Spring training is not just about a ball player showing up in the Best Shape of His Life. It’s also about him showing up with his car in the Best Shape of Its Life.
To many of us, a car is functional. It gets us from Point A to Point B. We buy it based on its gas mileage, price range, and specifications. It is a necessity in our modern lifestyle, not unlike a vacuum cleaner or a computer. To others, it is an extension of our personality. If you drive a beige Toyota Camry (redundant, all Camrys are beige regardless of their actual color), I’m going to guess that you are practical, perhaps a tad conservative, and you don’t care about trends. If you drive a red Corvette, I’m truly sorry about your penis. Try Viagra.
For ball players, a regular car that you can drive off the lot like a mere mortal is no longer sufficient. When you make more money in one game than most people make in a year, custom, baby, is the only way to go. Your car says you are a god who can throw a baseball 100 mph or hit it 460 feet.
This recent article in the New York Times, Where the Stars Get Their Ride, written by Tim Rohan, about ball players and their auto shop of choice, Auto Firm, was an interesting read. Auto Firm is a shop in Miami that specializes in custom vehicles for the very affluent. Alex Vega, proprietor, counts over 300 (?!) baseball players as clients, from the richest major leaguers to the unknown minor leaguers. Way to blow that signing bonus, Meat.
“Spring training is when business gets the craziest because everybody wants to show up with something new,” Vega said. “I’m already getting calls. I’m already preparing cars.”
Clients include Pablo Sandoval, who went in to trad in his Porsche Panamera (mileage on it: 15,563–I don’t know what he was waiting for, I replace mine after 10,000 miles), order new rims for his two Range Rovers, and discuss “the next car he would buy — a 2016 Rolls-Royce Ghost.” According to Car Connection, the MSRP for the Ghost 4 door Sedan EWB is only $329,325. It’s 13 mpg City/21 mpg Hwy and you know they’re lying, but for some reason I don’t think Panda cares about gas mileage. You’d think a Panda would care.
One of Vega’s best sellers is a custom Mercedes limousine van, owned by Red Sox prospect Yoan Moncada, Juan Uribe, Yoenis Cespedes, Hanley Ramirez, Ivan Nova, and Starlin Castro. Mi gente. Why you so tacky? Then again, I suppose: “If you grew up with holes in your zapatos, you’d celebrate the minute you was havin’ dough.”
The back of the limousine features a bar on one side, two reclining chairs, a wraparound leather couch, two big-screen televisions and a home theater system. It seats seven people comfortably, costs about $175,000 and is meant to host a party on the go. “It’s like you’re in a hotel room,” Vega said, giving a version of his sales pitch. “They can smoke tobacco, the cigars. They can drink, they can party with their friends, and nobody knows they’re in there.”
Add a small kitchen and a bathroom, and I might just live there.
Vega himself is a self-made man, the son of Cuban immigrants who worked his way up from changing tires at a Firestone to owning a shop that sells luxury cars to people who don’t know what to spend their money on anymore. I have to admit, some of his vehicles are pretty impressive. My id says, “Wow, some of those cars are so cool.” My superego says, “What a waste of money.” And my ego says, “Stop talking to yourself. You are crazy.”
So if you grew up with holes in your zapatos, what would you drive when you got to the majors or that signing bonus? A custom Mercedes limo, Daniel Norris’ van, or Kevin Keirmaier’s 1999 Dodge Caravan in dark green? How about Bryce Harper’s tricked out ’69 Camaro?
I confess–I love fast cars, low blow to Corvette aficionados aside (I actually like the Stingrays and C3s myself) but could never justify purchasing an exotic like a McLaren or Lamborghini if I were a wealthy baseball player, in the same way I dislike ostentatious homes. I’ll rent one to know what it’s like to drive one because AWESOME! but a reasonable and cute Nissan 370z*–it just has to look fast–would suit me fine for my everyday commute to my gig as a mercurial closer. (Fastball, man. I bring the heat. You know it’s coming, but you can’t hit it and if you make fun of my car…) I would also splurge on an old car. A 1964 Thunderbird in powder blue. And I’d have fun, fun, fun…
(*I could own a 370z now but I am told it is against the “law” to put car seats and children in the hatch.)
Let’s hear your pimped out ride.