Stephanie Epstein, Major League Baseball, Stephanie discussed on The Lead

The Lead


Everyone, it is time to grab your magnifying glasses and your notebooks, because today we are diving into a mystery that we are calling the curious case of the missing MLB jerseys. It's a story that's been 6 weeks, involves 5 Major League Baseball teams, two police departments, and several very stressed out equipment managers. Reporter Stephanie Epstein brings us to the story. From wondery, I'm under skeleton. It's Friday, march 10th, and this is the lead. Stephanie Epstein, welcome to the lead. Thanks for having me. So Stephanie, you recently wrote this really wonderful sort of true mystery story for Sports Illustrated. Stephanie, are you a mystery aficionado? Did you grow up reading the books of Agatha Christie or anything like that? I did. Christine mysteries and my mom's a big Sherlock Holmes fan, so we read a lot of those too when I was a kid. Part of what drew you to the story, perhaps? Yeah. I was excited to come back to that stuff. Very cool. Okay, well let's start with the time frame for this mystery because that's an important part of the equation here. We're going back to the fall of 2020. So deep pandemic times, Stephanie, can you just remind us what that time was like within Major League Baseball? MLB impacted by the pandemic that spring and summer and into that fall. Yeah, and almost every way. Already, this was a shortened season because spring training had been suspended because that's about when COVID hit. Major league baseball now delaying the start of their opening day and calling off and canceling the remaining games for spring training. And so then everybody kind of went home and sat around until July. The return of Major League Baseball moved one step closer to reality on Monday evening as the league released its official schedule for the 2020 season. I mean, they did stage a 60 game season. It was chaotic and also incredibly regimented. They had to adjust the sizes of locker rooms to try to make sure that everybody was a part. The Giants went so far as to install like clap on clap off lights so that nobody had to touch a light switch. Everybody was just sort of nervous all the time. You know, there were no vaccines at this point. People are still like disinfecting our mail. Color reflections in northern liberties has been busy filling seats with cutouts. A creative way to pack the house. Even if fans can't be there in person. This is the finished product after it's been printed and cut. It was stressful and nobody wanted to be the team that shut the whole season down because somebody caught COVID. So there was nobody in clubhouses, very restricted access, very restricted everything. All right, well, it was in this very restricted regimented environment that our mystery is set. And our detective in this mystery, Stephanie, our air cure poirot, our Colombo, maybe our Charlie kale for fans of poker face. Our detective here is a guy named Brad Graham. So who is Brad Graham's? And how would you describe him? Breadcrumbs is the head home Clubhouse manager and equipment manager for the San Francisco Giants. And he is very precise and exacting. He has like every label on every bottle is facing outward, the zippers are all placed in the right place on the bag, the hangers are all space to finger width apart. He wants to know at a glance if somebody has touched his stuff. And he does. He can always tell. Because nobody puts it back quite right, except his staff. A very organized man. Yes. And so when and how did Brad Grimes discover that something had gone missing? How did he learn that a crime might be afoot? First thing, one of his staff members, James Clark, noticed that the zippers were askew. The zippers on the bags that carried the uniforms. Yes. There's, of course, a system for putting the uniform away together. You would fold the pants into the Jersey and that way you can drop the whole thing into the laundry hamper when they come out. And then they got into the bag and they realized that there were pants and no Jersey. And which jerseys, specifically, we're missing. Johnny cueto, Jersey, and a Pablo Sandoval Jersey. Okay, and do you know what Brad Grimes reaction was when he discovered that these uniforms were not where they should be? It was a little concerned, but their first thought was maybe something got pushed to the back of a locker and they didn't notice it and they left it without it. Maybe it's in a washing machine. Maybe after they were putting stuff away somehow, one of the players took his Jersey out and did something with it. But we checked in with all those people. And none of those things had happened. So that is where it started to get a little more concerning. So he realizes it has to have happened in Colorado because he had seen those jerseys himself in Colorado. So he checks with another team that was recently in. Denver, you know, they all chat with each other and he just says, hey, Spencer from the Padres. Could you lose anything in Denver? And Spencer Dowling, the Potter is equipment manager, realizes that he, in fact, also is missing too Fernando tatis jerseys. So now it's two teams. Okay, so now there are two teams missing jerseys and both teams have recently played in Colorado, which seems very suspicious. Stephanie, what is the reaction of the Colorado Rockies Clubhouse manager when he learns that not one, but two visiting teams have had jerseys go missing on recent trips to Denver. He's pretty upset. Mike ponter alley goes by tiny because he started with the team as a 9 year old. Started as a bad boy working in the visiting Clubhouse in Colorado. Clubhouse guys always kind of let me hang around and help him out and they showed me what they did on a regular basis and sort of year after year I kept coming back. It's been 16. He's really beloved in this game. He's from Denver. He's been around forever. And they joke he's kind of like the Chamber of Commerce over there. He is obsessed with Denver and he wants everyone who is there to have a good experience of the city. He wants them to have a good experience with the rockies. At this point, I bleed purple. Every year, my intensity and love and passion for the game of baseball and the Colorado Rockies grows greater. And so he's pretty upset when he finds out that something is wrong. In part, because he knows and trusts his guys and he knows that nobody he employs did anything wrong, but he has to sort of investigate them as if they did. So that doesn't feel good. And the whole thing is just, it's upsetting to him. Okay, well, it's around this time I believe that the rockies eventually discovers a person of interest and turned their focus to this person. So tell us about who we might call suspect number one. While their first thought is just like who is allowed to be in the Clubhouse at this point, it's not that many people reporters aren't in there. The people who sell bats and batting gloves aren't in there, friends and family, there's nobody in there. So they start watching security footage. And at one point a female custodian enters the Clubhouse wearing a backpack, so they think. Maybe this person. As it turns out, that pretty quickly turns out not to be the case. They interview her and she says she didn't do it, and there's no evidence that she did. The video doesn't show her having anything that she shouldn't have. And so they think, okay, start over. But it's around this time that a clue emerges.

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