NEW YORK – You never took his name or paid attention, but if you vacationed in Fort Myers, Florida last spring, you may have seen him.
He was your Uber driver.
Yes, the boy with the glasses, with a thick mustache on the handlebars, driving a Toyota Camry.
You may have noticed Uber's driver rating of 4.99, but little more.
Well, if you have a chance, turn on the TV on Saturday afternoon and look again.
GAME 1: Yankees win Twins 10-4
That 24-year-old named Randy Dobnak is playing the Minnesota Twins in American League Divison Series match 2 against the New York Yankees.
The twins, who have not won a playoff game since George W. Bush's first administration, have already tried out Cy Young's winners. Winners of twenty games. Homemade phenomena. And old people traveling.
Why not let a Uber driver try to finish his record of 14 major league post-season lost games, culminating in one of any baseball player's craziest, most unlucky weeks?
"Biggest week of my life"
Let's see, he started and won the Twins AL Central Division game on September 26 against the Detroit Tigers. He married four days later in Maryland. And now he's launching a playoff game at Yankee Stadium.
"This was the best week of my life," says Dobnak. "I don't think it will get any better than that."
Yes, even better than the fare two years ago in downtown Pittsburgh when he left a woman with two children at a Pittsburgh Steelers football game and found out she was giving him $ 100.
“I came to light, reached for the cup holder and“ Holy (smoke), it was $ 100. I tried to figure out who the message was for her, but I never found out.
"I hate people who don't tip. That's terrible. Pizza delivery people, if you think about it, always get tips. I'm driving you around, using my gas, my car, whatever …"
"I tip everyone now when I use Uber, unless he's a very bad driver. Come on, it's good karma too. & # 39; & # 39;
And he would still like to know who the ruined idiot didn't give him a rating of 5.0 either, with an unknown person giving him a 4 star rating to ruin his perfect store.
"I don't know what I did wrong, or if it was a mistake," he said, "but that was the only person who didn't give me a 5."
Dobnak made nine appearances for the twins in the regular season. (Photo: Jeffrey Becker, USA TODAY Sports)
In the baseball world, where the rating system is 20 to 80, and you're not a graduate after launching at Alderson Broaddus University, a small Division II school in West Virginia, you end up launching the Utica Unicorns on the four-star United Shore Professional baseball league teams in Michigan, Dobnak barely registered on the rating scale.
Veteran twin Boy Scout Billy Milos eventually discovered him in 2017, hearing of him from Jim Essian, the former Cubs Major League Manager who ran Dobnak's independent team. Milos never personally observed him, but watched a video on YouTube before recommending that the twins hire him.
"I searched the entire Internet," Milos told USA TODAY Sports on Saturday morning. “Come on, where can you film an Alderson Broaddus guy? Who has heard of this school?
“I mean, look at him, he looks like a Uber driver. He looks like your accountant. But what he did now, going through four different levels in a year, to start playoff game 2. What he did is crazy, man. This is what you dream about. It never happens. Not even the beginners. He is a freak. & # 39; & # 39;
The twins eventually hired Dobnak for $ 2,000 and, after shooting well between their Uber shifts this spring, ended up breaking camp with the twin class A team in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
"If all went well," he said, "I expected to reach class AA (Pensacola) by the end of the year."
Dobnak paused, smiled and said, "But this year was insane."
He climbed all levels of the Twins system, was summoned to the major leagues on August 9, played four times in relief, won a spot in the early spin, made his first match at Fenway Park and is now in the post-season debut. in front of a frantic crowd at Yankee Stadium.
"I still don't know if he sank," he said. "I don't know if that will happen. I think everything that happened to me is something I would never have thought of. & # 39; & # 39;
Well, if he had, he certainly wouldn't have scheduled his wedding last weekend.
He and his fiancee, Aerial, thought the timing was perfect. The minor league baseball season is over. The weather is great this time of year in Maryland. And all his minor league baseball mates were able to participate.
Who ever imagined that three days after conquering AL Central with Dobnak striking a six-time blow against the Tigers, he would wear the same commemorative glasses at his bridesmaid wedding party ending his speech by shouting out, "Go Twins! & # 39; & # 39;
"I still got them, never washed them," says Dobnak over his glasses. "There are still all these good things in them."
Who knows, maybe he'll let them go if he decides to get behind the wheel this winter driving Uber, just as he did when he showed up for spring training two months earlier, worked in the morning and drove from 2 PM to 9 PM and all day long. on Sundays.
"Let's see, it's something I like to do in my free time," he said. "Really, it's the second perfect job for baseball players. It's your own schedule. You work when you want to work. You drive when you want to drive, without obligations. It's really fun. Every ride is different." 39;
He never hired any of the twins' future teammates, but with the Boston Red Sox also training at Fort Myers, it's quite possible that he picked some players.
"Well, not Mookie Betts," he said, "I would have known if Mookie Betts got in my car. He probably would have asked for a Uber Lux. & # 39; & # 39;
And when his new spring training teammates learned what he did for a living, he gave them a break, allowing them to simply send him a message for tours, especially late-night pizza and Chick-fil-A deliveries. .
Hey, what's a friend for, right?
"He will not be intimidated"
Now, with all the minor leagues he has left behind in spring training, with only one 2017 draft Twins player, even passing the AA Class, everyone will be watching Dobnak make one of the most impressive beginnings in Twins history.
This will just be the fourth traditional start of his main league career – with two other games being used as opener – going 2-1 with an ERA of 1.59 out of 28 times in nine games since his call.
"I don't know how he's going to do it," said Milos, who also discovered Nick Anderson, a 29-year-old Tampa Bay Rays rookie, "but I know he won't be intimidated or scared. He hasn't even listened to those fans. He "There's only one makeup that's different from all these other guys. Nothing bothers this boy. You never know if he was kicked in the ass or shot. He was born that way."
While several of Dobnak's teammates admitted they felt pressure in New York in game 1, Dobnak is practically begging the Yankee Stadium crowd to be as shrill and rowdy as possible. Bring the noise.
"The higher they are," he says, "the more I love it. I can block it. I've been doing it all year. I've been trying to simplify the game all my life, and I've always managed to stay calm. I won't let my emotions hit me. "
Now he will be in front of the biggest crowd of his life, leaving eight tickets for his wife, parents, in-laws, agent and wife friend, who happens to be a fan of the Yankees.
"But not tonight," he said.
Dobnak, who had not even secured a place on the playoff list 10 days ago, was chosen for his ability to keep the ball low with a 52.9% groundball rate. He will play 90 to 96 km / h, mix a variety of sliders and try to keep baseball in the stadium against the most intimidating formation he has ever faced. The Bronx Bombers hit 306 home runs this season, but Dobnak has given up just one in his career in the big league.
"I have confidence," says Dobnak, who wears white glasses while shooting. "I believe in myself. I will be the same person I always will be."
Oh, and when the twins leave New York after the game, he needs to remember to bring a memory.
He forgot to collect anything from Fenway Park, but this time can't leave New York empty-handed.
"Maybe," he says, "just steal something."
A twin win ending a 15-year drought will serve beginners.