Black cats? Ladders? What MLB players fear

May 13th, 2016

Baseball, famous for its no-hitter jinxes and a widespread fear of treading on a chalk line, gets to share its superstitious side with the rest of the world on Friday the 13th, the dreaded day that pops up occasionally and freaks out all those who avoid black cats, ladders and such.

Baseball players historically have had well-known fears and idiosyncrasies, not all of them on the field. For ballplayers, just walking down the sidewalk can involve superstition -- take Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus and his wife, Megan. They have a thing about "pole-splitting," and they're determined to stay on the same side of the issue.

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"We did it a while back and she thought it was bad juju, so today I made sure I stayed on the same side of the pole as her," Rasmus said.

Superstition? Sure -- anything involving "juju" qualifies. But fear would be a strong word for the Rasmus' unified approach to getting around town.

"I'm not really scared of much," Rasmus said. "Not much to be scared of."

Oh, Colby, if only it were that simple for everyone.

With Freaky Friday at hand, asked players around the game what it is they fear, and many admit they have something that gets to them a little bit. On a day when superstitions and quirky aversions come to the fore, it's obvious there are things that send chills up ballplayers' spines.

Like spiders.

"I hate them," Royals reliever Danny Duffy said. "They're way too athletic. They've got that lateral movement, and they can get anywhere. My job at home is to keep the spiders away, but it's hard."

Added Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia: "Spiders. My whole life. Ever since I watched 'Arachnophobia.' "

Oh, and snakes, as Jake Peavy -- aka the Indiana Jones of the Giants' rotation -- points out.

Said Peavy: "I'm not afraid of much, but I'm afraid of snakes. Not the Diamondback players, but true diamondback rattlers. ... I think [it's] just growing up in the country. One thing you always knew that was out there in the woods that could hurt you, and that would be snakes. It would be water moccasins and rattlesnakes. It's one of those unique fears. That being said, I've had to take care of my fair share that get into the yard of some of the homes that we've lived in -- with as much reach as I could do it with and a nice little dance with it."

Sometimes it's not as simple as spiders and snakes. For some, every day is like Friday the 13th, and being a bit jumpy about, well, everything is normal.

"Tony [Pena, the Yankees' first-base coach] is the most scared person I've ever met," Sabathia said. "You can just get him to jump at any time. If he's just standing there and you come up behind him, he freaks out."

Braves veteran Jeff Francoeur recalls how Atlanta's current bullpen coach and former catcher Eddie Perez once was a victim of teammates taking advantage of his fear factor, with Tim Hudson leaping out of a hotel closet in a 2005 prank caught on video.

"But he's really just scared of two things -- me and frogs," Francoeur said of Perez. "We've had some fun whenever we put frogs around him."

Ranidaphobia, the fear of frogs, is relatively rare. Not so, acrophobia.

"I wouldn't say I'm scared of heights, but I get a little freaked out," Red Sox outfielder Brock Holt said. "If I'm up high and I look over, it gives me the chills. But it won't stop me from going up to high places."

OK, how about … oxidation aversion?

Said Sox outfielder Mookie Betts: "I don't have any phobias, but the only thing is maybe rust. If it's there, it makes my skin crawl. I can look at it, but I don't touch it."

Of course, there's one other fear that so many seem to have: Friday the 13th itself, a chilling feeling which can be manifested by someone just bringing up the dreaded date.

"I wish you didn't tell me that," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said on Thursday the 12th.