JUPITER, Fla. — As the white pickup truck turned onto the Roger Dean Stadium warning track and drove steadily, ceremoniously toward the Cardinals’ dugout, Adam Wainwright thought it looked familiar.
“I’m fairly certain that’s ‘Pearl,’” he said.
The truck he loved enough to nickname should be in the parking lot, where he left it, but here it was touring the ballpark as public address announcer John Frost introduced the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado going to “some lucky fan.” Lance Berkman, Wainwright’s teammate at the time, honked the horn to punctuate his readiness to pick up the fan with the winning number from a drawing in their new pickup.
“It came around the corner and I’m like that’s definitely ‘Pearl,’ and then I hear the announcement that they’re giving away the car,” Wainwright said. “That’s when you think this is all fun and games, unless they really are giving away my car.”
Ten years earlier, on April Fools’ Day 2012, Berkman and Skip Schumaker, a maestro of pranks, choreographed a caper to convince Wainwright that, yes, his truck was going home with someone else that day. To pull it off, the two teammates had someone palm Wainwright’s keys. They wrote a fake script to be read over the PA as Berkman maneuvered the car into position.
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They even had a plant — David Freese’s uncle — sit right by the Cardinals’ dugout, within earshot of Wainwright, and pretend to have the winning numbers. He bounded into the bed of the pickup truck and rode off fist-pumping and celebrating, all as Wainwright wondered.
“Big-league prank,” Wainwright said, recalling it Friday on the anniversary. “Well done. Well produced. Well executed. Got to tip your hat.”
Through more than a decade of pranks between Wainwright and close friend Schumaker, the pickup ploy arguably was the most elaborate. It was definitely the most public. Some were obvious to only teammates. Some as private as ointment in a sock. One just reeked. And now with Schumaker back with the Cardinals as bench coach, reunited with Wainwright for an April Fools’ Day in Florida 10 years later, the latest stunt between the merry pranksters was afoot.
“We made a pact, Day 1,” Wainwright said Friday morning. “I know a lot of people are rooting that it does pick back up. But I don’t think any one of those people are Skip or me. I don’t want Red Hot on my shoes.”
A new dynamic is in play this season — Schumaker no longer is a teammate, fielding grounders or chasing flyballs behind Wainwright. The 42-year-old former Cardinal wields a fungo bat as the new bench coach, trading in his left-handed swing to be manager Oliver Marmol’s right-hand man.
Over lunch in November near his home in Southern California, Schumaker told a reporter that Wainwright had “to give him a little respect now,” but the “prank stuff is probably not going to happen.”
Coaches are for planning and plotting. Leave puckish to the players.
“When you get into a prank war with Skip, I like the big grand gestures, like the ones that take time and planning,” Wainwright said Friday. “Skip is the king of the little — Skip is going to give you the papercut to kill you. He’s going to wear you out relentlessly. Every time you put your shoe on there’s a Red Hot in the toe of it or on your sock. There’s eye black on your hat bill. There’s Red Hot on your hat. There’s Red Hot on the soap that you use.
“He’s just relentless. He will put baby powder in the vents in my car so when I turn on the car it’s – fwoooooosh. He’s got all the tricks. I’d sell his car online. He’d pop a tire.”
In 2018, Schumaker, then a coach with the Padres, visited Wainwright’s hotel room for a tournament of Mario Kart and RBI Baseball. The two pals played to a draw, and on his way out, Schumaker covertly pocketed a room-service menu. He checked almost every box on the breakfast menu and set it to be delivered to Wainwright’s room — at 5:30 a.m.
Wainwright countered a few months later in St. Louis by sneaking Schumaker’s dress clothes out of his locker during a game at Busch Stadium. Wainwright had an equipment manager iron his number, “50,” beneath “WAINWRIGHT” on Schumaker’s white polo shirt. He signed to “my biggest fan.” On Schumaker’s black slacks, Wainwright affixed a “5” and “0.”
“On the buttocks,” Schumaker winced, at the time.
The shirt and pants, he later revealed, were the only dress clothes he had on the trip, so he flew that night with the Padres wearing Wainwright’s prank across his back and posterior.
“Legendary,” a Padres player said.
A few weeks later, Wainwright walked out to his black truck to find it had been plastered with advertisements featuring his face photoshopped onto a body, a hand holding a Shake Weight, and the faux business name, “Body by Waino.” The decals had to be professionally removed.
Eye black played a starring role in the early pranks. Schumaker rubbed some in the band of Wainwright’s cap so that it left a streak atop his forehead. Once, eye black was rubbed on the inside of a pair of sunglasses, leaving superhero-like mask behind. Wainwright has been on the team’s charter plane, midway between two cities, when his foot started to burn because of ointment Schumaker tucked discreetly into a dress sock.
During one of their first spring training camps together with the Cardinals, Wainwright stockpiled diapers for just the right moment. He checked the weather for “the hottest day of spring” and loaded Schumaker’s car up with the collection. Wainwright stuffed diapers under the seat to stew in the sweltering heat. The diapers were all used.
“It was pretty wretched for a few days,” Wainwright said. “You can’t get that smell out right away. That was one of better ones.”
They would argue whether they’re even or due, and then as this year’s spring training neared they had a conversation.
“Hey, listen, you and I are both too old to do this anymore, right?” Wainwright said, recreating the talk with his new coach. “He was like, ‘I don’t know. Are we?’ And I was like, ‘Are we?’ And then that started the whole thing of who had the last prank. I was like, ‘Hey, listen, I don’t want to do this. I don’t want you to make me have to do this.’
“Don’t make me have to do this.”
They struck an agreement.
Schumaker noted Wainwright called him old.
Sitting outside the Cardinals’ clubhouse on April Fools’ Day, 10 years since his car was driving away with a new owner, Wainwright felt he didn’t have to tread lightly putting on his socks, unwrap a new bar of soap, or check his hat for eye black. He even asked what day it was.
After workouts Friday, he walked to his Jeep for the drive home.
In its air vents, four pounds of baby powder waited for him to start the car.
Wainwright texted a reporter later: “Skip started the prank wars again.”