He's never told anybody about it before, not his wife or parents or teammates. And yet it's there every minute of every day during baseball season. But he needs to finally spill, so ... here goes.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to one day in the wacko life of Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, flakier than a truckload of Wheaties.
He wakes up. His first thought is, Who am I catching tonight? If it's righthander Jose Contreras, he must get out on the right side of the bed. The first foot to touch the ground must be his right. If he forgets, he must get back in bed and start over.
Everything he picks up, all day, must be with his right hand first. Toothbrush, spoon, wallet, doesn't mater. If he messes up, he's certain the Sox will give up a run in the first inning. As he walks from the parking lot to the clubhouse, he looks like a man crossing a river on turtles' backs. Each time he comes to a new surface--asphalt, curb or grass--he must lead with his right foot.
"I know, I know," he says. "It's weird."
Oh, it gets weirder.
Once he's at the stadium, he cannot walk anywhere near the trainer's room, even if it means taking the long way around the clubhouse. Always, his bat must stand barrel down, handle against the wall. Somebody innocently moved it the other day, and Pierzynski flipped.
"We move his stuff just to see him snap," backup catcher Chris Widger says. "I never knew why. He'd just go, 'Who the F moved my stuff?' He freaks."
Pierzynski's Father Flanagan handling of the Sox pitchers and his prime-time hitting have helped the Sox make their first World Series in 46 years, but the irony is, the Series is driving him nuttier than Mr. Peanut. Now, 10 times as many reporters are hanging around his As Good As It Gets life. "Sure, sure," he growled to the media horde by the cage last week, "it's your park. Don't mind us." How could he tell them they were making it very hard for him to plant his right foot on the dirt without touching the edge of the grass as he waited to take BP?
It's insane being this insane. "I say to myself, I'm not going to do this anymore," he confesses. "And then the next morning, I start right back again."