The Youker Files: Dinner with the guys at Applebee’s

Written exclusively for Fenway Pastoral by Red Sox first baseman/third baseman Kevin Youkilis.

FORT MYERS, Fla.–Spring training isn’t all base-running drills and ground balls. Players have to eat, too.

There are 50 Applebee’s locations within a 20-mile radius of our Fort Myers facility, so it was only a matter of time before us corner infielders (myself, Adrian Gonzalez, Lars Anderson, Jed Lowrie) made it out for some good eating.

I know a lot of reporters like to make a huge deal about team camaraderie and all that stuff, so yes, we did all cram into one taxicab even though it meant leaving Hector Luna behind and riding with my cheekbone pressed up against the back window for 10 minutes.

Still, everything was going pretty smoothly until the hostess showed us to our table. As I was hanging my sports jacket on the hook next to the booth like a civilized human being, Adrian brushed me aside and stole my usual seat facing out toward the bar.

You see, Applebee’s are laid out the same, with the bar area offset to either the left or the right of the dining room. There are usually several booths adjacent to the front end, where all the bar goers mingle—most importantly, prowling cougars, who tirelessly fend off the skeevy male clientele of failed real estate moguls, displaced sex offenders and retired-at-45 portfolio managers until professional baseball players arrive for spring training. I’m not sure what these people even do the other 10-plus months of the year…

I know they must have Applebee’s in San Diego too, so I wasn’t cool with Adrian just taking my usual spot like it was nothing out of the ordinary. I mean, dude, seriously? I bit my tongue and tried to move on because I didn’t want to spoil the vibe and make people decide to skip appetizers.

Already pretty steamed, I was downright pissed when Jed ordered himself an entrée at the same time I was trying to order onion rings and spicy chili nachos for the table.

When I called him out on the faux pas, he was unapologetic. He says, What’s the difference if I want to eat a main dish before picking at the appetizers? Either way, the food winds up in my stomach.

Well, this whole mindset really infuriates me. There is a reason why appetizers are listed first on a menu, followed by entrees and desserts. If the waitress brings out a brownie sundae before the main course, everything gets thrown off kilter and the whole meal is ruined.

Jed is a young guy and just trying to be edgy and different for the sake of being different. So, again, I bit my lip and let it slide.

But things just got worse from there. As we were waiting for the main course to arrive, Lars decided he wanted to send a couple mudslides over to two well-endowed ladies sitting at the corner of the bar.

Now, one of these two chicks had been eyeing me most of the night and I planned on going over to them after we had polished off dessert to see if they wanted to share a plate of sliders and talk some baseball. I was going to play the Ed Harris to her Melanie Griffith.

But I’ll be damned, Lars showed the patience and resolve of a 16-year-old on prom night and couldn’t wait until after the meal to send over a couple of super-alcoholic drinks. (Yeah, I know, real subtle.) He was in over his head right from the start.

What happened next was all too predictable. The drinks arrived while I was just absolutely crushing a Triple Chocolate Meltdown and Lars smiles over and gives them the stupid Your Welcome thumbs up. I’m just helpless, wrist deep in ice cream and chocolate sauce smeared on my face.

Well, I had had enough by this point. Between Adrian taking my seat in the booth, Jed trying to “teach” me about meal courses being “interchangeable” and Lars showing his age by being overeager, I was ready to head home. Alone.

I think it was probably for the best. I ran up a hell of a bill smashing various furnishings in my hotel room and punching the fitness room’s drink machine out of working order, but sometimes it’s good to vent. I’ll autograph the bat I broke over my knee this morning in the batting cage and give it to the hotel manager.

As for Applebee’s, I’m sure I’ll be back there again. Spring training is less than a week old and being in Florida for six weeks without eating at Applebee’s a few times is kind of like going to Chicago and shunning Pizzeria Uno.

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