“He was a hot mess,” Prann, his wife, joked.
Last summer, MLB Fan Cave, Orioles closer Jim Johnson and Showalter concocted a fake interview about the Solowheel with an actor posing as a Wall Street Journal reporter to prank O’Day. It culminated with Showalter screaming at O’Day for jeopardizing his career. The video has been viewed more than 57,000 times on You Tube.
O’Day has been the target of jokes because he’s often the one messing with his buddies or doing something dumb for a laugh. Like the time in college when Prann, a Florida lacrosse player, and several of her teammates convinced him to don a women’s lacrosse jersey and a skirt.
“I think it was about 10 girls to one, the peer pressure was on,” Prann laughed. “Darren’s game for just about anything, which is one of his great qualities.”
Sometimes his conniving antics bordered on real trouble. Like when he and a few high school buddies attempted, as his mother called it, “a Chinese fire drill with a hostage.” The plan was to drive down a busy road with a friend in the trunk. Stop. Pop the trunk from the inside and watch the friend jump out and run away, as if he were being kidnapped.
They were practicing in a shopping center when a woman exited an ice cream parlor with her children and saw the boy escape the car. She copied O’Day’s license plate number and called the police, who sent three cruisers to his house. O’Day and his friends had decided not to pull the stunt on the road after all, but they still had to deal with the cops.
“They went and faced the [officers] and they were respectful, so fortunately they didn’t fry them,” Ralph O’Day said. “And they could have.”
Showalter said O’Day has achieved the perfect balance between knowing when to let off steam and when to concentrate on his job. He’s a guy with humble beginnings, a successful career and an ability to laugh at himself.
“He is the smartest dumb guy I know. Super book smart, but then he’ll lock his keys in the car,” Oliver chuckled. “He is a nerd that plays baseball.”
As Hunter puts it, “He’s the average Joe, I guess you could say. Everybody and their brother thinks that they can come in and throw sidearm in a big league game because of Darren O’Day.”
Unlike most things in his life, O’Day’s not going to over-analyze how an anonymous reliever has become a fan favorite or why his unconventional path to the majors has worked out so well. He’s learned, through tragedy, adversity and a whole lot of laughs, to keep moving forward.
“It’s definitely amazing,” O’Day said. “I think what helps me every day is that I am so grateful for the opportunity to play this game for a living and do what I really love. That’s helped me where I’m at now, just because of the journey I have taken.”