Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be an article comparing Jacob Faria’s ERA to his FIP and xFIP. The 23-year-old Rays rookie is only four starts into his career, so it’s not necessary to go parsing our way through his HR/FB rate and BABIP just yet. He still needs time to settle in a bit.
Speaking of settling in, if Faria is going to be comfortable at the major league level, it may be thanks to an object many of us associate with our younger days — much younger days. On the most recent edition of This Week in Rays Baseball, Neil Solondz had Faria on as his first guest, and partway through the interview the two had an interesting exchange:
“Solondz: What was the most unique congratulations you got regarding the baseball side of things, regarding the start of your career. Someone maybe you hadn’t heard from or someone you didn’t expect to hear from, or just the way they congratulated you?
Faria: Yesterday a couple fans brought me a duck.”
I can see giving someone a framed photo of their first appearance in an MLB uniform, or a bottle of scotch, but a duck, what’s going on here?
As it turns out, (of course) there’s a backstory. Let’s turn back to Faria for the details:
“The duck came into play in the fall of 2010. I was playing for the Seattle Mariners scout team, and me and my dad went to Arizona for a tournament there. The hotel we were staying at was directly across the street from the ballpark - the Padres and Mariners spring training facility. When we got there, the hotel had overbooked a ton of people. I looked on the ground and they probably had 40 or 50 goody bags to say look we’re sorry that this happened. So they told us hey, your reservation is at a hotel in Surprise which is about ten miles away, and here’s a goody bag to say sorry for the mess up. Inside was a bunch of snacks and also the duck. So I ate all the edible stuff, and I kinda thought, ok here’s a cool little souvenir from this interesting start to a trip. So I threw it in my bat bag, and I completely forgot it was there until the start of the season. Then when I signed, I unpacked my bat bag, saw the duck and then ended up taking it with me to the GCL and I’ve had it every year but one. One year I didn’t have it was my first year in Princeton and I had a 5.00+ ERA, I got hurt, I was on the DL for a few weeks - it was an ugly year.”
So there you have it. Not only is it logical for fans to be giving Faria rubber duckies, but they are quite possibly helping him out, as he clearly has a magical connection to the infamous bath toy. Faria went on to note that while he carries just the one OG duck on him for games, at home he has a cubby filled with 25-30 ducks. He even has one that is a gold-colored Christmas ornament duck.
The Faria-Duck movement has gotten so strong that it even has its own Twitter handle:
If Faria continues to have the success he has had so far in his MLB career, we may begin to see rubber duckies all across MLB ballparks.