Some managers like to prank big league callups

April 13th, 2019

KANSAS CITY -- Triple-A Omaha manager Brian Poldberg occasionally likes to prank his players who get their first Major League callup, as he did to left-hander Richard Lovelady earlier this week. But former Omaha manager Mike Jirschele, now Kansas City's third-base coach, has had some fun doing the same as well.

One of Jirschele’s favorite stories is when he needed to tell left-hander Danny Duffy he was getting his call to the bigs in May 2011.

Omaha had an afternoon game that day when Jirschele got the call from the Royals’ front office that both Duffy and Greg Holland were being promoted. Jirschele played it straight when he told Holland after the game.

However, Jirschele couldn’t find Duffy, who had already left the stadium. So Jirschele’s mind turned playful. He called Duffy on his cell and feigned anger, telling Duffy he was missing a very important team meeting. Duffy scurried back to the stadium, but the clubhouse was empty when he got there, except for Jirschele, who was sitting alone in his office.

“When he got into my office I started giving him the business about missing the team meeting and we just can’t have that sort of thing,” Jirschele said. “And then I said, ‘And another thing. Holland just got called up after the game and you weren’t even here to congratulate him or wish him well. What kind of teammate are you? I’m really disappointed in you, Danny.’”

Duffy hung his head and stared at the floor, muttering apologies.

Finally, Jirschele said, “Ah, don’t worry about it. You can congratulate him when you get to Kansas City. You just got called up, too. Congratulations.”

Another story Jirschele likes to tell is the time he needed to inform former Royals pitcher Zack Greinke he was getting called up in May 2004. Jirschele called Greinke into his office, and the conversation went something like this:

Jirschele: “Zack, I’ve been told you’re going to do one more start down here and then they’re calling you up. Congratulations, kid. You’ve earned it. I’m happy for you.”

Greinke, after a very long pause: “I don’t know. Do you think if we asked them they would let me go back to Single-A and be a shortstop? I think I can be a pretty good shortstop.”

Jirschele, after an equally long pause: “What in the world are you talking about? Are you kidding me?”

Greinke: “I think I want to play shortstop. I was thinking I could start at Single-A and then, you know, work my way up.”

Jirschele: “Zack, this makes no sense. What are you talking about? They’re calling you to the big leagues. The big leagues! This is your dream. This is everyone’s dream.”

Greinke: “Oh, OK.”

And with that, Greinke got up from his chair and went back into the clubhouse. To this day, Jirschele doesn’t know if Greinke was serious or not.

“You just never knew with Zack,” Jirschele said.

Even Royals manager Ned Yost has been known to joke around with players getting the call.

Two days before camp broke this spring, Yost called right-hander Kyle Zimmer into his office at the club's complex in Surprise, Ariz. Zimmer had a terrific camp, but knew there was no guarantee he would make the 25-man roster.

The Royals were a day away from leaving Arizona to travel to Nebraska to play an exhibition game against their Triple-A affiliate Omaha.

“I’m sorry, Kyle,” Yost said, “but we’re sending you to Omaha.”

Zimmer hung his head, believing he’d been sent down to Triple-A.

After a long pause, Yost said, “And after we’re done playing Omaha, you’re coming with us to Kansas City. Congratulations.”