The intern who was ejected for '3 Blind Mice'

'My body went numb, I had to get out of there'

December 14th, 2021
Art by Tom Forget

There's no way the umpire could be pointing his way, could he?

It had to be the manager or a player or even a fan that had said something terrible. But, no, home-plate umpire Mario Seneca was definitely staring right at him: Derek Dye, a Daytona Cubs intern, had been tossed from the game.

"My body went numb, I had to get out of there," Dye recalled to me in a recent phone call. "I had never felt like that in my life."

Derek Dye had a dream job in the summer of 2012: The soon-to-be senior at the University of Illinois was an intern for the Class A Daytona Cubs. He was a jack of all trades, doing anything and everything the club asked of him.

"I did food and beverage, ticket sales, promotions, merchandise, customer service," Dye said. "I actually dressed up as a mascot a couple times."

Photo via Derek Dye
Photo via Derek Dye

But one of the coolest jobs Dye had was working the stadium soundboard up above home plate near the broadcast booth.

Here, he had a perfect view of the entire game and was able to keep score while still taking care of what he had to do. It was much better than "worrying about if we had enough Diet Coke to sell."

The soundboard had all the familiar sounds you hear during a Minor League game: breaking glass when a foul ball leaves the ballpark, in-between inning chants and warmup music. But before a homestand against the Fort Myers Miracle on Aug. 1, one in which Dye would be working the soundboard station, a new button was added to the programming: Bad Call.

"It's funny, we had just put it on there that week," Dye told me. "They wanted to have more of a Wrigley Field type of feel to it. Some normal ones and some jabs."

Going into the game, Dye knew he had the button handy, but wasn't sure if he'd have a chance to use it.

The Cubs (featuring a 19-year-old phenom named Javier Báez) and Miracle (featuring a 36-year-old veteran named Carl Pavano) were not great that year -- battling it out in the cellar of the Florida State League. But on this night, the game was exciting and tight and stayed that way into the later innings. And in the top of the eighth, a call at first base caused some controversy: The first-base umpire ruled that Cubs first baseman Taylor Davis had bobbled a low throw, thus making a Miracle batter safe and allowing the inning to continue on. The crowd groaned and Cubs manager Brian Harper stormed out of the dugout to argue the call.

Suddenly, Dye remembered he had the precise sound effect for this precise moment. It was his time to shine.

He excitedly clicked on "Bad Call" and selected "Three Blind Mice." And then, well, this happened:

Seneca, perturbed by the popular childhood tune, ejected Dye from his perch.

"You're gone!" you can hear Seneca yelling in the clip. "The guy playing 'Three Blind Mice,' turn the sound off the rest of the night!"

(Amazingly, the same exact thing happened at a Phillies Minor League game 28 years before).

Dye was shaken and gathered up his belongings to exit the booth. The public address system was also shut down, so employees resorted to standing on buckets above the dugout to announce players batting. It was eerily silent the rest of the evening. The Cubs ended up winning the game, 2-1, but Dye was worried about what the ejection might mean for him.

"I was afraid," Dye said. "I was like, 'Oh my god, maybe I shouldn't have done that.'"

After the game ended, Dye grabbed a complimentary 32 ounce beer, threw on some sunglasses and began to leaf-blow the stadium clean -- a nightly routine that got him $200 a homestand. He was kind of down about the whole thing, not really knowing how management or the league would react. He did text his family and a few friends to let them know what had happened.

Then he started getting text messages, and some more text messages, and some calls, and then some tweets directed at him.'s Benjamin Hill called to interview him for a story. Local radio stations rang him up to get his comments. The clip had circled the internet and was beginning to go viral.

"I thought, 'Man, maybe this is something,'" Dye told me. "I went up to the press box and had five more calls that night."

The next morning, the story exploded. Dye was fielding calls from his closet so he didn't wake up his roommates. WGN did a story, Good Morning America wanted him on.

"I was supposed to work the whole day, but we counted: I had 50 interviews," Dye recalled. "ESPN, SportsCenter, ABC World News, Good Morning America. It was just insane. The whole day, I had like a handler, it was hilarious."

And fans also showed up in droves for that next day's game. From a nearly empty 1,000 on Aug. 1 to a robust 3,000 on Aug. 2.

"Yeah, I mean, it was also Thirsty Thursday," Dye reminded me.

Fans lined up to get Dye's autograph. Some even went the extra mile and dressed in mouse costumes.

Photo via Derek Dye

Dye's moment would later show up as a question on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and was voted one of the top MiLB highlights of 2012 -- right behind Billy Hamilton setting the Minor League stolen base record.

Theo Epstein, a year into his tenure as Cubs GM at the time, stopped by the ballpark the next weekend for a scouting trip and met Dye -- telling him the whole thing was pretty funny.

One person was upset about the ejection, though: The Commissioner of the Florida State League sent Dye a strongly worded letter telling him what he did was "a mockery to the game" and fined the team $525. But because it did bring incredible attention and promo to the club (and, you know, because it was a pretty harmless incident), the Daytona GM happily paid the fee.

"Yeah, they had my back for sure," Dye said.

The next week, things pretty much quieted down for Dye and people moved on to the next viral moment, and then the next. Although he did say he had a great story to tell back at school when a professor asked, "Did anybody get in trouble on their internships?"

Now 30 years old and a senior brand manager in Chicago, Dye will show people the clip on occasion and get tagged in posts when it pops up on social media every year. He recently pulled it up for a coworker and fellow Cubs fan at a new job he started. And still, nearly 10 years after it all happened, his small hometown of Moline, Ill., treats him like a big-time celebrity.

"If I go to my hometown, I'm not kidding, people will buy me beers and tell me that's the funniest thing they've ever seen," Dye laughed.