Lakeland, Fla. — Spring training is long and it can be drudgery at times, even this early in camp when it’s just pitchers and catchers doing drills and throwing bullpens every day.
Thankfully, the Tigers have their own friendly Texas feud to break the monotony. Reliever Alex Wilson, a Texas A&M grad, and manager Ron Gardenhire, University of Texas alum, have been trading pranks and punches going back to 2018.
Wilson lobbed the first grenade in 2018 when he outfitted Gardenhire’s office at Comerica Park wall to wall with maroon and white Aggies paraphernalia. Gardenhire vowed to pay him back but had to wait a year while Wilson played in the Brewers and Cubs system.
Gardenhire nicked Wilson earlier this week. Wilson worked this fall and got his bachelor’s degree from A&M. When asked about it, Gardenhire quipped, “If he got it from A&M, it really doesn’t mean anything. That degree won’t help anybody other than an Aggie.
“I love the guy, he’s one of my favorite players. But there is this little thing between us. He’s an Aggie and I’m a Longhorn. So if you want me to say real positive things about him, maybe he could get some people out.”
Wilson didn’t take long to retaliate. Friday night he sneaked into Gardenhire’s office and rigged his chair with a mini-air horn.
“I taped it right up under the chair, so any pressure would set off the horn,” Wilson said.
Sure enough, bright and early Saturday morning, Gardenhire grabbed a coffee, sat down to do some work and leaped out of the seat when the horn blasted.
“Scared the crap out of me,” Gardenhire said. “I knew who it was right away.”
Wilson said the players could hear Gardenhire shout.
“I had this up my sleeve for a while,” Wilson said. “Ever since I re-signed.”
Gardenhire, never one to waste a good prank, used it on hitting coach Joe Vavra.
“I called Joe in and I said, ‘See if you can figure out what’s wrong with this chair, something’s not right,’” Gardenhire said. “So he sat down and came flying out of there.”
It’s Gardenhire’s turn now, though. Wilson, as you might have heard, is staying in a trailer home and he’s parked it right outside the TigerTown complex. Gardenhire was asking team personnel to point the trailer out to him.
“I’ve already ordered it,” he said. “I’m going to get the biggest set of longhorns you’ve ever seen and I’m going to bolt them on to that sucker.”