The Many Legends of Matt LeCroy
This content was originally found in Issue No. 1 of this year’s Senators Program
During his playing career Matt LeCroy was known as the funny guy, the comedian, in most clubhouses. His teammates on the Twins kept on ongoing “blooper” reel of his antics and for good reason. But LeCroy was more than a guy who could mash some home runs and keep the locker room laughing. He was a talented athlete who earned All-State honors in high school in both football and baseball as he played on the biggest stages at the College World Series, MLB playoffs, and the Summer Olympics during his career.
What follows are just a few of the hilarious, surprising, and meaningful stories that have endured over the years as LeCroy’s story has been written.
THE SLUMP BUSTER
A patented go to move for LeCroy when his team badly needs a win is breaking out a pre-game meal consisting of a banana and mayonnaise sandwich.
You read that right. A banana and mayo sandwich.
It’s a meal LeCroy has eaten his whole life growing up in South Carolina. “I remember my grandmother making me a banana and mayo sandwich. It’s awesome. A lot of people won’t even try it because they think it’s gross but once you try it, you’ll really, really like it,” LeCroy said before rethinking that statement. “But my wife doesn’t eat it either, so it just might be me who likes it.”
In his first season managing at Hagerstown in 2009, LeCroy made the concoction when his Suns needed a win or to snap a losing streak. He carried the superstition with him to Potomac, Harrisburg, to the major leagues in D.C., and back again to Harrisburg.
“I always ate ’em and everybody made fun of them,” said LeCroy. “It’s just kinda my go-to when we needed a win. I just started doing it, and it took off.”
WHERE DO YOU FIND THAT IN THE GROCERY STORE?
But that isn’t the end of odd delicacies that LeCroy enjoys eating.
“Also big in the South is something I used to eat before the games a lot…potted meat. It’s like a Spam-type that comes in small cans and you eat with saltine crackers. It’s got probably every part of the meat and body that you can possibly put in this little can.”
LeCroy is not far off. An internet search reveals the primary ingredients are mechanically separated chicken, beef tripe, beef hearts, pork skin, and seasoning (presumably to mask the taste).
“One Spring Training I took a bunch of potted meat cans and they put new labels on for it reliever Eddie Guardado that called it roadkill,” he recounted. “It was pretty neat because he really thought he was eating some roadkill.”
A DIFFERENT KIND OF BASELINE
Look at Matt LeCroy’s physique and you can imagine him gravitating pretty easily to football or baseball. But one sport you may struggle to picture him participating in, let alone being successful at, is tennis.
LeCroy grew up in Belton, a small town in the northwest corner of the state with a population barely above 4,000 residents. But one of the town’s claims to fame is it is the location for the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame along with a vibrant community of players.
“All my friends played tennis, so I started playing it,” LeCroy said. “I borrowed a racket and got pretty good at it.”
He got so good in fact that when LeCroy was still in middle school, he played on his high school’s varsity tennis team. But baseball eventually became a priority in the spring scholastic sports schedule and LeCroy had to hang up his tennis racket and his head sweatband (maybe not, but it’s still fun picturing it).
During his junior year of high school at Belton-Honea Path, the tennis coach Bill Kimpton put LeCroy on the roster and convinced him to play for the team once the baseball season was over. It was a plan that would reap rewards for LeCroy as he contributed to the team and even wrote his name in the record books.
“After baseball was over, I went over to play for the tennis team and ended up winning the state championship.”
REPPING THE RED, WHITE, AND BLUE
In 1996, LeCroy was selected to represent the United States as a member of the Olympic baseball squad as the Games were hosted in Atlanta, a short drive from his hometown in South Carolina and Clemson University.
“That’s one of my most memorable moments as an amateur. Getting to play in front of 55,000 people in Atlanta and play close to home, it was just an awesome experience for the teammates and friendships I have from that summer while playing for our country,” he said.
Although their opening game of the eight-team round-robin tournament came a few short hours after the Opening Ceremonies had finished, it was a spectacle the team wasn’t going to miss being a part of.
“What’s funny about that is I have the video of me walking down in the Opening Ceremonies and I was walking besides Carl Lewis,” LeCroy joked. “So there you have one of the fastest guys in the world with one of the slowest.”
“You really can’t describe that feeling when you go on the field and everybody is chanting U-S-A and you’re playing for something pretty special.” LeCroy fondly remembers a rain delay during one of their qualifier games where the crowd remained sitting there in the rain. When they saw him and a few other players milling around in the dugout checking the conditions, the crowd responded. “As soon as they saw our jerseys they started chanting U-S-A, so I went running back in and got everyone to come back out and people were just going crazy,” he said. “To me that was the icing on the cake.”
THE SLUMP BUSTER, PART TWO
As his Minnesota Twins team was mired in a rut during the 2004 season, LeCroy saw an opportunity to cut the tension and maybe change their luck. “We had been struggling for about two weeks. I was just trying to pick everyone up,” he said.
After watching a beetle walk across the clubhouse, LeCroy asked his teammates how much they’d pay him to eat the insect. The first offer came from All-Star pitcher Brad Radke for a lowball amount of $100. But LeCroy, acting as his own auctioneer, prodded his teammates to get the bids up. “I’ve got a kid to feed,” he told them.
The pot reached $550 and LeCroy accepted the challenge including the stipulation that the bug had to be alive and moving as he put it in his mouth. As reliever Juan Rincon got out the video camera to film the events, LeCroy danced around the middle of the room like a boxer psyching himself up for a big bout.
With the beetle’s legs squirming, LeCroy inserted it into his mouth and munched down on the poor victim. After swallowing it, he opened his mouth wide and stuck out his tongue to prove the deed. The verdict? “Salty,” he said.
But whatever the motivation, it seemed to help as the Twins got back to their winning ways on their way to an American League Central title. “Sure enough, we won about seven in a row after that,” LeCroy said.
Considering he enjoys banana-and-mayo sandwiches and potted meat, it’s no wonder the beetle didn’t really gross him out.
Accolades and Achievements
- 1st round draft pick (50th overall) by the Minnesota Twins in 1997
- In 476 Major League games, he batted .260 with 60 home runs and 218 runs batted in
- Member of the 1996 United States Olympic baseball team that won a bronze medal in Atlanta
- Ranks in the top ten in Major League history for the most plate appearances by a position player without a stolen base in his career
- Slugged his first career home run off the Royals’ Brad Rigby on April 9, 2000
- Named ACC Rookie of the Year in 1995 behind a slash line of .333/.412/.580 with 15 homers and 72 runs batted in during his freshman season at Clemson University
- In the top of the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 19, 2004, LeCroy hit the Twins’ first pinch-hit grand glam in over seven years to give Minnesota a 6-5 victory
- The Senators’ all-time winningest manager in modern franchise history with 217 victories
The Wit and Wisdom of Matt LeCroy
…on the designated hitter: “I’m a big fan of the DH. I have five kids at home. If it wasn’t for the DH they may not be eating right now.”
…on managing in the minor leagues: “There’s no greater feeling than telling a kid they’re going to the majors and there’s no worse feeling than telling them they’re not.”
…on his transition to coaching: “When I came into this thing, the job I wanted was to be in the big leagues. Now I realize it’s about these kids. It was a total change of heart. It’s about preparing these kids and getting them to the big leagues.”
…on succeeding in Harrisburg: “This is a great place with a rich baseball tradition in winning. I just wish I could bring them a championship back.”
…on a favorite off-season activity: “I tan all winter.”