Since the 2019 baseball season ended, plenty of beat writers, national insiders and columnists have provided “hot stove” news worth following on free agents, trade rumors, and stories like MLB’s proposal to shrink the minor leagues. As the offseason moves toward baseball’s winter meetings, reporters like ESPN’s Jeff Passan and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal are must-follows.
Yet the most intriguing Twitter account worth following in recent weeks has arguably been @jomboy_, which has provided compelling video breakdowns demonstrating the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing tactics during the 2017 season which MLB is currently investigating.
The Athletic’s Marc Carig tracked down Jomboy, whose real name is Jimmy O’Brien, to get the story on how he suddenly became one of the most important accounts to follow for baseball fans and media.
Here’s some lunchtime reading on @TheAthleticMLB about how Jimmy, the shy kid with a speech impediment, became the curious force known throughout the Internet as @Jomboy_. https://t.co/BUolXwp39r pic.twitter.com/UsBjci7N9I
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) November 22, 2019
If you’re not familiar with the story at this point, Rosenthal and his Athletic colleague Evan Drellich reported that the Astros used cameras in centerfield to get pitch signs from the opposing catcher with the video feed patched directly to a monitor in Houston’s dugout tunnel. Then, players or team employees would signal to the batter at the plate whether or not an off-speed pitch or breaking ball was going to be thrown.
Usually, this was done by banging a trash can. And if that sounds improbable, Jomboy showed exactly how this system worked in practice (including audio of the trash can bangs) with a video package on Twitter.
Astros using cameras to steal signs, a breakdown pic.twitter.com/rncm6qzXxw
— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) November 12, 2019
With those tweets, Jomboy provided better evidence than what Rosenthal and Drellich received from sources such as former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers and other sources. And a video-editing hobby and love of baseball (particularly the New York Yankees) resulted in him uncovering the so-called smoking gun that could lead to serious consequences for the Astros organization. (O’Brien’s Yankees fandom certainly hasn’t endeared him to Astros supporters during a fierce rivalry for American League dominance.)
Whether you realize it or not, you might also remember Jomboy from such viral sensations as Yankees manager Aaron Boone and his “savages” tirade at a home plate umpire in December. Yep, that was O’Brien who got the key audio and unexpectedly great phrase which spawned hilarious memes and t-shirts.
Here is the full sequence of the Boone ejection. Hot mics galore. pic.twitter.com/R6Vw0qw0qn
— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) July 18, 2019
O’Brien isn’t just an overnight internet sensation, however. As Carig’s story details, he’s been developing those editing skills for a long time, slogging through dry spells and lost direction that many of us can relate to.
But those talents are finally paying off for O’Brien and Jomboy Media, which is tightening up its operation (to use another Boone phrase) and could end up growing into something bigger now that current events have provided a springboard into greater notoriety and awareness.