The Nationals traded for Jose Lobaton because of how he frames pitches, blocks balls in the dirt and works with pitchers. They coveted his switch-hitting ability and his well-regarded clubhouse demeanor. They may have cared less about one detail that endeared him to Tampa Bay fans: He really likes ice cream.
From both teammates and fans, Lobaton earned the nickname Ice Cream Man. It started in 2012, shortly after he became the Rays’ everyday catcher after an injury. We will let Lobaton take the story from here, because he tells it so well.
“I like ice cream,” Lobaton said. “Not in the way I love it, I’m going to get ice cream every day. But I really like it. [Before a game], I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to get ice cream.’ Luke Scott saw me and said, ‘I want you to stay in baseball. If you want to stay in baseball, you can’t get ice cream every day.’ I was like, ‘Why not?’ He said, ‘That’s not good for you. You’re going to get fat.’ I was like, ‘That’s true.’
“In two hours, I was getting another ice cream. After that, [Scott] put in a lot of [signs]: ‘Lobaton can’t be here.’ ‘Lobaton is not allowed to get ice cream.’ He said, ‘I’m going to help you.’ After, it was no ice cream for me. And then we’re playing in Baltimore. He said, ‘This is a good park to hit your first homer.’ I had no homers in the big leagues at that moment. I’m like, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’
“In the second or third at-bat, I hit a homer. Before that at-bat, he said, ‘If you hit a homer, you’re going to get free ice cream.’ I was like, ‘Okay, whatever you say.’ I hit the homer. When I was sitting in the dugout, he came up the tunnel and gave me the ice cream. I hit another homer, they gave me ice cream.
“Last year, I kept hitting homers, and they gave me ice cream. In one series, I hit a triple and a homer. After the last game – the homer – we were ready to fly somewhere. On the plane, it was Joe Maddon. He came and gave me a four-gallon ice cream. After that everybody was calling me the Ice Cream Man.”
If he’s pulling that out during his first interview as a National, the next four years are going to be a golden era of backup catcher quotes.
For the record, Lobaton was also asked his favorite ice cream. “Coconut,” he said.