On Sept. 5, 2020, Jimmy Lake will step onto the field at Husky Stadium as the head coach of the Washington Huskies, preparing his team to face Big Ten power Michigan.That position will be a far cry from where he was 20 years ago: making his way out of the
On Sept. 5, 2020, Jimmy Lake will step onto the field at Husky Stadium as the head coach of the Washington Huskies, preparing his team to face Big Ten power Michigan.
That position will be a far cry from where he was 20 years ago: making his way out of the Spokane dugout prior to a Class A Short Season Indians game ... dressed as Ricardo Tubbs from "Miami Vice."
It seems Minor League Baseball was as wacky then as it is now. That summer, Lake and Otto Klein [now Spokane's senior vice president] went along for the ride.
"We were all young at that time and we were having a 'Miami Vice' night at the ballpark," Klein said. "It was a big deal here and he and I dressed up as Crockett and Tubbs and went on the field, so we kind of got these outfits and we went out onto the field. We had the public address announcer introduce us at the beginning of the game and we came out of the dugout."
At this point, you might ask, "Why was a man destined to be the head coach of a nationally known collegiate football program appearing at a Minor League game dressed as a character from a 1980s television show?" Well, Lake, who graduated from Eastern Washington University in 1999 after playing four years there at strong safety, was trying out the business side of sports as a ticket salesman.
As with his coaching career to come, he excelled at getting fans into the stands.
"He started with us in January and then went to about August," Klein recalled. "He was a pretty good salesman. In fact, we pulled some numbers. He went on 60 or 70 sales calls and sold 57 season tickets and a couple hundred mini-season tickets. It was his first introduction into professional sports and into the sales side in a front office, and that's what made it fun."
That fun included being part of in-game festivities such as the Crockett and Tubbs stunt. In fact, they were the only ones in on the joke.
"No one knew," Klein said. "It was just a spoof and fun. I don't remember if we threw the first pitch or what we did, but we were trying to just have one of those classic Minor League spoofs. He was game for anything and is a genuinely nice guy."
Of course, it didn't last. When his alma mater came calling in August of that summer with a spot as a defensive backs coach, Lake jumped at the opportunity. Yet he didn't leave the knowledge he had gained in sales behind, taking it onto the recruiting trail.
"I think there is a lot of correlation as far as presentation and the way you speak and the way you hold yourself and breaking down barriers, whether it's with a client or with a family," Klein said. "It certainly didn't hurt."
Although they haven't stayed close, Klein has followed the rise of Lake's coaching career. The trek has taken him to Washington and Montana State, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions in the NFL, Boise State and back to the Huskies in 2014. With the sudden retirement of Chris Petersen in December, it didn't take long for the University of Washington to find its man.
"Really happy for him," Klein said. "To see him in the top spot doesn't surprise me at all. Just hearing the mentorship that Petersen has given him and everything else."
The pressure will be on. The Huskies have become regular contenders for the Pac-12 title and a spot in the College Football Playoff over the last five years, but 2019 brought a disappointing 8-5 season. Klein has nothing but faith that his old colleague will do well.
"Now the light is at its brightest, but I think he will be just fine," he said.
While Lake is leading a football program, Klein is heading what he calls "one of the best shows and presentations in sports" with the Indians. It's not without challenges, however.
"We don't have the technology video boards and some of the fancy stuff that a lot of newer ballparks have, since we have a facility that was built in 1958," he said. "We've been able to manufacture this culture of just fun and customer service and over-the-top and our gameday experience. We're hoping to keep it going."
That might not include another appearance of Klein and Lake as Crockett and Tubbs, but you never know. After all, it is Minor League Baseball.
Brian Stultz is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @brianjstultz.