The National Wears Prada
You knew it was going to be a good press conference when Manny Acta walked in, sat down at the table, looked to his left, and noticed a door.
"First time I've seen that door," he mused. "It probably goes to rats."
Probably, but this was not a day for discussing vermin. This was a day for hyping the bloody heck out of new left-handed signee Jack McGeary, a mellow 18-year-old who recently got a digital camera as a high school graduation present. His dad used this camera liberally today, as his son was being dubbed at least a No. 2 starter (by scouting director Dana Brown), compared to Bert Blyleven (by assistant GM Bob Boone), and fitted with the mantle of a potential future Cy Young award winner (by GM Jim Bowden).
But that wasn't the most exciting part of the press conference. The most exciting part came near the end of Bowden's remarks.
"I also like his tie very much," Bowden said, of the burgundy number hanging around the kid's neck. "I think it's a very impressive tie. He made his debut at Saks Fifth Avenue today, first time in his life, and I got to be there as he enjoyed it."
Hold up, what?
"Nobody prepared for a press conference," explained Brodie Van Wagenen, McGeary's agent, who helped consummate the late-night, last-minute deal. "We all made a voyage out to Saks Fifth Avenue, Jack's maiden trip. Jim made the decision that it would be appropriate to wear Nationals-colored ties."
And indeed, on further inspection, Van Wagenen, Bowden and Brown were all wearing ties identical to McGeary's, although I wasn't convinced they were really Nats colors. Bowden had apparently chosen the neckwear. Everyone noticed.
"Ties, ties, ties," said TV color man Don Sutton, when the party took to the field. "Do we get a deal on fine ties? You guys doing the national anthem?"
"I was hesitant, only because I didn't have a shirt to match," said Brown, who hadn't made the trip to Saks and was handed the chosen tie before the press conference. "I had to go get a shirt from my assistant, Brian Parker. We wanted to be in harmony today."
And it turns out this wasn't the only color-coordination issue. See, when the fellas went to Saks, Van Wagenen decided he would buy his client a gift. A very nice pair of brown Prada dress shoes. McGeary's parents were bringing down his new black suit--worn for the first time at a cousin's wedding last weekend--but Jack felt like he should stick with his brown shoes anyhow. Didn't much match the suit.
"I know, they don't, but I had to wear 'em," he said. "I had to break 'em in, you know?"
"They're shoes that his mother would never allow, believe me," his mother, Rita, told me. "We brought black shoes that would match his suit, but he didn't want to wear the black shoes."
"Look at the shoes, he's got Prada shoes!" Bowden was howling in the background.
"First time I've ever been there," Jack said of Saks. "Kind of surprised at the prices. Like nothing I've ever seen before. It was crazy."
"He walks in with this bag and he says, 'Mom, I have to tell you, I got roped into this,'" Rita McGeary later told me. "He says 'I didn't want to do it, but there was no way, they roped me into it.' I said what, and he opens the box, and I look at him and I say 'Prada?' I said, 'How much were these?' He says, 'four hundred and twenty five dollars.' I said, 'You've got to be joking.' And he says 'No, I couldn't help it, they made me.' I said 'No, they're going back.'"
Eventually it was explained that they were a gift from his agent, and so Jack was allowed to keep the shoes, although his mom told Van Wagenen that there would be no more such gifts. She takes great pride in having raised her two sons to be frugal; Jack can never think of anything he wants for his birthday, and said "I don't really need anything" when I asked how he'd been spending his signing bonus.
He's going to Stanford this fall and he won't be bringing a fancy car; "he's living on campus in a dorm, and he's gonna have a bike," his mom promised.
Still, he'll always have this day, when he wore a tie that matched his general manager's, and shoes that didn't.
"He went from Rockport to Prada today," Van Wagenen summarized. "That's the truth.
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