Travis Jankowski wasn’t trying to garner any sympathy a week and a half ago when he made a comment, while talking about embracing his role off the bench, that “no one is going to be buying my jersey.”
But his Mets teammates took note, and by late Friday night after a loss to the Mariners at Citi Field, there were white Jankowski shirseys draped over every chair in the clubhouse. On Saturday afternoon, most players were wearing them as they got ready for another game.
“I didn’t mean it to be a pity party, like no one’s wearing my jersey,” Jankowski, the Mets’ speedy outfielder, said Saturday before starting in the left field. “It was more like, I understand my role and I’m happy to be in this role. But it speaks volumes to the clubhouse. I’ve never been a part of a group of guys like this in the clubhouse where they genuinely care about each person and know that each role is important to the team. It’s awesome. ”
Manager Buck Showalter told Jankowski on Friday afternoon that he had a surprise waiting for him in the pregame advance meeting. It came when third baseman Eduardo Escobar opened a box and pulled the T-shirts out, with Jankowski’s name and No. 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. … Believe me, he’s got that inner fire. He’d love to have something break and be an everyday player again and could be and might have to be. But I think people rally around [him]. It creates good karma in the clubhouse. ”
Entering Saturday, the 30-year-old Jankowski had appeared in 22 games (13 off the bench) while hitting .321 with three steals after winning a job out of spring training. The Stony Brook product’s initial jersey comments came on a day when he got a spot start during a doubleheader and served as a spark plug in the Mets’ win.
Since then, Jankowski said he has also gotten plenty of messages from fans via social media to say they were buying his jersey.
“It’s been unbelievable,” he said. “I feel bad, I guess I underestimated the Mets’ fanbase.”
On Joey Cora’s 57th birthday, Showalter sang the praises of his third base coach, talking about his preparation and how 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 in the process of interviewing his brother.
“I asked him, ‘If he’s so good, why don’t you have him?’ ”Showalter said. “He said, ‘We’d kill each other.’ ”