In the dugout before Ball State baseball’s practice, a wry smile peeks out from under senior outfielder Matt Eppers’ cap.
He’s ready for April Fool’s Day, and his teammates know it.
“There’s only one person you want to keep an eye on when it comes to joking — that’s Matt Eppers,” Stayton said. “He’s the king of jokes.”
Eppers said his jokes are mostly spur of the moment.
“It’s mostly just getting guys to believe something that’s wildly outrageous,” Eppers said. “An example is we were sitting down at a basketball game once and I had some fruit snacks that I smuggled in and one of the guys goes ‘Hey where did you get that?' And I said ‘Oh, they’re giving them away for free at the concession stand, you’ve just got to walk up there and ask.’”
His unwitting teammate was gone for 10 minutes waiting in line for the non-existent free fruit snacks. Eppers said he had a good laugh when he returned empty-handed.
Pranks also require a certain level of detail in order to work. Take placing bubble gum on a teammate’s cap in the dugout — doing it wrong, Eppers said, can blow the whole plan.
“The bubble gum one’s good, but you’ve got to be careful with your sunglasses because they can see it in the reflection,” Eppers said.
Stayton said he knew of some of Eppers’s hijinks, but he didn’t want to give a concrete example because he wasn’t sure how much the Cardinals knew.
“Some of the big jokes, people still don’t know that it’s him, so we’ve got to keep them secret,” Stayton said. “But it’s just the day-to-day messing with people and he keeps things light. He’s a great guy you want to have on your team, and he’s always fun to be around. I love him.”
Eppers is hitting .253 on the season with five doubles and four triples, and he’s also second on the team with 12 RBIs. But his off-the-field antics, Stayton said, help keep the team loose.
“If you’re always thinking about baseball, it’s just going to eat you up,” Stayton said. "Having people that can keep things fun if you’re in the airport just messing around with people or eating dinner, those are the times we love the most.”
Ball State baseball takes on Ohio at 3 p.m. Friday, followed by 1 p.m. games Saturday (April Fool's Day) and Sunday.