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Orioles

Roger McDowell's reputation as a prankster has given way to seriousness as a coach

Most of the players that new Orioles pitching coach Roger McDowell will work with are too young to know about his past life as a consummate prankster.

They'll have to visit old YouTube videos to find out about a playing career full of hijinks, how McDowell would set off firecrackers in the New York Mets dugout, or the legendary "hot foot" experiments when he would set a teammate's shoes on fire by combining a cigarette and bubble gum.

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During a 12-year major league pitching career with the Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers and Orioles, McDowell always had lighthearted nature. He once wore his Mets uniform upside down, with his legs in his arm sleeves and his arms through his pants legs. With the Dodgers, he once met the umpires at home plate wearing a tool belt with sandpaper wrapped around his socks and in his back pocket.

McDowell also made a cameo appearance on Seinfeld, but he played another prominent role in pop culture as a regular in the MTV's Rock N' Jock celebrity softball game series in the 1990s.

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Rock N' Jock paired professional athletes with some of the most popular celebrities of the era, and McDowell used the forum to steal the show with his outlandish wardrobes. Whether it was the bright green clown wig he wore in 1994, the kilt and braids he donned in '95 or the cowboy hat and boots he wore in '97, McDowell outdid himself every year on national TV.

McDowell now makes it clear that that time is behind him, that as a coach – he first became a pitching coach in 2002 in the Dodgers' minor league system – it demands a seriousness to command the respect of his players. But he still knows there are times to be serious and times to loosen the mood.

As for all of his Rock N' Jock gear, he still has it stashed away.

"I think they're packed away somewhere in moth balls," he said with a smile. "I usually get them out when my daughters have theme days in high school and they can break out the Rock N' Jock jerseys and wear them to school. But the kids today, they're like, 'What the hell is Rock N' Jock?' Back in the day it was pretty big, as was MTV and all those things."

eencina@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EddieInTheYard


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