LAS VEGAS — Former Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves star Greg Maddux was known during a distinguished pitching career as “Mad Dog” and “The Professor.”
He can now add a new nickname to his resume: “The Sound Guy.”
In a gag sure to be heard around the baseball world — and coming off the 2016 Prank of the Year when Kris Bryant tricked a community college team into thinking he was a hotshot transfer — the tables were comically turned on Bryant this time around.
The star was under the impression he was going through a basic workout routine prior to leaving for spring training. Red Bull cameras chronicled the action as he hit in the batting cage and then on the main field at the College of Southern Nevada.
Little did he know that the sound guy with the boom stick, long hair, mustache and goatee was none other than Maddux, a four-time Cy Young Award winner and fellow Las Vegas comrade.
The two had only met once briefly: right before Game 4 of the 2016 World Series in Chicago when Maddux delivered the first pitch, so Maddux was confident the disguise would fool Bryant.
Maddux said, “I went to my seat and he went out to third (base). Not sure all the hair and make up was needed. I don’t think he would recognize me if I was walking down the street.”
Maddux, a 1984 graduate of Valley High School in Las Vegas, arrived at the college a few hours prior to Bryant and quickly made his way to an RV where a make-up artist was ready to turn him into your average sound guy.
“We’re gonna keep the wig long so he can look a little younger,” said make-up artist Elizabeth Mbousia, who also has “Celebrity Punk’d” on her résumé. “Give him that hippy look.”
Maddux was then given a few lessons on how to hold the microphone-enabled boom stick and was harnessed into a mixer vest — basic tools of the trade. Except his boom mic wasn’t actually plugged into the mixer. It was all for show. Maddux’s job was to poke at Bryant, disrupt him and basically be a nuisance.
“I was told to point the boom upwards and that’s all I had to do,” Maddux said.
When Bryant arrived, the World Series champ settled into the batting cage to loosen up on the tee, taking about 50 swings. Maddux was positioned right outside the fence, aiming his boom at Bryant. The two made a lot of eye contact, but it was clear Bryant didn’t recognize the sound guy.
During a break in the action, Maddux started to poke at Bryant a bit. He asked the MVP if he needed water or hand sanitizer. Bryant politely said no, although no one would have blamed the 25-year-old All-Star if he thought the sound guy was weird to offer hand sanitizer to someone wearing batting gloves!
After the cage session, the workout transitioned to the main field for live hitting. On the way to the field, Maddux the sound guy criticized the director Rob Bruce that his feet were making too much noise and his boom mic was picking up that sound.
“Sound guy has a bit of an attitude,” Bryant said.
Yes, Maddux was in full character. Now, on to the main scene.
College of Southern Nevada Assistant Baseball Coach Sean Larrimer was assigned to throw batting practice to Bryant. After about 15 tosses, Larrimer was prepped in advance take a phone call and announce that he had to quickly leave to open up study hall for 30 kids because another coach had bailed. As the Red Bull production team pretended to act frustrated and confused — after all, they needed Bryant to hit more on the field for the cameras — the sound guy raised his hand and offered to throw a few, commenting that he threw to his little league team all the time. Bryant adamantly refused, saying he was concerned with getting hit by a civilian or even worse — accidently smashing a ball back at the sound guy and being liable for damages. The production team and Bryant’s agent — also in on the prank — began to pressure Bryant into giving the guy a chance. Maddux, in the meantime, was already removing his mixer vest and walking out to the mound.
“Even if I hit you, it won’t hurt,” Maddux the sound guy said to the NL MVP.
The back and forth continued between Maddux and Bryant.
“Don’t hit me,” Bryant said. And after a few pitches, “Not too bad actually. He might be better than the other guy. I seriously doubted you. He’s throwing curveballs! OK, I’m going to take it seriously.”
Maddux said, “I was acting mad when he kept hitting them off the pitching screen so I started throwing curveballs, but he didn’t swing at them! The guy’s trained too good.”
Bryant took a deep breath and stepped out of the batter’s box to compose himself. When he stepped back in, balls started rocketing around the field. Bryant then stroked a deep one into right-center field that cleared the fence.
As the batting practice came to conclusion, a still-disguised Maddux walked up to home plate and asked Bryant, “Can you autograph a bat for me? Just make it out to Greg Maddux.”
There was a pause from Bryant as he tried to gather what he just heard. He then flipped his bat in the air and looked all around at the production crew, who were hysterically laughing.
“Last year, I pranked the college team in Arizona,” Bryant noted. “This year, the tables are turned.”
Maddux began his career with the Chicago Cubs and led them to the 1989 National League East division crown. He earned his 300th win and 3,000th strikeout as a member of the Cubs and has had his jersey retired.
For reference, here are a few more credentials of the sound guy:
• Eighth on the all-time career wins list with 355
• First pitcher in MLB history to win the Cy Young Award four consecutive years
• Eight-time All-Star
• Pitched in five World Series and won the 1995 championship
• Won four ERA crowns
• Only pitcher in MLB history to win at least 15 games for 17-straight seasons
• Won more games during the 1990s than any other pitcher
• 18-time Gold Glove winner, a record, including five with the Cubs
Maddux is now an assistant baseball coach for UNLV, where he serves as the pitching coach. His son, Chase, is a sophomore pitcher for the Rebels.
“As a coach, I enjoyed listening to Kris talk about how he prepares for a game,” Maddux said. “Pitchers always want to hear hitters talk, so it was nice to see his routine.”