‘Hit one for me’
Tampa's Schrader honors late grandmother at regionals
CARY, N.C. -- Kids call their grandmothers by a lot of different names.
None of those ever seemed to quite fit for Tampa infielder Jake Schrader. Instead, he called Imogene Jones, his maternal grandmother, “Mama Gene.” He brightened talking about it, a good memory coming back during what has been an emotional past couple of weeks for the family.
Jones, who was 80, passed away May 13 after a series of illnesses the past couple of years. Six days later, and one day before her funeral in San Antonio, Fla., Schrader tagged a pair of home runs during the course of two games against West Florida in the NCAA South Regional.
A 20-7 victory in the second game gave the Spartans the title, paving the way to the Division II championship round.
“It was tough,” said Schrader, who had six RBIs in the two games. “She used to always say, ‘Hit one for me.’ It was an indescribable feeling.”
A lot of kids live far removed from their grandparents, possibly seeing each other once or twice a year around the holidays. Not Schrader and Mama Gene. She was maybe five minutes down the road in San Antonio -- called “San Ann” by locals.
So it was virtually every day that they saw one another -- Mama Gene was a tremendous part of his life for as long as he could remember. Before she fell ill those last couple of years, she was at every conceivable ballgame, just the way all good grandmothers do.
You can just picture Jones getting ready for a game, if for no other reason than the very same thing happens before every ballgame at every ballpark in the country.
She might have had a folding chair that had to be located just right, so she could have a proper view of what Schrader was doing. She might have sat in the stands. The point is, she was there as much as possible.
There also are those family members who involve themselves in the game at every opportunity. They yell at the umpires, yell at the other players and shout encouragement -- if that’s what you want to call it -- at their kids on the field.
That was not Mama Gene.
“She was more the quiet type,” Schrader said. “She cheered and all that, but she wasn’t the instruction type.”
What about umpires? She ever yell at them?
“Not that I ever heard,” Schrader added with a chuckle. “She might have in the stands a little bit, but I never heard it if she did.”
This is who Imogene Jones truly was, the heart that she had.
“She loved to help people. That was her thing,” Schrader said. “It didn’t matter who they were or how old they were. If they needed help, she was the person in town to go to. She would do anything -- from buying people food and clothes, to letting people stay at their house.”
It wasn’t until her funeral that Schrader learned of one of his grandmother’s extraordinary examples of generosity in particular.
“Back when my mom was growing up, a young boy crashed his motorcycle going through our town,” Schrader said. “He wasn’t from here and had nowhere to go. She actually let him move into their house for a while until he got better.”
Schrader then added one more thought.
“She was very giving and loving,” he concluded, and left it at that. Those are the memories Schrader will take with him, and that’s as it should be.
Rest in peace, Mama Gene. Rest in peace.