Among the cast of ballplayers each season, there's always one with a wacky personality that makes him stand out from the crowd.
As it is, York Revolution reliever Stephen Penney could easily fill that role being that he stands 6-feet, 7-inches tall and has a full head of red hair.
Then you see how he interacts with teammates and coaches. And hear his crazy stories. And he fits the mold of the player with the outgoing personality.
For instance, in the Revs' clubhouse prior to Wednesday's game, Penney could be found playing ping-pong with fellow reliever James Houser, then going to teammate Chris Cody to put him on a list of players interested in trying a hand at the craft of table tennis.
Then he turns
"He is a professional when it comes to getting his work in," Revs' pitching coach Mark Mason said.
"He can be very straight laced. But he is a clown. He is always kidding around. He is loose. He keeps everybody loose. He's a lot of fun."
Solid on the mound: Like Mason said, though, Penney knows when to be serious. The former Seattle Mariners prospect has held opponents scoreless in 17 of his 23 appearances thus far for York.
At one point from May 21 to June 5, he threw seven straight scoreless innings over seven appearances.
He admits he hasn't been as sharp lately, allowing eight runs over his last six games to balloon his ERA to 4.79. But Mason believes Penney will turn it around after recently working with him on his pitching delivery.
'Prior' help: It's likely just another step in the development of the 25-year-old Penney, who came to York earlier this year after being released by the Mariners following the club's minor league spring training camp.
During the offseason, Penney picks the brain of Mark Prior. Yes, that Mark Prior, the former Chicago Cubs star pitcher who is now with the Boston Red Sox Class AAA Pawtucket team. During the winter months, the two are throwing partners in California.
"We went to the same high school and we both have the same agents," Penney said. "We just kind of met through that. He works hard in the offseason."
Penney also spends his offseason surfing on the west coast, something he's done all of his life.
"I learned how to swim before I learned how to walk," he said.
While his three younger brothers have picked up pro surfing and volleyball, Penney grew up playing baseball and water polo -- high schools on the west coast commonly have water polo teams.
"I was right in front of the goalie. So, if you're on offense, in the middle right in front of the goalie, it's tough," he said. "It's a little bit of a tussle back and forth. You're trying to get in good position."
Penney said he was good enough at water polo to be recruited by Loyola Marymount (Ca.) University, but opted to play baseball at UC-Riverside.
Personality: Throughout his journey in his now five-year pro career, Penney's outgoing personality hasn't changed.
Neither has his unique sense of style. He personally tailored his batting practice jersey by cutting a v-neck down the middle and lacing it with a shoe string.
"One of my teammates told me to lace it up," he said. "Hockey-style. Vintage. Whatever."
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.