#Hamrumors: How I scooped a Major League Baseball free agent signing at a HoneyBaked Ham store.

Yes it’s true.  I have started a baseball blog called Ham Rumors.  Why start a blog based on a hashtag that was popular on baseball twitter for one day?  Why the hell not?  Blogs are started everyday for much worse reasons.  I’ve wanted to do this for awhile so I might as well use my rapid rise through the journalism ranks to get it going.

Before we get to the details of the events that took place at The HoneyBaked Ham in Woodstock, GA on December 24, 2014 I would like to be clear that I have no delusions of believing my role in #hamrumors was important in any way.  I’m not a sportswriter and don’t want to be one.  I don’t even want to play one.  There are too many assholes on the internet pretending they are baseball scouts and probably showing up to high school games with radar guns and using the 20 – 80 scale in everyday conversation.  Being delusional is not interesting.  Or funny really.

I am just an extremely dedicated fan.  Baseball is my first love (before music and cooking – come on people don’t count in this context) and I just got really lucky and had the pleasure of seeing what happens when you scoop a story.  I love baseball twitter.  I love keeping up with all the writers and bloggers and analyst throughout the year in real time.  Turns out being the first to break a story – any story – is really fun.

The best thing about this story is that without the ham, it’s not much of a story.  I mean, of course it would have been reported on eventually.  But it’s A.J. Pierzynski.  Old.  Backup.  Catcher.  For what, 1 year/2 million?  Nothing too out of the ordinary, except for his reputation as a total dick and the narrative of how this signing will affect “THE BRAVES WAY”.  But when the story breaks because some dude’s dad ran into a loose lipped Fredi Gonzalez at a ham store on Christmas Eve, and that some dude has a twitter?  You get #hamrumors.

Here’s how it all went down:

My dad’s birthday is on Christmas Eve, so naturally every year we get together to celebrate in addition to any Christmas plans we may have.  It always starts with breakfast at Cracker Barrel (I’m not proud, but I’m also not ashamed) and then some Best Buy gift cards for all the kids.  This year we headed out to my sisters house in Woodstock instead of the usual gathering at my parents place in downtown Atlanta.  And this year, we were getting a HoneyBaked Ham for dinner.  So mom and dad head out to shop for that fateful ham around 11:15 am.

11:53 am – I receive a text from my mom that reads – “Dad just had a convo with Fredi G.  Got a first to know tip.”

11:56 am – Dad calls and begins to tell me about the encounter.  He says that he had just seen Fredi Gonzalez at HoneyBaked Ham and that Fredi told him the Braves were signing A.J. Pierzynski.

Dad goes on to report that he had waved at Fredi and that Fredi had acknowledged his wave with a friendly smile and head nod.  It seemed that nobody else had recognized him.  Fredi was behind my dad in line (the line was snaking through the store) and when they eventually passed by each other Fredi struck up conversation (that piece of the story is very important. Fredi initiated the whole interaction after the friendly across the store greeting):

(quotes based on my fathers account of the conversation of course)

Fredi – “Hey how ya doin?  Been waiting in line long?”

Dad – “Not too long, maybe 20 minutes…I tell you what my son is a huge Braves fan and he is gonna freak out when I tell him I saw you.”  Fredi apparently responded cordially with something like ‘oh that’s great’ – my dad continues “…well I’m real excited about spring training.”

Fredi – “Yeah me too, you know we just signed a pitcher yesterday…”

Dad – “Oh yeah Grilli?”

Fredi – “Yep…and actually we just signed a catcher today.  Pierzynski.”

Dad – “A.J. Pierzynski?!”

Fredi – “Yeah…actually you’re the first to know.”

Dad – mouth wide open/jaw on the floor (i’m assuming).

12:02 pm – After scouring twitter to see if anybody had reported on this, and discovering they had not, I frantically compose my tweet and send it out, officially solidifying my first citizen’s scoop.  Craig Calcaterra got #hamrumors going a few minutes later.

12:47 pm – Mark Bowman of MLB.com confirms my scoop and all hell breaks loose in my mentions and notifications.

The rest of the day is out there to find, including most of the major news outlets picking up the story with headlines emphasizing that the story broke in a ham store and that I play drums in a “Christian Rock band” lolololol.

Now to the most interesting part IMO.

WHAT IN THE HELL WAS FREDI THINKING?

Like I said, not a big signing, but I can’t imagine that the Braves wanted Fredi chatting up random men at a ham store about unannounced transactions. (I should say that my dad was wearing a Santa hat.  And everyone likes Santa.)

The way the story was reported by Mark Bowman and David O’Brien was that basically my dad “overheard” a conversation that Fredi was having with his son (my parents seemed to get the impression that Fredi was alone) regarding Pierzynski being an “option” for the Braves (which everyone who reads about off season moves already knew). Obviously somebody with the Braves told Bowman or DOB that version of story.  (Which based on my father’s story is absolutely false).

I have two theories on the way the story was reported as my dad “overhearing a conversation”.

1. Fredi initially told the Braves front office my dad’s version of how the story leaked to which they decided was not a good way to portray the leak.  So they got together with PR or whoever, and concocted the Fredi having a conversation with his son angle.  And since the writers have a working relationship with the team, they take them at their word and print the story as told to them by the team.

2. Fredi hears about the story getting out and thinks, “uh oh i’m in deep shit, i better come up with something here to cover my ass” and he tells reporters, and John Hart and Pierzynski’s agent and anyone else that could possibly be pissed about him blabbing his mouth in line at HONEYBAKED HAM TO A GUY IN SANTA HAT that “you can’t believe everything you hear on the internet and the santa hat guy must have overheard a vague conversation with my son.”

I’m leaning towards scenario # two.

# 2 actually makes my dad out to be like Jason effing Bourne or Batman (My dad is a retired federal agent actually).  Guy in santa hat, staking out ham store and reading lips about hotstove transactions from 30 feet away.  Would love to hear Fredi explain how it got from a casual conversation with his son about Pierzynski being an option to me being 100% on the money about the Braves signing him that day.

All that to say I was really worried about making Fredi look bad or get him in actual trouble.  I totally understand wanting to control the story as much as possible and save face.  I probably shouldn’t expect anything different from people in their position.  It doesn’t really matter.  Either way I still got credit and my dad is now some sort of an urban legend.  The Lunsford’s know what really happened on December 24th, 2014 at The HoneyBaked Ham Woodstock, GA.  The Lunsford’s had a better Christmas because of it.  Lot’s of laughs and plenty of text from family and friends in disbelief, along with acknowledgement from a few of my favorite baseball writers.

It’s getting late and I am gradually throwing grammar out the window.  That’s the story.  I’m certain I’ll never have another scoop, but I am gonna keep this blog up.  Be cool and get on the #hamrumors train now.  Before you know it I will have absorbed Productive Outs and Cespedes Family BBQ into my media conglomerate and be making hundreds – yes hundreds- of dollars on google ads and sponsored Jose Canseco tweets.

Ham Power