Rain delay entertainment provided by ... Judge? Rizzo?

July 2nd, 2022

CLEVELAND -- Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo have had plenty of great moments on the field this season, but their understudies stole the show on Friday evening at Progressive Field.

Draping the Yankees stars’ uniforms over their slighter-by-comparison frames, two Bombers staffers -- physical therapist Joe Bello and video coordinator Dan Pane -- took turns pumping up the exiting crowd and sliding headfirst on the tarp, to the howling delight of players and coaches.

"I heard a buzz about it going on at some point after it became official that we were rained out," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "I heard them starting to mastermind something; I think Rizzo got it going a little bit and then it gained steam pretty quickly. Obviously it turned into a fun little team event, so it was pretty funny."

An official announcement about Friday’s postponement due to inclement weather had just been made when Bello, Pane and most of the Yankees’ traveling party filled the first-base dugout -- Bello dressed in Rizzo's uniform, Pane in Judge's. The staffers were instructed to “go for a nice jog, throw your arms up, look at us.”

So they did, momentarily confusing the fans still in the building, a few of whom raced down to the front row in hopes of scoring an autograph. “Judge” and “Rizzo” jogged to the wall in right-center field, then broke into sprints across the grass, belly flopping onto the tarp between first and second bases.

A video taken from inside the dugout shows Judge and Rizzo both laughing, while a few of the players -- Marwin Gonzalez and Joey Gallo among them -- recorded the headfirst dives on their smartphones.

"I did it once in the minor leagues," Boone said. "And I had a Slip 'N Slide as a kid."

The stand-ins’ exhibition recalled some of the epic rain-delay theater showcases in baseball history. Rick Dempsey still hears about his famous tarp plunges from when he was the Orioles’ catcher in the 1970s and '80s, where he’d impersonate legends like Babe Ruth and Carlton Fisk.

“People still come up to me nowadays and talk about it,” Dempsey told author Dave Ginsburg in 2017. “I think I've met just about every person who was there. They say, ‘That's the guy who ran around on the tarp.' Funny, they don't remember that once in a while I got a hit.”

The Mets’ Robin Ventura delivered levity to a Subway Series rainout at the original Yankee Stadium in 2000, dressing as Mike Piazza and performing a spot-on impersonation of the future Hall of Famer.

“Sheer boredom,” Ventura said at the time, according to the New York Post. “Just a long rain delay on a long weekend. You sit in here and drive yourself crazy, as you can tell.”

And, of course, muddy diamond slides are forever captured in film lore by Kevin Costner’s Crash Davis and the rest of the "Bull Durham" roster, who splish-splashed into a much-needed off-day during their fictional Carolina League summer.

“I can get us a rainout,” indeed.