Tyler Duffey admitted it — he has worn another man’s underwear.
But the circumstances, to the Twins reliever, made it completely acceptable. It was a pair of long johns, on a chilly day, while playing in Rochester, N.Y., and he grabbed them from the team’s lost and found.
Yes, even in professional baseball, where players’ lockers sometimes overflow with team apparel, there is a lost-and-found locker. It’s rarely utilized, players said, but some men with seemingly endless supplies of clothing would prefer something not go to waste.
So Duffey pilfered the long johns.
“I’d wear another layer in between,” he explained. “And that was in minor leagues.”
Fellow reliever Buddy Boshers, a locker neighbor, groaned in disgust.
“Hey, I don’t care,” Duffey said. “It was cold in Rochester. They were Jose Pinto’s. I think. I’m pretty sure.”
“And you stole them,” Boshers said.
Duffey emphasized that he did not steal the long johns. But he did not return them.
“He didn’t want them,” Duffey said. “They were in the lost and found, so they became mine.”
Most poaching of teammates’ clothing occurs at the end of seasons, when it’s clear something that has gone into the “abyss” for six months will not return to its owner.
“It’s a never-ending pile of clean laundry, and toward the end of the year you can sift through and see what you want out of it,” Duffey said. “I’m notorious.”
Duffey once took home a pullover. He planned to gift it but realized it had been worn for much of the season. It was “trash,” he determined.
Backup catcher Chris Gimenez scanned the lost and found recently, hoping to find his promotional “K Cancer” shirt. He figured it was there because he had written his No. 38 in a corner of the shirt, not on the collar, and this was where equipment managers leave clothing where once inked-on numbers have washed off.
Gimenez thumbed through hangers to look for his XL shirt. Shoes filled the floor space below the locker. Pairs of sliding shorts rested on a wall-mounted hook. The catcher shared a rule.
“I’m definitely not going dumpster diving for somebody’s underwear,” Gimenez said. “A shirt? All right, I can deal with that.”
He has taken sliding shorts from a lost and found once during his career, but they were his size and brand, so he “felt like it was a pretty educated guess” they originally were his.
Twins clubhouse staffer Frank Hanzlik said the clothes most prone to ending up lost are ones that aren’t team-issued.
“Usually it’s found,” Brian Dozier said. “But sometimes we’ve got to go to another level.”
That means another club shipping even a single item to the Twins if a player leaves something on the road. Hanzlik compared it to leaving a phone charger at a hotel. You could buy a new one, but you want yours.
When you play as often as big leaguers do, you develop comforts and superstitions. Robbie Grossman wears a discontinued model of wristband he’s careful not to lose. For road trips, Byron Buxton packs two of “pretty much everything” except warmup shoes and shower shoes, which he said he never forgets.
“When we go on the road, everybody triple checks everything,” the center fielder said.
Form-fitting base layers can become increasingly comfortable with each wear and wash — and therefore more precious. And then there’s superstition.
Gimenez said when he played for the Seattle Mariners, a teammate would number each of his athletic supporters, a practice Gimenez adopted. The player hit well in jock No. 16, which he once left in California, Gimenez said. The opposing club mailed it to the Mariners.
Hanzlik said these instances are rare but that all players receive such treatment if they request it. Boshers believes it depends on how valuable a player is to the team.
Duffey asked a different question: “How lucky is that jock?”
Multiple players in the Twins clubhouse agreed Miguel Sano is the most prone to losing items. The 24-year-old, whose double locker overflows next to the lost and found, offered a simple explanation.
“I have a lot of stuff,” he said. “I have a lot of cleats. A lot of shirts. Sometimes, when I use, I don’t put my number. This is because they got lost and found.”
Sano is not a superstitious man. He said he likes to wear different shirts throughout the week.
Asked whether he’s ever taken another teammate’s clothing, he looked at the dugout floor and admitted he had, as a practical joke. But there is a line he will not cross:
“I would never use underwear from somebody.”