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Fan challenges Brady Anderson to foot race at Winter Meetings

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Last night, a fun tidbit came out of the Winter Meetings down in Orlando surrounding Orioles’ Vice President of Baseball Operations and former center fielder Brady Anderson.

According to a tweet by Jon Heyman, Brady accepted a fan’s challenge to a foot race outside of one of the Orlando hotels housing the Meetings, and completely smoked him.

The “fan” who challenged Brady to the race is Cory Schwartz, the Vice President of the stats department at MLB Advanced Media.

Today, he took the time to tell me the story via email about his interaction with Brady, and boy is it good.

I could not in good conscience chop up his story into a series of quotes and expect it to keep it’s awesomeness. So, here is his story, in full, as he described it:

I had Brady Anderson on my AL-only keeper fantasy team back in 1996, when he had his 50-homer season, so he’s always been one of “my guys”… a pet player of sorts. On Monday night, I was having dinner in the Dolphin hotel with a bunch of friends and at one point one of them starting talking about Anderson. I asked what’s up, and he said, “Anderson was just here, you do know that, right?” Turns out I had been so engrossed with chowing down on my delicious ahi tuna dinner, and the conversation at my end of the table, that I never even noticed Anderson sitting at the other end chatting with one of our group, who shared some mutual friends with Anderson from the Orioles.

Needless to say I was crushed to have missed a chance at an introduction to one of “my guys”, and when we looked for Anderson in the restaurant again, he was gone. I got a lot of good-natured grief over this all day Tuesday – “how did you not know Brady Anderson was sitting RIGHT THERE?!” – and we all got a good laugh out of it.

So, last night I went out again (this time in a restaurant in the neighboring Swan hotel) with a mostly different group of friends, but two of whom were also there on Monday night. The Anderson story came up again for the benefit of the folks who weren’t there the night before, and we all had a good laugh again.

About halfway through the meal, one of our group was returning from the restroom and tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I have a present for you… look around the corner at that table over there.” So I peeked around the corner and there was Brady Anderson again, in the same restaurant as me for the second night in a row!

Our whole table started laughing and making a scene out of the fantastic coincidence, and my immediately and loudly stated determination to get a picture with him this time around. Hey, I work in baseball but I’m still a fan, too! They made suggestions as to how to approach, up to and including having a piece of birthday cake sent to his table (since his birthday is next month) but I decided to wait until they were done eating and approach him as he was leaving the restaurant… I didn’t want to be rude and interrupt his dinner.

As we were talking about this at the table, I remembered the 1992 SI story about him that included the anecdote about him being challenged to a footrace outside a restaurant, so I decided to do the same… but, my thinking was more that he would laugh at it, politely decline, and then the request for a picture would be an easier follow-up.

Our table paid our check and headed to the front of the restaurant to wait for him, and I was amped up at having a second chance to meet Brady… a few minutes later he started to walk out so I approached him at the bar, offered a handshake and said:

“Hi Brady, my name’s Cory and I’ve been a big fan of yours for a long time, and had you on my fantasy teams back in the day. I’m sorry to interrupt when you’re out with friends but I was wondering if you still accept challenges for foot races.”

He paused for a second, cracked a pretty good sized grin, and said, “sure, let’s do this.”

I went nuts! I started clapping and going “yeah, it’s on!” and all of my friends all started laughing and going off too… we were making quite a scene. As we were walking out of the restaurant into the lobby to head outside, I shook his hand again and thanked him so much for being so cool about it, and he just kept on smiling and grinning. He knew he was going to kick my ass in a race and I think he was going to get a kick out of it… he did not seem annoyed about it in any way. And trust me, I knew he was going to kick my ass too… I had no delusions whatsoever about winning, I just wanted the “experience”, the story!

(As we were walking about, a very pretty woman approached Brady and they hugged and started to chat. After a few seconds, he said “hold on, I have to taking care of something”… several of my friends heard this comment and started whooping it up again… it was ON!)

FYI, as we were walking outside, my friend Matt had been taping the whole thing on his iPhone and Brady saw this and said, “I don’t want to see this on YouTube”, so we made sure everyone in our group turned off their phones. Since I challenged him, I had to accept his terms of agreement! So that’s why there are no photos or videos of it, but you won’t have any trouble finding plenty of witnesses to verify everything that happened as I’m describing it…

So we get outside and I think we’re going to race from the Swan hotel where we were, to the Dolphin, about 125 or so yards away. (Man, THAT race would’ve been a rout!) But Brady leads us off to the side to walkway that yielded what I would estimate to be a 30-40 yard dash. I reach down to start to unlace my Timberland work shoes, thinking we’re going to race barefoot, and he reaches down and starts tightening up the laces on his high-tech Nikes! Oh shit man, I knew I was in for it then.

We pick a starting point and I ask him, “how do you wanna do this? One-two-go, or one-to-three-go, or whatever?” With his grin still intact, he replied, “whatever dude, it doesn’t matter” and everyone just broke up laughing again – he KNOWS he’s going to smoke me in this race, so he’s torturing me now.

We line up at the imaginary starting line, and he reaches over and gives me a little shove in the back until I move up a couple of feet ahead of him… again, now he’s he toying with me! My buddy Mark runs down to the other end and holds up his hands as the starter. Brady and I take our racing positions, and the count begins…

“One… two…” but before “go,” Brady takes off! Oh shit, I take off too, but in about two strides he’s already 10 feet ahead of me… I’m toast. I’m chasing after him and shout, “slow down man!!” and just then he turns around and runs the rest of the race backwards! Finally I reach my buddy Mark and slap hands as I run by, but Brady never did (since he was running backwards)!

So while Brady did in fact win the race as Heyman tweeted, it was actually fairly close at the finish, although of course that’s only since he ran half of the way backwards! But, I still say I won “with the points”… he wore Nikes to my Timberlands, he jumped the gun, and I’m an out-of-shape 44-year-old never was, while he’s still a world-class athlete! Doesn’t matter though… like I said, I knew he was going to shred me but I was doing it for the once-in-a-lifetime experience. Winning and losing doesn’t matter when you get a chance like that.

Anyway, after the (ahem) race, I shook hands with him again, thanked him again for being so cool, and we all headed off our separate ways. Of course, I never did get the picture with him, but I got something so much better… seriously, he didn’t say much throughout the entire thing, but he never lost the smile on his face, and if I had to guess, he probably enjoyed the chance to kick ass on some wiseass doofus, and show ‘em that he’s still THE Brady Anderson. So really, the story isn’t about me, it’s about him… he could not have been cooler about the whole thing, and really gave me a story I’ll never forget. My friends and I haven’t stopped smiling and laughing about it since.

Whatever you write about this, make sure to emphasize that last part… like you said, anyone can give an autograph or stop for a picture, but it takes a seriously cool guy to race some idiot on the sidewalk outside a restaurant.

As far as my racing career, I would assume I’m retired now, but Brady said in the 1992 article that he was, and I proved that he’s not! So maybe I’ll do it again someday if the right challenge comes along!

So that’s my story!

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