumbo jet, swooped dangerously close to McKrechnie Field, dropping thousands of chocolate eggs and flecks of pastel confetti. The 337 adult fans remaining in attendance, male and female, removed their windbreakers to reveal elaborate Rockette-style bunny costumes. Sequins! Bunny-ear headpieces! Little bunny tails! Oh man, it was crazy. Oh man. Barry Bleals looked around in amazement.
"It's a flash mob!" he thought, although that didn't explain the giant bird. He ignored Julio Lugo, who was still frantically stomping on home plate, trying to get Bleals to make the incorrect call.
"What does it all mean?" he asked.
But there was no time to ponder that question. The spectators, wearing their Rockette costumes, had rushed the field and burst into song, accompanied by amateurish bleats from a synthesizer that someone had connected to the McKrechnie Field PA system.
As they sang, the spectators began kicking and dancing in a way that Bleals found weirdly aggressive and militaristic, but also very difficult to stop watching. He wasn't sure how to feel. The children in the crowd had also wandered onto the diamond, where they picked up chocolate eggs and made fake mustaches out of the infield dirt. The song was gradually drowned out by screeching sirens that Bleals guessed were a hurricane warning. The sound was unpleasant, but the Rockettes seemed unperturbed, wandering all over the field, kicking more and more psychotically, as if no one was watching. The wind got heavier and heavier, and swept away Bleals' cap. He reached for his head to grab it, and noticed that he himself was growing bunny ears, real ones that poked furrily from his hairline. A torrent suddenly broke through the center-field wall, washing over many of the psychotically-militaristically-kicking-Rockette-bunny-costumed spectators and their chocolate-egg-collecting-dirt-mustache-wearing children. Julio Lugo continued tapping on home plate, gesturing for Bleals' attention. Scott Proctor, having fallen spectacularly, like a disgraced Greek god, lied still on the basepath between home and first.
"Why? Why?" Bleals shouted to no one in particular. "Easter isn't for two more weeks!" Just then, an enormous wave crashed over the playing field, sweeping it away, and neither Barry Bleals, nor the Pittsburgh Pirrates, nor the Toronto Blue Jayz, nor Julio Lugo were ever heard from again. A clueless blogger from the website Blucs Dugout told his readers not to worry about the team's disappearance, because Spring Training games did not matter. And sure enough, a team called the Plattsburgh P-Rats would appear in Bradddenton the very next day, and would be led by their center fielder Androo McClotchen, and no one would ever notice that they had never existed before. And there would be a new website, Bucs Digit, with a whole new archive of terrible writing that no one would care about. And the Rockette spectators and their mustachioed children who died in the flood would be replaced by normally-dressed and mustache-free clones who would imitate perfectly their speech patterns, their idiosyncratic gaits, their eczema. Their families would not notice that their loved ones had been replaced by clones. No one would.
And somewhere, in a parallel dimension, the Toronto Blue Jays, now spelled with an s, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, now with only one r, would play an extra-inning spring training game, but the Pirates would win it, and Felix Pie would homer, and James McDonald would allow three runs in five innings, and Carlos Paulino would drive in the winning run. And the palm trees would sway in the breeze, and wink at one another in a knowing manner that could only be perceived by gulls, and manatees, and other palm trees. For, after decades of meaningless spring training games, they had finally seen something extraordinary, and they alone would live to remember it.