catamountATHLETICS

SHEAR RELIEF

A former Catamount adds to his Major League resumé – as team barber

By TOM HAUDRICOURT

Ken Macha has become accustomed to calling on dependable relief pitcher Mark DiFelice to help get out of jams this season. But the Milwaukee Brewers’ manager recently summoned DiFelice to escape a different kind of mess: a bad haircut.

Mark DiFelice

Mark DiFelice of the Milwaukee Brewers shows off the tools of his trade
– barber shears and a baseball glove. Photo by Jack Orton,
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

As the unofficial team barber, DiFelice did his best to correct some questionable work on Macha by a would-be Edward Scissorhands. “They just cut one side too short and kind of got the ‘power alleys’ going,” DiFelice recalled with a laugh. “I just evened it out for him on the front.”

On any given day, DiFelice can be found in front of a sink and mirror on the outskirts of the clubhouse bathroom, giving a teammate a trim. He keeps a set of professional clippers with him at all times, home and away.

How exactly did DiFelice become the Brewers’ version of Floyd the Barber? “My grandmother was a hairdresser and my aunt owns a hair salon now. I guess you can say it’s in my blood,” said DiFelice, who has done yeoman work on the mound as well this season.

DiFelice first tried his hand at hair-cutting at Western Carolina University. He and his roommate didn’t have money for professional haircuts, so they went to Wal-Mart and bought a cheap pair of clippers. “We started cutting each other’s hair,” recalled DiFelice. “The first year we were pretty much bald. We’d try to give each other a nice cut, but we were so bad we ended up shaving it all off. I started getting good and he continued to mess my hair up, so I started cutting my own hair.”

Once word got around the Brewers’ clubhouse that DiFelice knew his way around a pair of clippers, teammates started lining up for haircuts. The 32-year-old right-hander stops short of asking for appointments but tries to accommodate everyone. “If I can fit you in that day, I will,” he said. “If not, we’ll do it the next day.”

DiFelice, making a tad more than the rookie salary of $400,000, doesn’t charge for haircuts. On occasion, he’ll find a tip in his locker, or some other accommodation. The obvious question is why players, with all of their money, don’t go to a professional salon and pay to have their hair cut. The answer is two-fold: convenience and familiarity.

DiFelice brags that he hasn’t had a complaint in “about nine years,” which if you know ballplayers, is quite an accomplishment. After toiling in the minors and independent ball for nearly 11 years before finally getting to the big leagues last year, DiFelice isn’t ready to turn in his glove and spikes for a barber’s chair just yet.

But when his playing days are over, might DiFelice set up shop back home in Pennsylvania? “I probably could. My aunt told me she was going to put a chair for me in the back of her salon in Newtown Square because she has a lot of walk-ins,” he said.

As for the possibility that a teammate might not be completely satisfied with DiFelice’s in-house work, he refers to the oldest joke in the barber’s handbook. “You know what they say the difference is between a good haircut and a bad haircut?” he asks. “Two weeks.”

Reprinted in edited form with permission of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.