Being a Detroit Tigers Bat Boy Was Every Kid’s Dream

The sight of a bat boy high fiving a major leaguer at home plate following a four bagger has for generations made young fans at the ballpark as green as the outfield grass.

With that in mind, a new fictional book by sports writer Mike Lupica called The Bat Boy (Philomel Publishing) has just been released. The book is set in metro Detroit and follows a summer in the life of 14-year-old who lives in Bloomfield Hills with his mother, a producer and news writer at WWJ-AM (950).

Dennis Clotworthy, Tiger Bat Boy 1974 and 1975.

A few years ago I wrote a Detroit Free Press article on bat boys and followed them around in the clubhouse before and after the game.

All though the bat boy’s love their jobs, I found there is a lot of hard work involved with the position because they have so many duties in the clubhouse before and after ballgames..

“It’s a great summer job and you’re around a professional environment that you can’t beat, but the bottom line is, it’s a job,” long time Tiger clubhouse manager Jim Schmakel, told me. “When you don’t feel good and you have to work a 12 hour day for a night game followed by a day game, all of sudden the shine can come off the wheel real quick. These guys have to really like it because they put a lot of hours in.”

One former Tiger really stepped up to the plate for the bat boys.

Years ago ’84 World Champion Dave Bergman started the Bat Boy Scholarship Fund where each year grants are awarded to help pay for the costs of a college education.

Towards the end of his 17 year major league career, Bergman decided he wanted to do something to “help the kids in the clubhouse.” More than $100,000, has been awarded, half of which has gone to Tiger bat boys and the balance to local high schools and colleges.

Bergman, a partner and senior portfolio manager with Sigma Investment Counselors in Southfield, always appreciated the important role of the clubhouse boys.

“They truly do help in developing the chemistry in the locker room,” says Bergman. “Athletes have a tendency to fall into routines when they go to the ballpark because everything is on the clock. Without the infrastructure that ‘Schmakes” has put together it would be utter chaos. You always know your stuff is there, it’s clean, and ready to go. There’s nothing a bat boy won’t do for a player and they do a magnificent job.”

In my article I also interviewed former Tiger bat boy Dennis Clotworthy who was Al Kaline’s last bat boy.

Raised in Corktown across the street from Detroit Athletic Co., Dennis at age 14 started in 1972 as a visitor’s clubhouse attendant before becoming the visitor’s bat boy in 1973. In 1974 and ’75 he was the Tiger’s bat boy. Dennis now lives in Macomb and is in printing sales. Here is an excerpt of the interview I did with Dennis:

How did you get hired as a bat boy?

“I was a stadium rat from across the street and a huge baseball fan. One day I asked clubhouse manager Jack Hand if I could help unload the trucks that brought in the visiting team’s equipment. I did it for free several times and was thrilled to just get into the lockerroom. Finally he said, ‘hey kid would you like to work here?’ I was in the right place at the right time.”

What is your favorite memory from that first season as a clubhouse attendant?

“In the ’72 playoffs against Oakland, Reggie Jackson tore his hamstring and they asked me to help the trainer assist him up the stairs to the lockerroom. I just remember him lying on the trainer’s table biting a towel and squeezing my hand. I thought he was going to rip my hand off he was so strong.”

What are your fondest memories of being Al Kaline’s last bat boy?

“ A few days before his last game he was honored for his 3,000th hit, and I rolled out a wheelbarrow with three heavy canvas bags. At the ceremony I dumped the bags into the wheelbarrow and out poured 3,000 silver dollars for him. It was a highlight for me to participate because Kaline and Gordie Howe were my heroes growing up. At the end of his last game, I was cleaning out the dugout, and Kaline sat on the bench by himself, staring out at the field and taking it all in. You could tell he just wanted to be alone.”

Were you in the clubhouse when Norm Cash was released?

“Yes. He asked me to clean out his locker while he said goodbye to his teammates. Norm was everybody’s favorite in the locker room because he always had a smile and joke. I walked out of the stadium with him and carried his equipment bag to a taxi cab. He had watery eyes and I wished him good luck. He thanked me for being a friend and a great bat boy and I watched him leave. It was very sad.”

What was your favorite part of being a bat boy?

“Just being on the Tiger Stadium field was great but I think the best part took place in the clubhouse with the friendships I made and the constant joking around. It was such a great atmosphere, especially after a victory. I was paid only $12 dollars a game and worked often from 11 AM until 1 AM the next day, but I’ll admit something now. I would have done it for nothing.”

6 replies on “Being a Detroit Tigers Bat Boy Was Every Kid’s Dream

  • Collin Horner

    Thank you so much for this article. I am going to be a bat boy next year for the Texas Rangers and from this article, I have really seen what it is going to be like.

  • Dennis

    Yes I do. I began working with him in 1972 in the visitors clubhouse. Please email me as itm would be great to contact him and say hello.

  • hussien chehab

    I would like to know if u can email me a nunber i can call because i want to become a bat boy for the 2013 tiger season please

  • Jim

    Is there any written history about the detroit bat boys of the 1950s ? I was one of those bat boys for the visiting New York Yankees; Mickey Mantle often had me sit and play cards with him while he waited for the game to start !!!! I’d be amazed to see any pics or info regarding Detroit Bat Boys of the 50′ ; many thanks

  • mike o'donnell

    Nice website. my son is a current visiting team batboy/clubhouse attendant. what a great experience. he was stoked when Mike Trout told him he was “doing a great job Dude” I would have been thrilled to do this job back in the day. I would have been a couple of years older than Dennis , the kid in the article. I will absolutely show my son this web site.

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