Opening day is just a couple weeks away and while this is usually an exciting time for players on the cusp of making their respective big league teams, it's been quite the opposite for Yankee hopeful Morgan Ensberg. When he arrived in Tampa for spring training the former Astros first baseman was given the unfortunate number assignment of '21,' the sacred jersey number worn by all-time Yankee fan favorite, Paul O'Neill.
"To be honest, I didn't want it," said a sheepish Ensberg. "I'm not a moron, I know Paul O'Neill wore this number, and if you don't understand the power of Paul O'Neill in New York, all you have to do is look at when Roger Clemens first arrived here. Him wearing number 21 wasn't even a discussion. I'm kinda scared for my safety actually, especially if I make the roster heading north."
The jersey number had not been available since Paul O'Neill retired after the 2001 season, leading most people to believe the Yankees figured enough time had passed that they could sneak it back out without anyone noticing. You'd think by now they'd understand their psychotic fan base.
"I personally know at least five crazy O'Neill fans that keep a water cooler in their cubicle for the sole purpose of smashing it with their fists every time they make a relatively minor, harmless mistake," said Sal Santangelo, a Manhattan-based financier. "I also know some guys that wear batting helmets to meetings, and every time something goes awry they rip it off their head and throw it down the hallway, all while pretending to bump chests with an invisible ump. It's a dedicated following to say the least."
The Yankees have wisely surrounded the YES broadcast booth with steel walls to prevent O'Neill from charging the field at the site of Ensberg.
Baseball insiders have predicted that even if Ensberg makes the team and goes on to bat a perfect 1.000 with multiple game-winning hits, it's likely he'll be peppered with debris, rocks, bowling balls, umpire carcases and an array of expletives by men, women and small children until his jersey number is changed.