Gene Lamont on jersey snafu: “First time I’ve hit leadoff”
Jim Schmakel has spent nearly four decades as Tigers clubhouse manager. He has had to drive managers, players, pets, and plenty of other items in Spring Training.
On Saturday, when Rajai Davis arrived at Steinbrenner Field and realized his jersey wasn’t in his bag, Schmakel had to make an urgent delivery. But even he couldn’t rescue Davis by game time.
“It’s not the first time a player forgot his jersey,” Schmakel said. “Maybe the first time it was delayed due to traffic.”
So up went Davis, leading off the Tigers’ game against the Yankees, wearing the jersey off bench coach Gene Lamont’s back. Lamont, who served as the manager for the split-squad game with Brad Ausmus back in Lakeland, wore a windbreaker.
“He had some pants, but he didn’t have any shirt,” Lamont said. “I thought he’d wear a minor-leaguer’s jersey but I don’t know. Maybe mine fit better.”
It was a little baggy, as the video shows.
Schmakel had the jersey at the ballpark by the second inning, but the sight of Davis wearing a loose-fitting jersey with his coach’s number was indelible.
“If he hit a home run,” Lamont said, “he’d probably want my number.”
Traffic, Schmakel said, was the overriding factor. It’s usually a short trip from Lakeland to Tampa, which is why the Tigers hit as a team at Joker Marchant Stadium before leaving for Steinbrenner field. A traffic jam meant the team arrived even later.
Once Davis opened his bag, his jersey wasn’t there. The message went out around 12:30 p.m. to Schmakel, who took it himself rather than trust of his younger assistants.
“I know how to get there. I know the side streets,” Schmakel said.