Travis Jankowski wasn’t trying to drum up sympathy a week and a half ago when he made a comment, while talking about embracing his role on the bench, that “nobody’s going to buy my shirt.”
But his Mets teammates took notice, and Friday night after a loss to the Mariners at Citi Field, there were white Jankowski shirseys draped over every chair in the clubhouse. Saturday afternoon most of the players wore them as they prepared for another game.
“I didn’t want it to be a shame party, like no one was wearing my jersey,” Jankowski, the Mets’ speedy outfielder, said Saturday before starting in left field. “It was more like, I understand my role and I’m happy to be in that role. But that says a lot about the clubhouse. I’ve never been part of a group of guys like this in the clubhouse where they really care about each person and know that each role is important for the team. It’s great.
Manager Buck Showalter told Jankowski on Friday afternoon that he had a surprise waiting for him at the pre-game pre-game meeting. It happened when third baseman Eduardo Escobar opened a box and pulled out the t-shirts, with Jankowski’s name and number 16 on the back.
“I think my face was as red as a tomato,” Jankowski said with a laugh.
For Showalter, it was “more than just a t-shirt”.
“I think it’s just the respect they have for him,” Showalter said. “He’s just a humble guy. … Trust me, he’s got that inner fire. He’d love to have something broken and be an everyday player again and could be and should be. But I think people gather [him]. This creates good karma in the clubhouse.
Coming on Saturday, the 30-year-old Jankowski had played 22 games (13 off the bench) while hitting .321 with three interceptions after getting a job in spring training. The first comments about the Stony Brook product’s jersey came a day when he got a start in a doubleheader and served as the spark plug in the Mets’ victory.
Since then, Jankowski said he has also received many messages from fans via social media to say they are buying his shirt.
“It’s been amazing,” he said. “I feel bad, I guess I underestimated the Mets fan base.”
On Joey Cora’s 57th birthday, Showalter sang the praises of his third base coach, talking about his preparation and how the players want to do well for him. He also described a conversation with Red Sox manager Alex Cora during the offseason when the Mets were interviewing his brother.
“I asked him, ‘If it’s so good, why don’t you have it?’ “said Showalter. “He said, ‘We would kill each other.’ ”