Minutes after Miami’s 5-0 victory last Wednesday against the Philadelphia Phillies, Marlins starter Tom Koehler’s jersey hung from his locker.
So did a blue undefeated snapback hat embroidered with BOSS and five stars above the bill.
Though it costs just $24.99 at Urban Outfitters, the cap signifies more to a Marlins club intent on exuding good chemistry and morale.
As spring training came to a close in March, backup catcher Jeff Mathis walked around a Jupiter, Fla., mall and stumbled upon it.
"I was just looking around in there. I like their T-shirts and stuff and I don’t even know — I looked over and saw it and it just came to mind as something to keep the locker room light," Mathis said. "Just keep it fun, recognize the guys who showed out in a pretty neat way."
The Boss hat makes the rounds when a guy steps up — whether at the plate, on the mound or on the field — to help the club win. Koehler tossed six scoreless innings to gain custody of the headwear.
It began Opening Night when Mathis jokingly gave it to newcomer Casey McGehee following his 2 for 4 four-RBI performance in a 10-1 win over the Colorado Rockies.
"It got to be something where you made it a fun thing messing with guys," McGehee said. "It’s a neat way as a group to let somebody know they had a nice game. Obviously most of the time they know they did, but it’s a way to recognize somebody that stepped up. It’s not always the obvious ones."
Last week, utility player Ed Lucas found the hat in his locker after recording his first walk-off hit against the Phillies. It marked the seventh walk-off win of the season for the Marlins.
What’s beautiful about the hat’s message is that Lucas would love nothing more than to pass it on the next night to a teammate who came through in a victory.
Though the chosen recipient is usually an obvious one, Lucas said the catcher’s union of Mathis and Jarrod Saltalamacchia bestows the accolade.
"It’s an honor that I have been yearning for for a long time," Lucas said. "It’s just one of those clubhouse things that good teams with good chemistry do as opposed to everyone taking a shower and going home."
There are, however, times when the previous owner needs to be reminded of passing along the hat to the next clutch performer.
When mentioning this, Mathis looked across the other side of the clubhouse, as if to indicate a certain eccentric Marlins right-handed starter with one of baseball’s lowest ERAs.
McGehee said he had never been part of a club that did this. Last season in Japan, however, a podium would be brought onto the field where a "hero interview" would be conducted with two guys — usually the pitcher and hitter of the game. It was similar to the National Hockey League’s three stars of the game.
Manager Mike Redmond didn’t even know the boss hat existed until told of it. His clubs didn’t have a rally hat during his big-league career, but sometimes a game ball would be passed around after big hits.
"You have that competition of who wants to get the game ball," Redmond said. "It’s not a big deal but it is for the guys. ‘I’m getting the game ball tonight.’ Whatever motivates these guys. That’s the beauty of baseball. You play so many games you’ve got to keep reinventing things and keep it fresh. Just something fun for those guys to think about."
Since Opening Night, McGehee has had possession of the cap most. When the club struggles, like it did for most of June, it sits on a table near the clubhouse speaker hoping for a new home.
"It hasn’t traveled with us on the road yet," Mathis said. "I’m thinking it might pretty soon. It got lost for a little bit. It was found and now we’re back on track."