November 2007

Joe Kennedy…..We Were Lucky to Have Known You…..Truly Lucky

 

I had just gotten home from work and  decided to pop on Yahoo sports to see what was going on Today. It being a day after the stuffed mushroom and pecan pie debauchery, I was looking for the lighter side of sports for some comfort.

 

Was hoping to find out that A-rod was crying poverty over the Yanks’ latest contract offer to Mario Riviera.

 

What I found sunk me in my chair and put a huge knot in my stomach.  It also  made me rethink  my personal life for the ump-teenth time this year since a similar tragedy in Oct 2006 took another of my favorite players in Devilrays history to an untimely death.

 

 

I hate it when a young ball player dies when he is about to hit the prime, or reinvent  himself in their career. Some hit that  invisible wall of physical and mental parts not able to endure  the rigors and challenges of Professional sports. Sometimes  their body just can’t take anymore, even at a young age.

 

 Some have had past abuses either with steroids or muscle enhancements rob them of their  current and post career lives. Some just hit a mental roadblock that can not be corrected by human means.

 

The ones that really hit home and destroy me inside is the way that life ended  the life of ex-Ray Joe Darley Kennedy.  Media thoughts are running  that Joe might have suffered an aneurysm or heart attack during the night. We will have to wait for the final results.

 

                                              

 

Joe had announced his free agency after this years’ World Series, and all indications were that the Toronto Blue Jays’ and their team president  Paul Godfrey wanted  Joe Kennedy for their 2008 staff. 

 

 Kennedy was in town for the holidays at his wife’s parents home, and was to be the best man at a wedding sometime during his stay here in the Tampa area. He had gotten up in the middle of the night and had collapsed to the floor.  An ambulance rushed to Brandon Medical Center, but Kennedy was pronounced  dead at the ER..

 

This is the second Oakland Athletic  to suffer a tragic and unexpected death since October 2006. Ex-Rays and A’s teammate Cory Lidle, had tragically perished in a plane accident after the Yankees exit from the playoffs in 2006

 

One of my first blogs on here was a tribute to Cory Lidle. He was another player who  befriended me during his tenure with the Rays, and I looked for him every year when his team would make a visit to the Trop. I did the same for Joe Kennedy every time he came here for a series.

 

Joe was only 28 years old, but had already been a front end starting pitcher with our Rays.  He had  thrown for over 908 innings in the Majors, and had 558  career K’s.

 

He was selected in the 1998 Amateur player draft in the 8th round, out of Grossmont (Calif.) J C and went immediately to the minor leagues for the Devilrays. He quickly rose through the Rays’ minor league organization. Joe was a combined 6-0, with a .099 ERA with Orlando and Durham before getting called up to the big club ( Devilrays ) on June 2, 2001.

 

 He made his Major League debut on June 6th against the Blue Jays in Toronto and won 6-2 . He appeared in 20 games that season. During that Rookie season, Joe had 12 quality starts, only CC Sabathia of the Indians had a better stats( 13). Joe was also 3rd in Rookies with a 4.44 ERA.

 

                      

 

He was also the first  Major League player since Kip Wells of the Pirates to win both his first two  career starts. Joe was also the first Devilrays in franchise history to perform this feat.

 

In 2001, Joe pitched in 196 innings and struck out 109 opponents.  These numbers would be his Devilrays best, but only his second best career totals  of his brief  Major League career.

 

In 2003,  Joe progressed to the point of being announced as the Opening Day starter. I found Kennedy to be the kind of pitcher who would not be  afraid to go inside on a batter or ” buzz the tower” if needed.  Every good pro has a mean streak in them.

 

I can attest to personally knowing that the guy was a true professional and enjoyed his time here with the Rays. I spoke to Joe on occasions during BP and always found him to be funny and very intelligent.

 

I guess I was one of those people who knew that Joe would be traded at some point in his career, but had hope it was after he had garnished that 10-win plateau with the Devilrays.

 

Joe might have seemed soft spoken and reserved to the crowds at the Trop., but he was a fierce competitor and was always going to the mound  with the belief he could to win every game.  That was a quality that I greatly admired in him. Going out with the idea you are going to win every time you take the rubber.

 

I know you are going to say that every pitcher does that, but in truth, they might in their words, but in their minds there might not be that total commitment. Joe always felt he could win, that that is the basic mindset of a great pitcher.

 

After Joe left the Rays and pitched for the Colorado Rockies, he got close to that  10-win plateau. Joe only got 9 wins in 2004, but produced 117 strikeouts for the year. He was traded to the Oakland A’s  during the All Star break where he was again considered a valuable member of the pitching rotation. He garnered a 2.31 ERA in 2006, a career best for Joe.  In 2006, he was rewarded with the number five slot in the starting rotation. 

 

 In 2007, Joe found himself as  number 5 man in the rotation, and fell upon bad times and was  put in the A’s bullpen and working only late inning and situational opportunities.   He got another opportunity with the Arizona Diamondbacks (3 games), and the Toronto Blue Jays (9 games) during the past 2007 season.

 

Joe  produced 43 victories in his short career, but his last one was fitting. He received his 43rd win versus his old Rays team on September 29, 2007. Joe had the  fantastic pleasure of becoming a Dad this past year and was looking forward to time with Kaige and his wife before the Feb. mandatory reporting date for pitchers’ and catchers.

 

I will miss seeing Joe Kennedy pitch. More for the fact that he was a true professional and was always in the game both mentally and physically. I know he was just hitting the stride in his career and could have produced some great numbers as a member of that Blue Jays staff in 2008.

 

Joe is survived by his wife and new son Kaige and currently lived in the Denver area.

 

I hope that there is an afterlife. I can then again see people like Cory and
Joe pitch and have that  pure vision of seeing their ear to ear smile or grin knowing they were doing something they truly loved to do in life.

 

God Bless you Joe Kennedy, ………………I will be in Right Field watching you play in that league someday myself….. And I will always cheer for you as a truly great person and pitcher

 

Play Ball!

 

 

 

Billy Chapel aka Crash Davis aka Kevin Costner aka 1 Cool Dude

 

There I was, just sitting in one of my accounts when it dawned on me, it is K-day. I had been looking forward to this day for a month and was past anxious with excitement. The _____Rays were going to unveil their new look in logo, jerseys and symbolic new beginning in an adventure in their brand of zen wisdom. They were having a free viewing and unveiling down by the water in Straub Park in St. Petersburg, Florida to show their fans the new looks and reclaimed attitude of our hometown team.

Funny, we were less than a mile from where they want their new stadium and did not even know the clock and dagger concerned with that endeavor. But that is for another blog.

Back to K-day. I had recently bought a copy of “Baseball America”  on Ebay. I have been a big fan of Costners’ for years. I have enjoyed most of his films, and even liked “Waterworld” for its eco-system message and sailing scenes. I have been a Costner guy since “Fandango” and “No Way Out.” I have owned and frequently watched  “Silverado” and “Open Range.”

But the two movies that I feel put him on the map were not “Tin Cup“, or “The Postman“, or even the chick flick “The Bodyguard.”

It was the two movies were he showed his athletic talents and lust for realism.

For the Love of the Game’, and “Bull Durham” are classic movies that everyone can enjoy and thrill to watch anytime. Most people have seen “Bull” and know the symbolism and special place it holds in  a true baseball fans’ eyes. Have you noticed that Susan Sarrandon’s character has a shrine to Yankee Thurman Munson, or that Costner actually takes all his own whacks at the plate in the movie.

Besides that, ex-Red Sox manager, Grady Little was the technical consultants to the film.  I  have expressed my love for that film on too many occasions, so a friend in LA got me a signed copy of the script. I have it hidden  in a safe place.

In the film, “For the Love of the Game“, that is old Tigers Stadium made up to look like Yankee Stadium. And the realism of that breaking ball Costner throws is remarkable.  An added note, he pitched every scene of that movie. No CGI or special effects were used in the pitching motion or delivery.  Pure Costner energy and commitment to his craft. And the true baseball fanatic thank him for that.

Getting back to my point, which I turned left at “Go” and did not collect $200.

I got down to Straub Park at about 3 PM on that wild Thursday with my camera in hand and a backpack full of balls and my fragile copy of Baseball America. The reason I bought it was because it had Costner on the cover. Yes, it does have him as “Billy Chapel” in his Tigers number 14 jersey on the mound. On the inside it talks about the film and his wanting the most realistic baseball movie to date( Hint hint………you achieved that Kevin.)

I got there and the Rays  front office busy bees were buzzing around getting the food, refreshments and  new logo caps for the Season Ticket holder ready for the event.

 Just then a tall stranger got on stage and began to play one of Modern West’s song that I had heard on their Myspace page. But the guy singing wasn’t Kevin. It was one of his band mates, Park Chisolm. And he was crooning a song entitled “5 seconds from America”.  This is a great song and I wish you would go to his page and check it out sometime.

                                           

Costner was persuaded by his lovely wife to again make music and he is truly a singer of the ages. I am not saying he is the second coming of Elvis, just a really talented guy who can also carry a mean tune and play a guitar.  On stage were the members of Modern West, Park Chisolm, Teddy Morgan,Blair Forward and Larry Cobb.  Bobby Yang came by and played a mean fiddle up there.he is one talented guy.

I  proceeded to begin taking a few pictures and get the focal  camera settings for the concert. I was interrupted by a British sounding stage manager that asked all the people to “vacate the area, this was a closed sound check.” Imagine the shock of the group I was in that they would say that in a city owned park, and in an area where there was no fencing or restrictions from us walking about the  grounds.

I decided to meander my way back by the backstage area and try and catch Kevin before he was going into the motor home. He came back from the stage area and I caught his eye, and he saw the Baseball America. He did a few things around the area, and then came up and signed the magazine and talked with me for a few minutes and we chatted about his music and his recent tour. 

I asked him how his European adventure/tour went, and how the show that last Friday at Atlantis in the Bahamas came out with a Tropical Storm brewing to the south. He was shocked that some had done their homework on him, and asked how I knew about that. I  informed him that he was one of my Myspace friends and I regularly went to the page. He forgot that some fans do know that he started his band on a Florida tour some years ago………………..I remembered, and I was there Kevin.

I did not want to bore him or seem fake to the guy. I guess it was the fact that the Rays people knew me and let him chat with me for a second. I originally offered the Rays organization a donation to their baseball foundation for a chance to do exactly what I was doing at that very moment. I wanted to commend on  “For the Love of the Game.” and for making the only movie that can be put in the category of “baseball movie” and borderline “chick flick'”.

My ex-girlfriend loves that movie. I think more for Kelly Preston that Kevin, but that is a womans perogative. I then went out front and watched the Rays  uniform and logo presentations. 

As projected, the Devil fell off the uniforms and team name and we were the “Rays” again.  Hmmmmmmmmmmm, the newspapers and media have been calling us that for a long time. Maybe this is just a formality for goodness sakes.

 

                                          

 I then watched the parade of players come out modeling the Home, Away and BP jerseys to the crowd. Jonny Gomes, practicing for his WWE gig, was a bit theatrical and torn the old shirt off himself to reveal his new duds.

 

                                                                          

                   

With my treasured signature and a moment with a future legend in the past, I sat back and enjoyed the day and sat there and enjoyed the free concert with Modern West.  I did not stay for the entire concert, I had left my lady and the kids at home and felt a bit guilty for it.  So on my way out, I bought 5 gift bags with the new logo balls in them, with a few stickers and logos for the kids. I also went to the Season Ticket holders table and got my  free new logo cap and strolled out to the pier where my car was parked and headed home.

Spinning forward,  I left as Kevin was hitting the high notes on “Long Hot Night,” and truly thanking the crowd for letting him enjoy this day with him.

                                     

 He is a class act.  I have met a lot of famous people in my long life, and he is in the top of the list in personality, pleasant demeanor, and total “one of us” feeling that you wish all celebs would show to the masses.

 

Post Script. 

 I went to Brandon Town Center that Friday night to catch a few buddies at the Champ’s sporting goods store, but Carl Crawford was not feeling well and Edwin “Action” Jackson had just left.  The Rays personnel there left a special present for me. a limited edition New Era “TB” cap. It was number 12 in a series of 30 to celebrate the new logo. I will work on get the entire team to sign it by the end of the year.

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 278 other followers