By now you’ve seen the footage, either on ESPN or the Travel Channel: Last night, in the ninth inning of a 3-3 game against Texas, Minnesota’s Eduardo Nuñez journeyed first to the Boundary Waters of the Minnesota-Ontario border, where he canoed languidly through waterways carved into Precambrian rock, and then to Lake Superior, where he rented a cozy cottage and, in his own words, “did some fishing and, really, just a lot of relaxing,” before returning to Target Field, sprinting down the left-field line and reaching third base to avoid Adrian Beltre’s tag.
Now, in the aftermath of Nunez’s journey, the Major League Umpires Association has agreed to a revolutionary new rule: “In the ninth inning of a tie game, the home team can designate one (1) runner to travel to any destination, provided it is within the territorial borders of the North American continent, before returning to the field and enjoying full and unfettered access to the base of his choosing, in whose vicinity, and to much rejoicing, a designated umpire will dramatically rule him safe before arguing successfully with the opposing manager. In addition, should the designated runner travel beyond the borders of the United States of America, he will enjoy a personal exemption from U.S. Customs inspections as well as duty-free status on up to five (5) bottles of liquor and five (5) packages of quality chocolates.”
In response to the ruling, the Travel Channel has just given the green light to an exciting new reality show, slated for a primetime slot between PGA Golfers Go To The Damndest Places! and D1 Quarterbacks Enjoy Spring Break. Beginning tonight, or maybe tomorrow night – because who but Nostradamus and Tim McCarver can presage a tie game in the ninth? – Safe Travels! will follow one lucky runner to an interesting locale, where he will a) commune with nature and/or b) “mingle with the locals, just really get in there and do what they do, like shop for local fruits and local vegetables and forget all that touristy stuff because gaaahhhh, why even travel if you’re just gonna hang out with similar people and do things that the ‘travel industry’ expects you to do, bunch of losers,” before returning to the stadium and lunging safely to the bag, to all the aforementioned rejoicing.
In advance of the pilot episode, and in keeping with the “like, verité” ethic of reality TV, production crews have already set up in Puebla, Mexico, where they expect Paul Konerko to take an immersion course in pottery making, and in Nova Scotia, where Andrew McCutchen will learn to play the Cape Breton fiddle and make a local stew called Hodegy Podegy before returning to PNC Park and diving into second.
Also on tap: Caught in a rundown between third and home, Derek Jeter travels to Gila Bend, Arizona, where, in the famed Tohono O’odham tradition, he learns the art of gift-basket weaving before returning to score.
John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.