“There are a lot of squirrels that became road kill by refusing to make a decision which way to go.”
-Bathroom graffiti at Coffee Bar in Truckee, CA
Just when I thought my 2nd year at UCLA could not get any more whacked out, it did. It was Friday of Spring Break and we had just played USC that night in the first game of the weekend series. I lived with 3 other guys: Sidensol, Bob Angus, another buddy from the same Northern California area where we grew up, and Mike Seal, my mentor at UCLA who was my teammate my freshman and his senior year. Mike was back in school finishing his degree. All 3 of those guys had gone out that night partying. I was a notorious light sleeper, so when they stumbled through the door at 2 am, that was my first wake-up call. As soon as the commotion settled down, I was able to fall back asleep. My 2nd wake-up call came 2 hours later when I heard another noise. My drunk roommates had long been passed out so this was a bit more disconcerting. I awoke to a large dude standing over my desk, which was positioned at the foot of my bed. I turned to see if Sidensol, who I shared the room with, was still asleep; he was. I then immediately assessed the situation. There had been a number of break-ins in the area recently, including a stabbing just up the street a week prior.
There is a relatively large f*cking dude standing at the foot of my bed rummaging through sh*t on my desk. He could have a gun, a knife, or a f*cking machete for all I know. Option 1, continue to lie in the bed and do nothing, hoping he doesn’t completely clean the place out. Option 2, confront the intruder, ask him what he was doing in our apartment and hope to make a new friend. Option 3, jump his ass and ask questions afterwards. Considering the circumstances, option 3 seemed to be the appropriate choice.
As discreetly and quietly as I could, I curled up into a ball on the bed, positioning myself to strike like a cobra. Then, without any sort of hesitation, I leaped toward the intruder with a monster flying right hook. Because of my dad, I have an extensive background in martial arts and essentially spent my childhood sparring in and out of the karate studio. I was never out looking for fights, but because of my aggressive nature and unwillingness to back down, there were several scuffles that I could not avoid. Of all of the melees I have ever been involved in, I have never in my life landed a cleaner flying right hook. Then again, I am pretty sure I had never attempted such a thing either.
Immediately, the intruder hit the ground. I rushed to turn on the light and then grab a baseball bat that I had strategically placed by the door to our room. When Sidensol finally woke up, I was standing over the dude lying in a puddle of blood with my Easton Black Magic loaded up in launch position. The interrogation then began.
“What the f*ck are you doing here?”
“I’m here for the party man.”
“No party here, dude.”
“Sidensol, you know this guy?”
At this point, Seal and Bob had both gotten up and come in from the room across the hall.
“You guys know this f*cker?”
I then stood his ass up, put him against the wall, and then frisked him. I found seven wallets with no ID’s, a bunch of cash, and hot chocolate packets the dickhead stole from downstairs. Bob called 911 immediately, so within a few minutes, campus police arrived, put the guy in hand cuffs, and sat him down in our room upstairs. A few minutes later LAPD arrived, took over, and it was on. They immediately began questioning the dude, asking for basic info such as his name and where he lived.
Intruder’s response? “Let’s go!”
LAPD tried one more time for the information they were looking for. The intruder’s response again was, “Let’s go.” The LAPD officer responded, “You want to go? We will go my f*cking way,”
They then took the dude with his hands cuffed behind his back and tossed him up against the wall, THUMP! After that, all we heard was, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP!
They tossed the intruder halfway down the cement staircase! Then we heard another big THUMP against the wall, followed by THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, THUMP. . . BAM!
They chucked him down the rest of the staircase until he got to the bottom and crashed into the front door. We then watched LAPD toss him face first into the cruiser, which we could see from the bedroom balcony upstairs, where the LAPD had told us to stay as they provided the beat down.
The next day was pretty much a blur. I had slept no more than 2 hours that night before heading to the field to prepare for the day game against USC. I had a couple hits, including the game-winning double. By the end of the game, the story of the intruder had spread. The LA papers provided very limited coverage on college baseball. Usually a box score on the very last page with a 2-sentence game recap if we were lucky. The next day, the headline on the front page of the sports section read: “BYRNES KO’S INTRUDER THEN USC.”
It’s Hollywood, they couldn’t resist.
I finished my sophomore season with All-Pac 10 honors once again, but most importantly, we made a regional for the first time in years. We traveled to Austin, Texas, where we lost early in the double elimination tournament to Southwest Missouri St. We then reeled off a bunch of victories and ultimately eliminated Texas in front of 12,000 lunatic Longhorn fans to get a chance to play Miami in the regional finals. UCLA had not been to the College World Series in 29 years and we were now 1 game away. Unfortunately, that was as close as we were going to get and we got blasted by Pat Burrell and the Canes. Nonetheless, we got invaluable experience that would give us the confidence to become the best team in college baseball for a large part of the next year.
I am 20 years removed from that wild night when the dude broke into our place, but people will still often ask me about the story. Just the other day, we were reminiscing and a buddy of mine asked if I would do the same thing if I was in the same exact circumstance right now.
NO F*CKING DOUBT.
Human Crash Test Dummy Life Lesson #30
The greatest mistake anybody can make is that of indecision. When you are put in a difficult situation, slow the game down, commit to a plan, then ACT.[Listen to the audio version of Action Speaks above, or on The Hustle Podcast.]