July 1, 2022

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Your favorite Mets player's favorite player? Travis Jankowski

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NEW YORK — It was meant to be an innocuous comment, a self-deprecating one, a throwaway quip. Earlier this month, when asked about his contributions off the bench for the Mets, reserve outfielder Travis Jankowski responded with a laugh: “No one’s going to be buying my jersey. But I still think there’s a big part of what I bring to the table that is very important and very needed to winning teams.”

Less than two weeks later, Jankowski was sitting in a typical pre-series hitters’ meeting when infielder Eduardo Escobar opened a box and began distributing No. 16 T-shirt jerseys with Jankowski’s name on them. Mets players wore them in the clubhouse on Saturday and out to the field to stretch.

“This team, dude,” Jankowski said, shaking his head. “I’ve never been a part of a team where the people in this clubhouse genuinely care about the person. It’s a really cool vibe in here.”

Saturday was a notable day in all respects for Jankowski, who drew his 10th start of the season in a game against the Mariners. Manager Buck Showalter has done his best to keep Jankowski fresh, knowing it would only take one injury for him to become a starter — much as he did when both Mark Canha and Brandon Nimmo tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this season. Even when Jankowski hasn’t started, he has been impactful as a frequent pinch-runner and defensive replacement. When the Mets had a roster crunch at the start of May, team officials never seriously considered cutting Jankowski, who had already proven his value.

Overall, Jankowski entered Saturday batting .321 with nine runs scored despite only 32 plate appearances.

“I didn’t say what I said about the jersey to throw a pity party for myself,” Jankowski said. “It was just kind of to let people know my role on the team, and how I understand my role and I’m happy in my role. But the team ran with it, and it’s awesome. It’s cool to see Max Scherzer, Francisco Lindor and everybody in this clubhouse wearing my jersey. It’s a special feeling.”

Showalter described it as “more than just a T-shirt,” echoing Jankowski’s comments about team camaraderie and the importance of his role. Jankowski noted also that fans keep asking him about acquiring No. 16 jerseys of their own. They may soon become more common around Citi Field; though he’s not typically available in the team store at the stadium, you can customize a Jankowski jersey or shirsey at the Mets’ online shop.

“I guess I underestimated the Mets fans, because I’ve gotten more messages on Twitter and Instagram than I can handle,” said Jankowski, a veteran of the Padres, Reds and Phillies. “It’s cool, man. I’ve never played for a fanbase like this. It’s cool that they pick something up and they run with it. It’s cool that they come out and show support even for the bench mob.”

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