An old friend I haven’t seen in years sent me a message on Facebook this morning.

He wanted to know what I thought about the story about Tom Garfinkel floating around Thursday morning. In a leaked audio recording, the San Diego Padres CEO and president compared Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Zack Greinke — the player whose collarbone was broken in an ugly brawl with the Padres’ Carlos Quentin — to “Rain Man,” a nod to a Dustin Hoffman movie about an autistic savant.

Greinke, one of the MLB’s best pitchers in recent years, struggled early in his career with social anxiety and depression.

I told my friend I was mad. I was hurt. As someone who occasionally struggles with social anxiety and depression, I felt that the Padres organization was saying that they thought of me as having autism, which is a more serious condition. I felt insulted and misunderstood.

And yet, I still don’t believe Garfinkel made the remark with malicious intent, even though his words were ultimately hurtful.

I’ve met Garfinkel a few times, and we’ve chatted briefly each time. When I wrote my first Padres post on this website, he was gracious in providing pictures and encouragement. I’ve found him to be cordial and thoughtful, and didn’t assume that his “Rain Man” reference was anything more than a bad joke.

My friend also asked what I thought of the person who leaked the audio to Yahoo Sports.

I said Garfinkel needs to be aware of his audience. He wasn’t making a bad joke in front of his family or friends — he was making a bad joke in front of strangers, some of whom think he’s done a poor job with the San Diego Padres.

As my private Facebook conversation was unfolding, Padres fans had already set out on a crusade to find the person who had recorded the meeting, and sent it to the press.

Good luck getting @tomgarfinkel to speak candidly ever again. Whoever released that… you’re a punk. Come forward. Receive your prize.

— Brady Phelps (@LobShots) April 18, 2013

I also agree with @lobshots. I want to know who the @$$4013 is that (1) recorded that @tomgarfinkel audio (2) why? and (3) leaked it.

— Ghost of Ray Kroc (@GhostofRAK) April 18, 2013

@lobshots @tomgarfinkelSo much for the “Trust tree or the nest”. No integrity for whoever leaked that… Horrible.

— Steve Skandal (@SteveSkandal) April 18, 2013

That’s when my friend admitted he was the one who recorded the meeting, a special gathering for first-year season ticket holders that was held April 12, the day after the Greinke-Quentin fight. My friend tagged along to the meeting with a friend of his who was invited, and he was also the one who leaked it to the media.

I started asking some questions. I haven’t seen this friend in years, but I never thought of him as an aspiring journalist or a Padres hater.

Why had he recorded the event?

“I’ve been a supporter of the Padres for a long time, and it makes me sick to see them as one of the league’s worst franchises. I thought Tom might shed some light on the ways the team spends money, or doesn’t, because I disagree with how things have gone the last few years,” he wrote.

And why would he leak the audio?

“I thought Tom said some interesting things about the way the team spends money. I also thought it was interesting how much information they keep on prospects, their girlfriends, their girlfriends families, etc.”

I didn’t hear any of that in the clip that Yahoo had posted.

The friend said it never even occurred to him that’s what the press would seize on: “It’s actually a 23-minute audio file. I recorded almost the entire meeting. They’re the ones that caught the ‘Rain Man’ thing. As pathetic as it sounds, I’ve never seen the movie, so the reference flew right over my head.”

I laughed. How ironic that he didn’t even understand the firestorm he had single-handedly initiated.

He asked what “Rain Man” was about, and I explained. “Yikes. I can see how that touched a nerve with people. My brother’s autistic, so I know how a lot of those people feel,” he wrote.

I could tell he was embarrassed. He had no idea that he was causing a media nightmare for his favorite baseball team and its president when he sent the audio in. The most he was expecting was an article that detailed how the Padres aren’t willing to spend any money, even with new ownership.

He sent me the entire 23-minute audio file (I agreed to keep his name anonymous in order to access the audio to verify his story), which you can listen to here. Truth be told, it’s quite boring after the first few minutes.

Garfinkel, too, seems embarrassed:

Hearing from parents who have children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and being a parent myself, (cont.)

— Tom Garfinkel (@TomGarfinkel) April 18, 2013

(cont) …I have learned a lot today.I am deeply sorry for my insensitive remarks.

— Tom Garfinkel (@TomGarfinkel) April 18, 2013

Separately, I’d like to also personally apologize to anyone affected by Social Anxiety Disorder.

— Tom Garfinkel (@TomGarfinkel) April 18, 2013

My friend is still amazed at the attention the story has gotten on the local sports radio stations, and seems eager for it to go away. He just wanted to pressure the Padres to open their pockets. Instead, he unknowingly pressured them to shut their mouths.

I’m John Gennaro, contributor to Active Voice and managing editor of Bolts from the Blue. You can tweet me @jmglion or e-mail me directly at

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I'm John Gennaro, contributor to Active Voice and managing editor of Bolts from the Blue. You can tweet me @john_gennaro or email me directly at

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