“Survivor: San Juan Del Sur -- Blood vs. Water” premiered Wednesday, Sept. 24, starting Season 29 of the hit CBS reality series. Eighteen new castaways were stranded in Nicaragua in the premiere, but one might be more recognizable than the rest, former MLB player John Rocker. Rocker (39) signed on for the new “Blood vs. Water,” where he is competing alongside his girlfriend, Julie McGee (34), a model and gym owner.
Rocker was a successful relief pitcher for many years in the 1990s for the Atlanta Braves, but fans may remember him best for the controversy surrounding his career -- most notably an interview with Sports Illustrated that sparked outrage. In the interview Rocker made disparaging comments about race, homosexuality, and New York, saying, “It’s the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you're [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids.”
Rocker is leaving that behind in “Survivor” and says he’s not worried about the controversy following him into the game. “I see these folks that I’m getting ready to play this game with as very similar to the 13 years of professional baseball that I played and the teammates that I played with,” Rocker said. “Some of my biggest supporters after that [Sports Illustrated] debacle were my current and past teammates.”
All the same, in the “San Juan Del Sur” premiere Wednesday, Rocker planned to keep his identity a secret, not telling his fellow castaways about his baseball past. One of the pairs, Keith and Wes Nale (father-son firefighters from Louisiana), however, were on to Rocker. While not revealing it to any of the other castaways, both Keith and Wes recognized the former ballplayer.
Keith was placed on a different tribe than Rocker and had no one-on-one contact with him but revealed in a camera confessional that he knew the ballplayer “was an a-- when he played” and he guessed he would be the same in “Survivor.”
Wes, on the other hand joined Rocker in the Coyoba tribe and caught up with him on the beach after the reward challenge. In an awkwardly roundabout conversation, Wes admitted to recognizing Rocker. While at first denying it, Rocker later asked Wes not to tell anyone else. The visibly starstruck Wes seemed to agree (though had already mentioned to Alec that he thought John was someone famous). In a camera confessional, however, Rocker suggested that he might try to get Wes voted out to protect his secret.
Despite Coyoba losing the immunity challenge, Rocker held off on his threat for now as the tribe voted off former “Amazing Race” contestant Nadiya Anderson. Fans will have to wait until next week to see if Wes and Keith can keep Rocker’s secret under wraps. “Survivor” airs on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. EDT on CBS.
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