I have been known to say in the past that a championship is not official until you have that ring on your finger. I unfortunately know the good and the bad out of that statement. I was with a team in college that won a conference championship to only have it taken away by NCAA violations. I was not a pretty moment, but the fact that we still got rings, but they stated “Number 1 in SEC” not champions still stings some days. But on Tuesday night, there was no taking anything away from the accomplishments of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008. This was the night they got to put that finishing touch on their magical season by getting their own set of hardware. Proud Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg, President Matt Silverman and Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman presented the rings to over 23 players, eight coaches and 14 executive members of the Rays front office yesterday.
The two biggest cheers from the crowd seemed to come for Senior Baseball Advisor Don Zimmer, and current Rays Manager Joe Maddon. It was a thunderous crowd that also cheered as the Rays players came out in seniority to receive their rings last night. Last, but not least to step out in front of the pitcher’s mound and receive his sparkling ring was Carl Crawford, the longest tenured Ray. I got to check out the ring first hand after the game at a local water hole with a member of the 2008 American League Championship. I have to tell you, this ring had me at hello. It has an awesome “wow” factor the moment you first look even into the fine wooden box with it sitting under that etched glass. It looks more like a museum piece than something you might ever put on for cocktail parties or team events. Seriously, the ring had me in awe the moment he opened that box. I expected something this glorious from the team, but it went over my expectations.
The ring is 14 carat white gold featuring a raised Rays logo among a sea of clustered diamond and shimmering light prisms that seem to dazzle and confuse you. The idea of putting the Rays logo above a outline of a baseball diamond was a classic piece and adds to the glamor of this fantastic ring. But then you look into the center of the Rays logo and you see a unique sight. The Rays decided to add their own special touch to the ring by setting a specialty cut yellow diamond into the logo’s 18 carat gold star/sun burst. But the sparkle doesn’t end there as 48 individual sparkle factories seems to shimmer and shine off the lights to create a magical light display. If you ever want a disco light show at your next party, placing one of these rings within a line of light would produce quite a light show for everyone to enjoy. But that is one of the perks of winning, you get awesome pieces of jewelry to keep for life.
But this ring is beside awesome in my opinion. I mean one side of the ring has such a great polished look with the bold faced A L East Champs on it with an American League logo with the words added “1st Pennant”. I truly love the fact they added those words to the ring. It shows the positive attitude and reinforcement that this is just the first step towards multiple or even numerous chances at obtaining a drawer full of these rings in the future. As always the name of the player is added in this space, which adds an air of pride to me seeing my friend’s name listed on the side, which is an honor that no one can ever take from him.
But the added touch of the team record in this area, just seeing that ” 97-65″ on the side of the ring brings back vivid memories of the 2008 season. The Walk-off homers and runs, the 7-run inning to secure a win, the pitching battles and the suicide squeeze bunt by Jason Bartlett, it is magic that you can wear on your finger. I can not imagine the flow of emotions and churning of feelings that this ring will bring up in members of this team after they finally put it on their fingers. It seems to pulsate on my finger and it feels like a long lost dream to even envision such a event finally coming to a close.
This ring is just the first in a long line of hardware that members of the Rays will wear in the future. I am not predicting anything here, but this team has had a taste of the playoffs, and that is a bitter pill to swallow every season after you have been to the big party in October. I think it was fitting that the New York Yankees were here to see this tonight. Not for the fact that we punched them out of a possible playoff berth by playing the “Rays Way” of baseball, but because of all their storied past and their own collections of these awesome piece of jewelry.
Derek Jeter knows the emotions and the sense of accomplishment that goes with collecting these rings. But he also knows the feeling that eluded the Rays in 2008. He has held a World Series ring, and has enjoyed the accolades and the honor that goes with that final piece of the puzzle. The Rays just missed that pinnacle of excellence. But all they have to do is look into that visitor’s dugout and they will see what class and hard work can do for a franchise. The Rays will again get their chance to fight for the ultimate hardware. It might not be this year, but it will not come soon enough for these guys. I have to tell you, just putting this ring on for a few seconds sent chills through my spine. For 162 games last year I saw the sweat, blood and the emotions of this team gel and produce a extreme chemistry that accumulated into a Championship. And I am craving more!
Photo credits: Both photos are from RRCollections