OK, which Pepsi bottle is David Price in?

The classic Pepsi race at Tropicana Field ... we're not sure if David Price was inside one of the costumes, but he ran the Pepsi race one night.

The classic Pepsi race at Tropicana Field ... we're not sure if David Price was inside one of the costumes, but he ran the Pepsi race one night.

By Bob Elliott

kind of a guy is this David Price?

The tall drink of water entered the hearts of Blue Jays fans before and after he pitched eight solid innings in a win over the Minnesota Twins on Simcoe Day with his tweets (@DAVIDprice14):

“Fellow Canadians Let’s do this Today: Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you.” 

“I think im official now in Canada!! Got some new numbers ... I think I should definitely starting using eh ... eh?! #OhCanada #eh #hotupinthe6”

“The support #toronto actually better yet #Canada has shown me thus far has been insane!! You guys are making me feel like a member of U2 ...”

And spotting a youngster with a makeshift Price in blue lettering surrounded by black tape over his Jose Reyes jersey: “Real jersey on me kid!! Size?” 

Price arranged for his jersey to be send to Jake Mallory, nine, and his pal Noah.

When was the last time an athlete entered the success-starved athletic arena of this place called Toronto and fans were not only over the moon for him ... but over Saturn too?

The engaging Price has created more of a stir than the arrival of David Cone, Rickey Henderson or you name the in-season acquisition.

What kind of a guy is this David Price, who starts again Saturday afternoon in the Bronx against the first-place New York Yankees?

* * *
Well, he’s a big kid to hear his close friends tell it and he once boarded a plane wearing an inner tube, nose plugs and googles.

True story.

He’s active on Twitter (@DAVIDprice14) with 375,000 followers.

He loves parades, mascot races, his French bulldog Astro (@Astro_DPsDog), who has 5,331 Twitter followers his own self  ... and winning.

* * *
What kind of a guy is David Price?

Astro and his master were named grand marshal of Tampa’s Gasparilla Pirate Festival parade in January of 2012, along with right-hander James Shields and outfielder Matt Joyce.

Price described the event as Tampa’s Mardi Gras. 

The event commemorates legendary pirate, Jose Gaspar, when he and his band of marauding buccaneers invaded Tampa in 1904. The parade starts at Bay to Bay Blvd. and Bayshore, continues along Bayshore to Brorein St., then onto Ashley Drive and ends at Cass St. and Ashley Dr.

Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and his marauding buccaneers, having captured the city share their wealth of beads, treasures and doubloons with the enthusiastic crowd along the 3.8 mile route. The parade consists of 130 units, with 90 floats, 14 marching bands, 50 participating Krewes and infamous pirates.

Rick Vaughn, the Rays vice president, communications rode in a convertible in the parade with Price and Astro that day and realized quickly that as popular as Price was in the Tampa Bay area, Astro “surpassed him.” Astro sat with Vaughn in the front seat for first half hour. 

Then, Astro sat up on the back with Price and the “people loved him” according to Vaughn.

“Rick was impressed with all the noise and cheering, people throwing beads, calling Astro’s name, how Astro didn’t bark once, he sat there,” said Price this week inside the Rogers Centre clubhouse. “He’s a good dog.”

Astro is ‘hotupinthe6’ too.

How can you not like a man who loves his pooch?

* * *
What kind of a guy is David Price?

Well, there are the races ... those mascot races:

Most nights at Tropicana Field in the bottom of the fifth the door opens to ‘162 Landing’ in left field -- where Evan Longoria homered in Game 162 of the 2011 season for an 8-7 win over the New York Yankees to clinch the American League wild card berth -- and four people dressed as large bottles of Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Aquafina and Sierra Mist race to the finish line behind home plate.

Price likes the mascot race staged nightly in Oakland which pits huge-headed, likenesses of Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers and Rickey Henderson against each other.

When he was with the Detroit Tigers, from the 2014 trade deadline until last week’s non-waiver trade deadline, he’d watch people running with car costumes in the “Motor City Wheels” mascot race in the third inning featuring a Chevelle, Bel Air, Corvette, Camero and Chevy pickup.

“Justin Verlander and I would each pick a car by color,” Price said, “who ever lost had to wear the other guy’s pants the next day -- as long as he was not starting. I wear my pants loose. He wears his tight.”

Our favorite mascot race is at Milwaukee’s Miller Park where the Sausage Race takes place with a bratwurst, Polish sausage, Italian sausage, hot dog, and chorizo characters before the sixth.

Pittsburgh Pirates’ Randall Simon hit a human sausage -- he had teasing the person inside the day before -- with a bat. Except it was a different person. The woman in the costume required medical care.

Jays scout Wilbur (Moose) Johnson was at that game and had turned to talk to a scout behind him when someone said “Randall Simon just swung at a mascot!”

Johnson replied: “Ah, Simon will swing at anything.”

Simon was fined by Milwaukee police.

Back to Tropicana and Price ... and the night he participated in the Pepsi bottle race in 2013.

On the disabled list at the time Price switched into the costume of a bottle one of the summer students wore after asking Vaughn if he could.

“With Team USA J.P. Arencibia and I would put on the Sumo wrestling costumes for fun,” said Price. “I thought this would be something different.”

It was different ... “man did that costume stink.”

“I promised Rick I wouldn’t run fast, wouldn’t try to win, would only run around and wave at the kids down the line,” Price said.

Price ran up behind third base coach Tim Foley and yelled at him.

And Price said the same thing to Foley after he changed into his Rays uniform and returned to the dugout.

“That was YOU in that costume?” Foley asked.

It was good for a few laughs.

Everyone was laughing except Rays general manager Andrew Friedman who called Vaughn in for a meeting the next day.

Vaughn thought he was going to be fired.

What if Price had been injured?

“Andrew wasn’t real happy with me when he found out,” recalled Vaughn, “but David smoothed it over. It was not my best moment. My career would have ended had he gotten hurt.” 

And Friedman now runs the Los Angeles Dodgers.

* * * 
The Rogers Centre doesn’t have a mascot race, but it did have a long, lean lefty show up between innings as part of the World’s Fastest Grounds Crew in 1997.

Releiver Dan Plesac put on sweat pants and top and ran out there with all the guys to sweep the carpet and change the bases in the top of the sixth.”

The final out of the previous inning was Otis Nixon getting thrown out at third on a disputed play bringing manager Cito Gaston out to argue. Gaston noticed Plesac immediately. Nixon did not.

As he swept in front of Nixon’s shoes Plesac said. “Come on, Nixon. We’ve got to start going here. We’ve got to beat teams like Minnesota.’ He looked at me with this blank look. He had no idea it was me.”

So bullpen coach Dane Johnson had best keep an eye out if he sees Price in the bullpen.

* * *
Price’s manager Joe Maddon used him as his closer in the 2008 American League Championship Series to upset the Boston Red Sox and reach the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, often had theme trips.

The Rays wore black on their Johnny Cash trip to Toronto in 2009, hockey jerseys the next year to Toronto; the grunge look to Seattle and pajamas for the red-eye flight to Baltimore in 2011, a nerd theme to Boston in 2012, all-white to Miami in 2012, letterman jackets to Boston and camouflage to Baltimore in 2013, college football jerseys to Oakland in 2013 and a Woodstock wardrobe to Seattle last year.

“Everyone had to take part, even if your wife or girlfriend was on the trip,” said Price.
The most memorable was the Beach Boys trip from Seattle to Anaheim in 2011 when Price wore a rubber ducky inner tube the entire trip. 

We can guess what the one flight attendant said to the other: “Ah, don’t look now but that 6-foot-6 guy in B-20 is wearing an inner tube. That’s now your section to serve.”

Price said walking through the airport people would look.

And people would laugh.  
“Johnny Damon bought these towel shorts, with a Rays logo on one leg and your number on the other,” said Price, who also wore nose plugs, googles. “Longoria’s friends showed up with a party bus when we reached California. I went on to say hello to some of Evan’s friends and wound up having to run across the parking lot to catch our bus.”

With the Johnny Cash trip to the Rogers Centre we thought Maddon’s idea was college-style rah-rah, sis-boom-bah. 
Yes it might break the monotony of one trip, but it would wear thin with millionaires.

It didn’t. 

* * *
What kind of guy is David Price?

He’s the guy who started a game for the Ray and in the 15th inning when Maddon when to a five-man infield, it was Price who ran out to give outfielder Ben Zobrist his infield mitt. Most starters would be seated at their lockers watching on TV.

He’s a good teammate. 

Standing and rooting on his new team in his debut last Friday when he arrived from Detroit after his car blew a tire in Michigan.

Standing, rooting and then being a cooler head as the dugouts emptied on Sunday. 

No one is sure whether it began with Shields or with Price. With the Rays: every time a starting pitcher threw a bullpen or pitches in a minor league spring training game, all of the starters would go and watch. 

And it went on all season.

Who is David Price?

A legendary P.R. whiz, Vaughn began 10 years working for the Baltimore Orioles in 1984 and has been with the Rays since 1996.

“He’s a guy who loves the game,” said Vaughn “and he is THE BEST teammate,”

And now he tries to win in the Bronx.

He’s 96-55 with a .636 winning percentage, including 6-2 with a 3.81 ERA, counting his last start, Aug. 5, 2014, when in his Detroit debut he pitched 8 2/3 innings allowing three runs in a 4-3 win.

The Jays would take that.