The popular image of Lenny Dykstra is well-defined. Stubble on his chin. A wad of tobacco in his mouth. Hair a mess. Face contorted. Scratching. Spitting. Sniping.
The rude, crude dude. Playing hard, living harder. That is the Dykstra we know.
"It's funny to me, actually it's comical, what people think of me," Dykstra said. "The common person who picks up the paper or turns on the TV or goes to a game, they relate, and it's very common and it's very easy to understand, because of the way I play the game, my aggressive style on the field, the way I play hard, dive around, yell at umpires, basically stir s--- up and p--- off the other team, that's what they think I do off the field."
There is some history there _ a near-fatal 1991 car wreck and the ensuing driving while intoxicated charge, his participation in illegal high-stakes poker games and a resulting year's probation from baseball.
But there is more to Dykstra than that. More than the cartoon composite of Bart Simpson meets Pigpen in cleats.
"Don't get me wrong," Dykstra said. "I'm not saying I'm an angel. I'm just a normal guy."
He has a savvy entrepreneurial spirit, which emerges as he talks of constructing a business empire. He speaks responsibly about providing for his family. At 31, he claims to have matured, to have slowed down and become more accountable for his actions. He remains fiercely competitive, but channels that more to helping his Philadelphia Phillies team than toward individual glory.
Coming off his best season, and coming months after he signed a contract extension that will pay him $27.5-million over the next five years, Dykstra appears eager to get that message out. He agreed to raise the curtain and let the public in.
To Dykstra, the business world is just another ballgame, sitting there, waiting for him to seize control of and dominate.
"I'm the type of person who needs challenges," Dykstra said. "I have to have 'em. I have to have competition. And that's something that's a challenge. People don't understand that about me.
"I was going to be a millionaire no matter what, even if I wasn't a baseball player. I could've been a I could've been a who knows, a carpenter. Whatever I was, I would've found a way."
He knows that because he knows himself. "People who have a plan and prepare themselves are the people that are going to be successful in the long run," Dykstra said. "And I'm not afraid to say that's one of my strengths."
It applies on the field. Dykstra explains how he gets ready for each game, plots his attack based on the pitcher, the situation, the past. "It's not just grabbing a bat, grabbing a glove and teeing it up," Dykstra said. "Well, it is for the people who hit .250."
It applies to other facets of his life. He is one of the game's elite players and will make more money than he could ever need, but he is not slowing down. "Always on the go, dude," he says. There's a master plan to follow. There's more money to be made.
"You've got to have some ammo if you're going to play with the big boys," Dykstra said. "I've got some ammo. Now I can go to work."
Last month, he opened the faucets at Lenny Dykstra's Car Wash in Corona Hills, Calif., near Anaheim. It is stocked with a half-million dollars' worth of baseball memorabilia and features attendants in baseball-style uniforms and a wash-and-wax package called the home run for $14.99. Dykstra calls it the "Taj Mahal of car washes."
"I'm not afraid to say it's the best car wash in the world," he said.
The business is doing well. There is talk of franchising. "It's a printing plant," Dykstra said. But he is not surprised. He had been refining the idea for years and spent two years seeking the correct location.
His brother, Kevin, is the general manager. His mother, Marilyn, and his father, Dennis, help out at times. The car wash, Dykstra said, is for his family to run, "instead of just giving them money."
It is also just the first piece of Dykstra's domain. "It's a very small part of where I want to go, where I want to be," he said.
He has the typical athlete gigs, a series of endorsements with major sports-related companies such as Starter (national baseball spokesman), Pony, Regent and Franklin. He is doing a TV commercial, magazine ads and a billboard.
But he has other deals in the works. He may open two No Fear sports apparel stores. There is a joint promotion involving Coca-Cola and some restaurant chains. An under-wraps project involving a European-style debit card will, he says, "blow the roof off everything."
Dykstra is on his business game. Phillies coach John Vukovich walks by and mentions he's planning to have lunch at Boston Chicken. Dykstra fires back that the chain is buying 80 Philadelphia-area restaurants.
"The bottom line is when you're hot, you're hot," Dykstra said. "I would be cheating myself and my family if I didn't take advantage of my name in Philadelphia right now."
He likes the attention and he likes the money. But what he really seems to enjoy is the action.
"Even though I don't have a big degree from some fancy school, it's a good feeling to walk into an office with a bunch of guys wearing suits and take charge of the meeting," Dykstra said.
"I can do that. I've done that. I guess that comes from confidence. That's what it is. It's kind of like the way I play."