His name is "The Whitewall Ninja," and if you see him at a ballpark then, well, he has failed at his job.
The Whitewall Ninja is the elusive, camouflaged alter-ego of Beloit Snappers pitcher Dakota Bacus, who, in a feat of spectacular daring, dresses in a head-to-toe all-white getup and hides in fair territory in front of an outfield billboard while the game is going on.
The Whitewall Ninja first came to my attention after he was spotted by astute Wisconsin Timber Rattlers staffers during an early June contest at Beloit's Pohlman Field, and when I visited Beloit last week I was determined to learn more.
This exclusive interview with Bacus, in which he alternately refers to the Whitewall Ninja in both the first and third person, is part two of the "Bullpen Trilogy" that began with last week's piece about Wisconsin's "Quarter Game." Stay tuned for part three next week, and in the meantime, head to Ben's Biz Blog for more bullpen anecdotes from Bacus and his partner-in-crime, Taylor Vail. You'll be glad that you did.
MiLB.com: The Whitewall Ninja is a most mysterious character. Can you give me a little background regarding who he is and what he does?
Dakota Bacus: We got a little insight one day from our pitching coordinator about something that his buddy did back in the day, going out along the wall and blending in with the signs. The goal was to see how far he could get out there before being caught by any of the umpires. So now we have a Whitewall Ninja who does that as well. The farthest he's gotten is left-center, by the Carvel sign, and he was out there for an inning and a half before anyone noticed and he had to get off of the field.
MiLB.com: This is amazing to me, that the Whitewall Ninja is out there on the field during the game.
Bacus: Yeah, during the game, it starts around the second or third inning.
MiLB.com: Now Dakota, are you the Whitewall Ninja? Or are you just speaking on his behalf?
Bacus: It's split personalities. I'm speaking on his behalf.
MiLB.com: What sort of preparation is needed, then, in order to assume the Whitewall Ninja persona?
Bacus: It's really nerve-wracking because you don't want the ball to hit you, and that's the only thing running through your head. The right time to do it is during the day with an all-white sign, that's perfect, and an all-white ColdGear hat tops it off. You just go out there and see how long you can stand until getting caught.
MiLB.com: Have there ever been any close calls for the Whitewall Ninja, when a ball was hit toward him during the game?
Bacus: There was one ball that was hit out to left, the first time that I was out there, and I was like "Okay, they had to have noticed me." But two more outs go by and still nothing was noticed. The umpires were all confused because the other team was telling them someone was out there, but they couldn't even tell even when I ran off of the field. It was pretty crazy.
MiLB.com: When the Whitewall Ninja makes an appearance, is he worried about getting in trouble with the coaching staff or the Athletics organization in general? You know, for interfering with a game in progress?
Bacus: I think that kind of put a halt to everything, when we got a call from our coordinator saying something about how it could get in the way. The odds of that happening are really slim, but that is one thing that is always on my mind out there -- that I'm going to interfere.
MiLB.com: The Whitewall Ninja lives life on the edge.
Bacus: You have to!