A Conversation of the Road
The Interview Series where I talk to people who spark my curiosity or make me interestingly examine my views.
Holy crap! Holy crap!! Holy crap!!! HOLY CRAP!!!
-David Vassegh, August 17, 2022.
In the minor miracle that you do not know what I am talking about, on the morning of August 17, after my mother and I had left for Chicago to return to Fresno and San Francisco, respectively, Dodgers reporter David Vassegh had a date with the Bernie’s Chalet Slide at American Family Field. Apparently, he had been quite eager to go undertake the Bernie’s Slide Experience, where one can pay $150-$175 for the opportunity to go down the massive, 175-foot slide at American Family Field (up to five times) on game day.
The following video pretty much shows what happened next:
comedy ensued, six cracked ribs and a broken wrist that will require surgery ensued. But believe it or not, there is actually more to this story than just the video of Mr. Vassegh injuring himself.
Before we wrap up the conversation I had with Nick Pesch, two things need to be known for context. First, my initial reaction to Mr. Vassegh’s injury was “of course that happened to Vassegh.” Admittedly, my friends and family have the same reaction to things that I do - “oh, of course, Michael did/said that.” In that instance, game recognizes game. Ever since, Mr. Vassegh came on my radar after losing a footrace with Adrian Gonzalez, which Mr. Vassegh provoked, I admittedly have not been a fan of Mr. Vassegh’s work, which colored my initial response to this event, which I now regret.
Second, I will applaud the Dodgers players for tending to Mr. Vassegh as if he were a member of the team in the moments directly after his injury. Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times noted what the Dodgers did on the day of the accident on August 29:
Humiliated and hurt, Vassegh was taken by Dodgers director of player relations Juan Dorado to the Dodgers’ training staff, who arranged for him to visit a nearby urgent-care center because the stadium X-ray technician had not yet arrived. Knowing the media rules, Vassegh retreated to a seat outside the Dodgers clubhouse while waiting for a co-worker to give him a ride.
“There’s still that line where I’m not a player, and there’s no way I was going to wait in that clubhouse,” Vassegh said.
At which point, Justin Turner, David Price, Cody Bellinger and Austin Barnes showed up and erased that line. They dragged him into the clubhouse. They cared for him until his ride arrived. They looked at him in his moment of crisis and saw more than just a microphone.
Per Mr. Plaschke, Price grabbed a towel to wipe the sweat from Mr. Vassegh’s face, Turner gave Vassegh a chicken sandwich so he wouldn’t have to be medicated on an empty stomach, and Barnes and Alex Torres, the Dodgers’ clubhouse manager, helped Mr. Vassegh take off his shirt and tie and fitted him with a Dodgers T-shirt so that doctors would have easier access to his torso. We often overlook empathy and I will not do so here.
It is worth noting that the slide video of Mr. Vassegh’s injury was the second time he went down the slide on August 17. As you can see below, he went down the slide a few minutes earlier, before his infamous ride, with no issue.
HE WENT DOWN TWICE!!! THIS IS NOT THE SAME RIDE!!!! pic.twitter.com/IG9QXWcbdE— 2022 World Series MVP Clayton Kershaw (@BoyslnBIue) August 18, 2022
Now with all that background information, let us return to the conversation with Nick Pesch.
Michael J. Elizondo (MJE): Just some ground rules, I am going to be direct in my questions as to this topic because I did personal injury law for two years and some habits are hard to break. I want to be clear that I am not seeking to blame anyone or get anyone in trouble. I only care about what you know and fully acknowledge that you are not an expert. I also fully acknowledge that you are not a spokesman for the Milwaukee Brewers, nor is anyone trying to say that you are. I just want to know what you know. Does that sound fair?
Nick Pesch (NP): Sure thing.
MJE: Elephant in the room questions first: were you present the day that David Vassegh went down the slide? Do you have any firsthand knowledge of what happened to David Vassegh?
NP: No, I was not present when David Vassegh went down the slide. However, I did see videos of him going down the slide.
MJE: Okay, fair enough. Now stepping back a minute, you said that you give regular ballpark tours and run tours at Bernie’s Slide. What does a tour at Bernie’s Slide look like?
NP: Anyone who wants to go down the slide needs to have already paid for a game ticket and paid the fee for the slide tour, which is $150 on weekdays and $175 on weekends. There is also a waiver that needs to be signed.
Then, that person shows up a couple of hours before the first pitch and they have the option to go down the slide up to five times and we will take photos of them going down the slide. Usually, people do not go down all five times, but after someone is done with the slide, I can take them on a truncated ballpark tour. Usually, I take people to Bob Uecker’s booth in the press box or the Bob Uecker statute on the upper level. Either way, once Bernie the mascot shows up to the slide, the tour is over.
MJE: Good to know. Let’s put a pin in the Uecker talk for a second. Have you ever personally gone down the slide at American Family Field?
NP: Yes, I have gone down about 35 times at this point.
MJE: Wow. Okay, have you ever been injured going down the slide?
NP: No. I’ve gotten the occasional friction burn from the slide, but that’s it.
MJE: Have you ever had someone go down the slide while you running a tour get injured?
NP: No, but occasionally, someone gets a friction burn at worst. I have never had someone get as injured as Mr. Vassegh while I was running the Slide Tour.
MJE: That’s good to know. If I understand you correctly, all I have to do to go down the slide is pay my fee, have a ticket to that day’s game, sign the waiver, and show up?
NP: The slots for the slide tour are limited, but yeah, that sounds about right. All I can add is while on the tour, I will demonstrate how you position yourself to go down the slide safely. I will also give you a burlap mat as protection and a way to increase friction going down the slide.
MJE: You have met me. Let’s do a hypothetical: imagine we’re at the slide, how would you tell me how to go down it?
NP: First, I would advise you to wear long sleeves and pants before coming so there’s less risk of a friction burn. Then I would advise you to lie back and cross your arms over the chest and tell you to keep the burlap sack under you. I have noticed that if you sit up, you tend to speed up. The main thing to remember is that you need to use your legs as shock absorbers because you are going to hit that wall at the bottom. If you do everything I have said, you should have a fun time and be ready to go again if you want.
MJE: Based on what you have seen and your personal experience, do you have a reaction to Mr. Vassegh’s slide where he injured himself?
NP: Yes, I think you’re being too hard on him. I’m not quite sure how he picked up so much speed. Clearly, his sitting up and his size worked against him, but apart from where he got out of position, he wasn’t necessarily doing anything wrong. Sometimes accidents happen. I think the Brewers were a little hard on [Mr. Vassegh] too, putting that tape on the wall the next day.
[Author’s note: I pointed out to Nick that the Brewers did not have anything to do with the tape, recounting the tale of Gavin Lux and his encounter with the right field wall at Dodger Stadium last year. I suspected that Justin Turner was the culprit as he had an alternate angle of Mr. Vassegh going down the slide. A subsequent tweet confirmed my hunch.]
MJE: Is there any reason that David Vassegh should not attempt to go down the slide again if he wants to?
NP: Not at all. He clearly was able to do it once. You did call him a doofus though, so you two should have a “slide off” next year at the ballpark with Bernie Brewer officiating and judging the slides like a gymnastics competition. [laughs]
MJE: That genuinely sounds like a truly terrible idea! With our combined luck, we’re probably both ending up in the emergency room. That said before I switch to Bob Uecker, is there anything else about Bernie’s Slide that we have not covered that you feel we should cover?
[Author’s Note: That truly is a terrible idea, but if the Dodgers want to pay my airfare to Milwaukee in early May 2023, we can probably work something out. Otherwise, I am fairly sure that both David Vassegh and I have better things to do.]
NP: Just that a lot of people pay the fee to go down the slide but do not actually go through with it. We help folks stage photos to make it look like they have gone down the slide because they did pay for the experience. As I said, I usually take folks to the press box, or to Bob Uecker’s office.
MJE: Have you had much interaction with Bob Uecker?
NP: Not personally. He’s our Vin Scully. He’s a great ambassador for the City of Milwaukee and introducing new players to the area. He even can park his car inside the stadium; not even the owner can do that. Plus, he has a statute in Section 422, based on those old Miller Lite Commercials.
[Author’s Note: Case in point.]
MJE: I do not remember seeing it when I sat up there when I went to American Family Field. I’ll have to look for it when I come back. Thanks for your time, Nick. Anything to add before I close this out?
NP: Yes, I hope to see folks come out to American Family Field. I enjoy giving tours, both of the ballpark and of Bernie’s Slide. I just hope that the Slide does not become a publicity stunt due to what happened to Mr. Vassegh. Thank you so much for reaching out to me and letting me share my story!
MJE: My pleasure.
And thus, we conclude another Conversation of the Road. I hope you enjoyed this one, and please keep an eye out for the next time we stop for a conversation with someone I have met on the road.