Do You Still Cheer for your Ex-Players?

 
 



I decided to venture over to Myspace the other day to check my
mail and maybe tweak my profile a bit when I noticed that I had a message. I
clicked on it and lo and behold had an email from the Cowbell Kid. Now anyone
who knows me will tell you I had a few small run ins with him, but nothing
serious about respect for the game and some behavior I heard about in the past. 
But I do have to throw this compliment out there to him, he has made efforts to
clean and polish his act up a bit since late last year, and for that I sit back
and say thank you.

 



Everyone
who has ever taken in a game at the Trop will know that he was famous, or
infamous for yelling at players during Batting Practice about certain
inconsistent behaviors in their past or in their playing styles. It is no secret
that he got more than one player a bit upset. I personally know of one incident
last year that got one player almost to the point of jumping into the stands and
taking him on during a weekend series against the Astros. I am not going to name
the player, but if you were at the Trop that Saturday night, you know who he is
by the yelling and screaming go to and from the
field.

 



But that
was part of his game psyche, to try and get into the head of mostly the
relievers or right fielder in the league. Now there have been a few moments
where personal stuff might have popped down between himself and another player
that were not above board, but that is in the past, and that play is no longer
on the New York Yankees, so it is in the vault with the rest of the deeds. But
since that has been one of his focal points over the year, he emailed me with a
problem he is just now starting to develop because of some recent trades or
actions by the Rays to change their
roster.

 



I am
going to take the quote directly from his email so you can see that I am not
making this up, or trying to embarrass him. He said, “Here’s where it gets
tricky I have grown fond of some of the players that will no longer be a part of
our team, usually I will abuse any opposing players just because they are not on
the Rays team! But because of the respect some of these guys have gained in my
eyes I am going to have to be selective about my targets. ( never thought that
would ever be a problem for me ) oh well .”

 



And I
know that will be a problem for him in 2009 and the season that will go on for
the Rays. I know he has a fond friendship and a game day type of bond with
former Rays players like Jonny Gomes, who is now with the Cincinnati Reds, and
Rocco Baldelli, who is now a dreaded Boston Red Sox. Because he is one of the
most vocal fans about the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, it is going to be
interesting what will happen during B P in 2009. But then again, he will also
see Gomes during Spring Training games, and it might be a tense moment for him
to see Jonny in red and white for the first
time.



 


 


I know I
have had the same situation since the Rays began play. I would begin to talk
with a player and develop a bit of dialogue and when they were in the Bullpen or
out in right field I used to chat it up with them a bit, but when they left, I
did not stop trying to chat with them. My reasoning for this is that we are both
in love with the same thing………Baseball, and that common ground has a huge
amount of conversational pieces. A great example is former Rays right fielder
Jose Guillen. I used to yell out to him every game and even try and tell him if
a player was taking a wild turn at this if the ball came into the corner near
my seat.

 



It was
not to confuse or to even play coach, but to be his eyes when he had his back to
the field. I got to know him better and every time he comes back into the Trop.,
he comes over and say hello. Other players like Shawn Camp, who is now with the
Toronto Blue Jays have come over and shook hands and then got to their business.
But the best at keeping his old Tampa Bay baseball friendships up was former
Rays catcher Toby Hall. Every time the Chicago White Sox came into town, he would
stroll down to the corner and we would talk about his time in Chi-town and how
his kids were growing. Hall and I never went out fishing or even for more than
beers at Ferg’s, but we always seemed to have time to talk even during games
when he was in the Bullpen.

 

It is a
fine line and a personal choice if you want to remain friends or just change it
to a buddy who plays for the enemy. I was talking with former Rays player Joey
Gathright about that last year after a game and he said that it was tough
sometimes to come back here and see the people who cheered for him now booing
some of his actions. But he also knows that he can not pull punches or even
slack off a moment in front of his former home crowd or it would give them
another reason to boo louder to him. And there lies the problem. Can we as fans
of our team separate the player from the team, or are they a whole not matter
what?

 



Everyone
takes that problem and decides for themselves.  I stood up and cheered for Texas
Ranger outfielder and former Rays Josh Hamilton the first time he came up to bat
at the Trop., and I am not ashamed of it at all. Some things happen in life that
you need to celebrate or show your appreciation to a player. The first time
Rocco Baldelli comes to bat I will also stand and clap. It is my way to salute a
great player that we will miss not only in the lineup, but talking with
field-side before the games. But then  again, I have also mourned the loss of
two great former Rays players who I think were stand up guys and died way before
their times.



 

 

 



I am
speaking of former Rays pitchers Joe Kennedy and Cory Lidle. I am not going to
go into the moments or the reason for their deaths, but they were moments that
made me question baseball and life in general for a moment in time. I was not a
close friend of either guy, but we did have conversations and used to talk down
in the Checkers Bullpen area any time they came into the Trop. It was a baseball
buddy kind of bonding that you just wanted them to be successful and have a
great life. I have written blogs about each of them, and my blog to Lidle was my
first sports entry in years on my old Myspace page. I have since removed the
posting and it is sitting in my blog scrapbook where only I can read it
now.

 



So it is
now my place to celebrate baseball, and when it comes to our former players, I
try and keep in touch with them when they come into the Trop. Be is chatting
with Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Litsch, who last year told me about his new
home purchase in a great area west of Pinellas Park, Florida, or Brandon Backe
standing there talking with a group of Rays fans talking about nothing in
general, but loving every minute of it. So do we as fans, try and keep these
small friendships or baseball buddy situation alive and well, or do we let them
die because they are playing for another
team?

 
I choose
to decide on a individual basis. There are players who I do not chat with that I
used to laugh at jokes with and see outside the stadium all the time. Even if
the player did not leave here without throwing insults or comments at the team’s
management, I do not hold them accountable because they spoke their minds and
the issue is closed. But it is hard to gain some face time with a player and get
to know them and then they get traded or sign as a free agent somewhere else.




 
But my
best example might be Rays relievers Dan Wheeler and Trever Miller. I was not
close to either of these guys the last time they were here. We would exchange
comments and glances as they passed my seat, but it was not until they came back
to Tampa Bay after stints with the Houston Astros that the respect and the bond
grew. Every day they would pass my seat area and we would chat with them for a
few moments, and during the year, if I missed a game , they noticed and asked me
where I was, like friends sometimes do. And that meant a lot to me. But it was
the day after the Rays clinched their first playoff berth that really set the
tone for me with my Bullpen guys.

 
 


 



I was
given one of the champagne bottles used in the celebration by a member of the team, and I asked Wheeler
if he would mind signing it for me. He took the bottle back in its bag and it
stayed back there for about 4 innings. He ended up having everyone in the Rays
Bullpen sign that bottle and then brought it back to me. I stood there and just
stared at the bottle for a bit then remembered why I like to talk to these guys.
They are good people, and even the short times we chat with them are remembered.
Guess sometimes there can be bonds outside the foul lines in baseball. So with
that, here is a question for you. Do you maintain your friendships and
conversation with your ex-players, even if they are playing for a division
rival?



All pictures used in this blog were obtained from the RRCollections.





 
 

19 Comments

I love that Dan Wheeler gave you the signed champagne bottle. As I think I’ve mentioned (forgive me if I’m repeating myself!), I sat with his family during one of the Yanks-Rays series, and they were such nice people. I think it’s only natural that there are some players you connect with, even if they move on to opposing teams. They’re human beings. There will be some we like and some we don’t, regardless of their uniform.

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Nice post. I take it on a person by person basis. I was lucky enough to meet a lot of the Rockies youngsters in Triple A and if some of them left the team I’m sure I would still talk with them. One such guy is Clint Barmes. He was always the nicest guy to talk to and even in the show he still has that same demeanor. I could not imagine not talking to that guy if he went to another team. Sometimes it’s tough though especially if a lot of mudslinging goes on while the player is leaving and the fan base gets in the middle. Mostly the way I see it, if they were a good guy with us then they’ll be a good guy with them.
tom
http://rockymountainway.mlblogs.com

Great post today. As you know, we Red Sox fans can be tough on former players. If you’ve gone over to the “evil empire” then there is very little love for you when you return. But when players like Millar came back to play, the fans were always kind and welcoming. I think the reason for a playing leaving can play into the fans reaction also. If a player got traded and really had no say in the matter, then fans seem to be friendlier when they return. But if the reason they left was purely for more money, then they really won’t find a “candle burning in the window” for them at Fenway. I can’t speak from any personal experience with individual players. We don’t go to all that many games at Fenway each season. It’s just too expense and too hard to get tickets.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

I agree totally Jane.
But there are fans out there who curse and spit and even find personal information on the player and throw it in their faces during games and B P. I personally do not care to know the reason or the circumstances around the players personal life thrown out there for the world to see sometimes.

If they deserve the information out there because of B S or harm to another…they have to reap what they sow, but a majority of the MLB players are just doing a job that they take a lot of respect and pleasure in, and if they take a moment to make a kids day by saying hello or slapping their hands… they gain bonus points in my book.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Rockymountainway,

Did you ever meet Cory Slavik, he was a guy a few years back fighting for a spot as a utility guy in Triple-A and they put him everywhere on the field, even catcher. He was with the Rockies until he decided to just give up baseball and get married to his lovely girlfriend Erin.

I got to know him through Erin, who worked with me at Pepsi and they introduced me to Joey Gathright . He was a guy that could of been up there in 2007 if he stuck around, but decided it was time to get a real job. Great guy tho, and a awesome old Rockies prospect.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

It will be interesting to see how the Boston fans either cheer to jeer Gabe Kapler when he takes the field the first time for the Tampa Bay Rays.

I know I used to give him a bad time, but I am putting his Boston and Japanese days behind him and know he will be a great player for us this year. But will the Boston faithful remember him, or just flash him out of their minds to even forget he ever wore their colors. Should be a fun first series in 2009.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Yes, I think we all should cheer on ex-players of our team. When the Mets played the Padresor A’s in interleague I always cheered for Mike Piazza. It’s one thing to boo a rival, like Chipper Jones or Derek Jeter, but to boo someone you used to like, it doesn’t make sense.
http://metsmainman.mlblogs.com

Good point,
So many times people think the player is a traitor because he is with another team. A good example the Rays had Eric Hinske on their squad last year. Every time he went o bat in Toronto, they boo’ed him.

Hr did not leave the team on his terms, they let him go, and he signed with Boston, then Tampa Bay. It is not like he held out a contract or wanted out of town. Hr got disrespected and did not want to resign after that . But he got boo’ed during every single at bat………..now that is crazy.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlbogs.com

I still cheer for Johan Santana. Of course, he is in the other league so that makes it a lot easier.

I guess it depends on the situation, who it is, why he left, and who he plays for now (not going to cheer for division rivals, no way). I would love to cheer for David Ortiz, but it makes me sick that the Twins released him in favor of Matthew LeCroy. Everytime he steps up to the plate I am only reminded of the worst decision Terry Ryan ever made.
-Erin
http://plunking-gomez.mlblogs.com

I can see that one.

Santana is one of those pitcher I would cheer for just because he could bring out a gem of a performance in a heartbeat.

But David Ortiz, I still will not cheer for him no matter what. If he was like an Edgar Martinez type DH, maybe. But the guy is in one of the worst shaped in the league, more Ruthian in body shape than ability.

And I would guess both would get boo’ed by people who are not true fans of their past efforts for their team.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I take it on a player-by-player basis. If he leaves on good terms, then I more than likely cheer for him. Like Aaron Rowand for example. I will ALWAYS cheer for him. Well, unless he becomes a Twin. I can’t cheer for them ever. Other division rivals, I’d have to see how I feel about it. The players who leave and badmouth the organization, I don’t cheer for them. Magglio Ordonez, for example. Then there are the players that badmouth DURING the season. Orlando Cabrera. I will NEVER cheer for him. Most of the players who have left the Sox or have been traded are still worthy of my cheers (hahaha). And until such time as they do something to change my opinion of them, I’ll still cheer for them. I have no experience in talking to players at games since I’ve only been to, like, six Sox games. But being able to talk to them at SoxFest was great. We’ve got a wonderful group of guys here in Chicago.
Jen
http://ajroxmywhitesox.mlblogs.com

Hey Rays Renegade – I think the Red Sox fans will be pretty accepting of Gabe Kapler. He is the reigning champion of the Red Sox Cookie-bake off! (And they had him back even after he was traded!) Also, you should check out gotmilb.mlblogs.com. Lisa has an interview there with Reid Brignac of the Rays.

Have a great day!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Rays Renegade,
I’ve only been to the Trop once, and I don’t remember seeing the guy but I think that I know who you’re talking about. Is he old? That is such a cool story about Guillen! Anyway, I always clap for former players, unless they are on the Yankees. I am still debating whether or not I will clap for Manny Ramirez because of the way he left the Red Sox. If it had merely been a trade, I would definitely clap, but he left in such a derogatory way that I don’t know. I can’t hide the fact that I still love him though. I clap whenever Trot comes to the plate, and I will clap when Coco comes to the plate. I will never EVER clap for Johnny Demon again.
-Elizabeth
http://redsoxgirl46.mlblogs.com

Too true Jenn,

You know, during the ALDS, when Cabrera was jawing with Grant Balfour that first game, I was hoping he took a step to the mound. Balfour is a triathlete, and he would have knocked him out with the first punch.

But, that is so true, player by player basis is about the best way to do it. The fortunate thing for most of the ex-Rays player I have known , they left on good terms and did not trash the team too much. Aubrey Huff did a bit, but he also had a good reason to at the time.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I really do miss players who leave…OMG, I miss Aaron Rowand so bad it HURTS. Still. I literally cried the day he signed with the Giants. All day…my husband thought I was NUTS. I followed him with the Giants all year and will again this year. I seriously have NO life. :O)

Jenn
http://philliesphollowers.mlblogs.com/

Philliesphollower,

You are the second person to mention Aaron Rowland. Guess he was a lady choice when he was with the Phillies, and now with the Giants. Women take a different approach to the players that most guys do, well straight guys.

I know some women try to get close to them to hope a bond happens that is stronger than standing by the field side, but the reality is most of these guys have gotten that kind of attention since lower-A ball, and by the time they get up to the majors, they have their game down..or should.

But being polite to the fans is priority one. I remember when one player played for the Rays he never saigned autographs, even in the Spring. I got a bit close to a friend of his and he said he would sign on a Sunday. Well of course he went to stretch out and again said give him a few minutes, then he sprinted right back into the clubhouse. I caught up to him after he left the team in Louisville a few years ago and he finally signed it…But he did laugh it took me an additional 3 years to get the bat signed.if you are wondering.it was Gerald Williams.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Elizabeth,

That is the cool thing about sports. We can pick our friendlies and our enemies and stick to it. Unlike some other spots, if you jeer at a player in football we never really hear it unless you do it before or after the game.

But in baseball because of the amount of time the player is within ear distance of hearing the fans and the crowd, it can be effective sometimes in their game. It is rare, but players have missed balls and taken their eyes off pitchers by comments. It is a part of the home field advantage, but it is also rare to get that done.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I’m guessing the Cowbell Kid is not the same as the Happy Heckler? When we first got the MLB Extra Innings package, we could hear him loud and clear during the games (the H.H., that is), but it seems we don’t hear him much any more.
The champagne bottle is really cool, by the way.
As for cheering or booing former players, as some others have stated, I think it depends on how they left the team, and also on the kind of relationship they had with the fans while they were here. I personally would not boo Jim Thome, Aaron Rowand, Randy Wolf, or Mike Lieberthal. They were all fan favorites while here. Scott Rolen is a different matter – he always seemed a bit aloof, and said some less than nice things about the team. Him I might boo, under my breath at least so as not to set a bad example for my kids. And then there’s J.D. Drew. I think he will be booed in Philly till the end of his playing days even though he never even played for us, but because of the way he tried so hard not to play for us after he was first drafted. We don’t like to be spurned!
Since the Rays don’t play the Phillies in Philly this year, we won’t get to see how Pat Burrell would have been greeted. Maybe we’ll meet in the WS again!
Sue
Rants, Raves, and Random Thoughts

The Cowbell Kid is actually the guy who stations himself under the Jumbotron in Right Field and is always hitting his cowbell no matter what during the game. The Heckler has been a bit quieter in the last few years, but he does get in his spots when the big boys come into town.

I have a surprise for you. You might have forgotten, but the Philadelphia Phillies will play the Rays in Citizen Bank Ballpark in 2009, not just during the Inter-League series at Tropicana Field. The Phillies play their last two games on April 3rd ( 7:05 pm) and 4th ( 1:05 pm ) in Philly against the Rays.

I do not know if it will be season pricing, or spring training pricing. You might want to consult a Phillie Ticket Rep to check out if their are still tickets available for the events.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 275 other followers

%d bloggers like this: