DUNEDIN, Fla. -- As far as practical jokes go, it was a beaut.
The joke, co-authored by Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett, was pulled on Aaron Hill and Russ Adams yesterday as they held a mock wedding reception for the pair. It served as an exclamation point to the excellent team chemistry that is running rampant through the Blue Jays clubhouse this spring.
The reception couldn't have been run any smoother than if it had been planned by Martha Stewart.
Like all good practical jokes, it started slowly and ended with a surprise kicker.
But first a little history.
When Hill was called up May 20 last year he bonded with Adams to the degree where you couldn't see one without seeing the other. It was as if they were forged at the hip. Naturally, they became the butt of a lot of good-natured locker room banter.
So this spring, when Burnett and Halladay formed a tight friendship, Adams and Hill, the young pups, tried to take on the big dogs and started giving them guff.
So yesterday was payback time for Halladay and Burnett -- major-league style.
When the Jays took the field just past 9 a.m. for throwing and stretching, a plane circled Knology Park trailing the following message: "Aaron, will you marry me. I love you. Russ."
The players erupted in laughter with Hill and Adams thinking that was it, the joke was over.
"We knew something was coming up," Hill said afterward. 'We thought hey, that's cool. But when we came into the clubhouse (after batting practice) I thought, 'where is everybody?' "
Everybody was in the dining room, which had been transformed by a professional catering company. The chairs had back and seat covers, the tables covered by a fine tablecloth. The flower arrangements were oh so perfect and at the head table was a wedding cake with two male figures atop it. It was all too precious. Halladay and Burnett even had tuxedo jackets for the pair with their numbers on the back and garter belts on the sleeves.
"It was good fun at our expense," Adams said. "We thought that after the plane flew by that that was it. But they have the funds to do more than that. I mean they even had wedding invitations, a D.J., someone to videotape it, flowers, even gifts. It was great."
In the parking lot, Hill's car was covered with balloons and on the side were a few messages: "I'd love to turn two with Russ. Watch us turn two later tonight."
Added Hill: "Doc and A.J., they went out and did it right. The bottom line is 'Don't mess with veterans.' "
Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi thought it showed how well the team has been bonding as a group.
"It's awesome," he said. "It just shows how much they (all the players) like each other. It shows what a good group we have here."
But it wasn't over.
As the third inning was about to start, there was another plane, another message: "Congratulations Aaron and Russ."