July 22, 2021 | 3:02am
Several hours before Ryan LaMarre would be called upon, he was already prepared for whatever would be asked of him. It was more than 90 minutes before first pitch, and the backup outfielder was ready, dressed and in game mode.
“[Brett Gardner] was making fun of me because I had my jersey on at 5:30 [p.m.] today,” LaMarre recalled.
Six hours later, the journeyman with 235 career major league at-bats would finally get his chance, and he made the most of it.
LaMarre’s single over the head of right fielder Brad Miller scored Gary Sanchez with the game-winning run in the Yankees’ wild 6-5, 10-inning victory over the Phillies in The Bronx.
“Not many people obviously get a chance to wear the uniform, let alone get a chance to come through and get a walk-off hit,” he said. “To have moments like these you just try to soak them in and they keep you going honestly. … Any day up here is a good day.”
LaMarre’s hit sent the Yankees to a fourth straight victory entering a monster seven-game road trip against the Red Sox and Rays, and gave the 32-year-old a memory he won’t soon forget.
He was swarmed by his giddy teammates, who exuberantly ripped apart his jersey. He tried to put it back on for his on-field interview. But that didn’t work.
“There were no buttons to be found,” LaMarre said after notching the second walk-off hit of his career. “I don’t know how they fix those or if they just get you a new one. I don’t think that jersey’s coming back.”
The well-traveled LaMarre, with more than 3,000 minor league at-bats across 11 different seasons riding buses, is with his sixth MLB team — having had brief stints with the Reds, Red Sox, A’s, Twins and White Sox. He’s never had more than 99 at-bats in a single major league season and has appeared in just 125 big league games.
So far, he’s making the most of his chance with the Yankees. On Sunday, he got the start and hit his fifth career home run to clinch a series victory over the Red Sox. Wednesday, he helped the Yankees keep the positive vibes going.
He is one of several unexpected contributors who have helped the Yankees win nine of their past 12 games — a list that includes outfield prospect Estevan Florial, veteran Greg Allen, catcher Rob Brantly and infielder Chris Gittens.
At full strength, the Yankees have struggled to find consistency. Without many key pieces, they have somehow begun to play better, aided by a number of call-ups from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“The RailBirds are here and we’re having fun,” LaMarre said.