February 2010

Do You Love or Lust Baseball?

 

           
                                           
Printpetals.com


I think on this Valentines Day, I personally need to check myself before I wreck ourselves and see if I have a love or lust relationship within me concerning the passions towards my Tampa Bay Rays. It is a commonly known fact that most of us “love” the game of baseball, but there is a fine live between love and lust when it comes to our National Pastime. And sometimes the borders and boundaries of those two become almost transparent in the hustle and bustle of Playoff baseball and the everyday consummation of our struggle to keep our secret obsession from moving into the other realms of our lives, without noticing before it is too late to switch back again without any repercussions.

 
 

So maybe this posting will be a notice, or slap in the face for me to constantly check the current health rate of my team and my interpersonal relationship within baseball before either of us comes out of it hurt, confused and maybe a little bitter about the game cherished deep within my heart. And maybe the biggest fear I may encounter is to venturing deep within my true intentions towards the game and be totally amazed at the close proximity of these same feelings and the emotions involved in aspects of both love and lust outside of the ballpark.

Can it truly be possible that I could conduce a false sense of security, or longing for the game in its “down times” or during road trips, and suddenly wake up restless and afraid because I may finally reveal to myself that I might unintentionally be in the lathers of lust instead of the glow and warmth left by my personal brand of love for the game.

 
 

Could I really be so entranced into my love fest for the sport that I do not notice if I still share those common interests or threads that first brought me together with the sport. Do I still marvel and find solace in the physical practicality of game day actions and movements that flow through the game to orchestrate its magic into a sense of acute harmony of movement without transgressing into my own watered down stylistic interpretation.

Or is there a definite glint of me maybe becoming more oblivious and opaque to the crescendo music produced by the crowds, and I could evolve to view the game as a less simultaneous symphony of choreographed physicality that could quickly be transformed into just flashes of either brilliance or benign flutters of arms and legs. Can I tow this fine line and not come to flushing these emotions or even getting transfixed on the wrong influx of emotion ?

 
 

So could I be true in my belief that for a real baseball relationship to be fulfilled, both parties have to still have a sense of the common similarities that bonds each to the other, and that are more than the purely physical enchantments that still make you both yearn and evoke sight, touch and even emotional attachments towards our fascination with the game. But there is still a slim chance that when either of these traits bounds out of control beyond reason, or even submits to its darkest intentions, or the simple transformation of the two reverse polarity emotions can happen without either party acknowledging or comprehending it changing them within without realizing the separate realms of love and lust until it is too late to admonish the character change.
 
 

A love shared by a true fanatic of the game with its team should reaffirm their emotional tethers by them not only temporarily transfixing the motions and activities on the field to themselves , but also be celebrated in essence of the joy of victory, or the anguish of a close loss, that the two should still be able to link up as one to promote the ideal symbiotic vision of hope and promise of another day and another chance to see victory in each of their eyes, and defeat as just a short prelude towards that primal Playoff goal. So with this in mind, what questions should we each ask ourselves to truly find out if our relationship with baseball falls into the wrath of lust, or the warmth of love?
 

Here is a short jotting down of some of the examples of the emotion of love when pertaining to the game of baseball. It will include many facets and phases that you might encounter on any given game day, or even while at home watching the game on television or your computer Do not be afraid to admit to yourself or others that you also share some of these same traits in your relationship with the game They are meant to induce emotion or even though so embrace the section for all it is worth:

 


SurvivingGrady.com

*** You have a great chemistry with the team and its players, but you also know the boundaries and limits that separate fandom and fanatic behavior and respect the borders.


*** You want to spend time with them at events during and at social charity events away from the hustle and bustle of the ballpark. And you enjoy being within the crowds of other fans getting to know these players from a different angle or aspect without regard for personal involvement by you in their affairs.

*** You see a future together as a collective member of your team’s fan base with a bona fide love and admiration for the team, and not based on late surges of Playoff contention, but on a year round fascination and interest in the team.

*** You include them in your plans as you take on your daily life. You pencil in key dates and special events in regard to the team to be sure you have them scheduled and can devote ample time, effort and resources to them that day.
 
*** They make you a better fan just by being your team. They give you a special focus and attention most people do not understand, but might also enjoy seeking for themselves. You show your pride and your admiration for them on your chest or heads proud and ready to show support and cheer without recourse, even in another team’s stadium.
 
 

Zazzle.com


So we finally we get to the end of this posting. Hopefully on this day that celebrates the heart and the good intentions within all of us to those special in our lives, baseball has a small or maybe even large piece of your heart that no one can ever take away that part of the game from us. I got engaged in 2007, with a possible wedding on the field before a Rays game in 2008, but we decided to delay it a bit because of the Rays Playoff push.
 

We did that symbiotic sang and dance for three seasons until it was revealed to me that my “love” or even “lust” for the game would always come first in our relationship. I moved out this past October just after the final Sunday game between the New York Yankees and Rays knowing full well that I had to work on my obsession that included both emotions pulling at me in simultaneous movements, but effecting my life outside the ballpark.

And I have come to the ultimate conclusion that I will always be in a lifelong battle between the throngs of love and lust when it comes to the pulse of the game of baseball ebbing through my veins and my everyday existence, and right now, I am fine with that. Maybe I am drawn deeply in by simply loving the actions and interactions throughout the game between players, fans and even the roars of musical and comical interludes from the scoreboards that seems to set my rhythm for enjoyment of the game.

 
 
But then I also lust for the carnage of the unforeseen blowout, or watching the evolution of a pitching gem transpire in front of my eyes on the field. Maybe I can find a happy medium someday, but for now, I will just relish in the facts that both emotions play on me during each contests, with love taking control by the last out and throwing lust again back into the bowels of my psyche ready to resurface and entice me again on another game day.
 

Could this be a Bromance?

 


Brian Blanco/AP

Anyone who knows me outside of the ballpark might say I am just having a “moment” with my increasing adulation for Rays uber player Ben Zobrist. There have even been whispers of a budding bro-mance (No, but I still wave), and that my respect and complete adulation for this budding MLB star might sometimes borders on downright obsession. Sorry to ruin it for the bromance police, but I see a lot of similarities between Zobrist and myself when I was playing sports, and I really admire those traits and sensibilities. I see the child-like wonder still on his face and eyes as he is getting ready to step on the field every day. And his community involvement, not only in his faith, but in his actions to bring the joys of baseball to kids, even during the off season just makes me like him more and more.

 
 

There is just something about Zorilla and the way he goes about his business both on and off the field that you want to point out to younger kids and hope they take a bit of his style, confidence and positive demeanor for the game of baseball home with them and hopefully carry it with them on the baseball diamond. Maybe it is the honest fact I might actually be watching one of the budding great role models for the kids forming right in front of my eyes, and I want to shout from the rooftops about it hoping that others outside our realm of the baseball world also hears my loud raves.

 

And I will agree totally that I seem to push this agenda a bit hard when it comes to Zorilla, but I see so much potential yet to be tapped, or even shown to the MLB baseball world and I am thrilled to be able to watch him daily. And maybe it is a bit creepy as it is written here, but it is done with the best intentions to publicize one of those MLB players I truly label one of the real “Good Guys” in baseball. But you do not have to look too far away from the game of baseball to see he is a great example of a good man and father as well as an excellent multi-faceted baseball player.

 

You only have to see him on the sidelines before games talking with fans, or shaking hands or hugs to other Rays fans who have grown to also know the inner “Good Guy” to know we are witnessing the ever changing growth of a great person. He always has time for the fans, either with a picture or signing a baseball. He truly knows just how blessed he is to be able to play this game for a profession every game, and it shows on his face. If you have ever seen him hold his young son Zion before games, or even seen the glances between Zorilla and his beautiful wife Julianna, you know this is a guy is grounded and supported at home as well as at the ballpark by thousands of screaming fans. I have to say I am a bit jealous of his relationship with his wife because he seemed to have found the perfect complimentary piece of the puzzle for his personal life.

 
 

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=9364818&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Thanks to Ryan Bodies films/RaysIndex for videos

From the ground up Zobrist has solidified what each Major League player goes throughout their careers before finally busting through the barrier and getting the plate appearances and the playing time to impress and bring shock and awe to the fans and his teammates. Considering most Rays fans had Zobrist penciled in at shortstop going into 2007 off season before the Rays traded with the Twins to bring in shortstop Jason Bartlett. And some players might have taken a step back, but Zobrist was confident and poised and if not for a thumb injury sustained early in Spring Training, it might have prevented an intense battle between the two. But in reality, the healing time spent nursing that thumb injury might have been the perfect antedote to give Zobrist more time to experiment and hone his swing into the power tool it is today.

 
 

By Zobrist going back to basics after this injury to his thumb, it might have helped him develop his swing to incorporate his hips sooner into his swing and bring his power element to the forefront. And it is simply a treat now to watch him hit and because of his fielding versatility, he adds a different dimension to this Rays squad. I actually think he made the Rays a better team by being so versatile both at the plate and in the field so that the Rays are able to pencil him into multiple positions without fear of a decrease in productivity or defensive ability.

 
 

And most people look at 2009 as Zobrist’s banner year, but I truly think we are just starting to see the edges of a career that just might explode with more plate appearances and a possibility of position stability in 2010. If there truly was a “10th Man” award in Major League Baseball, then without a doubt, last season it would have ended up resting in Zobrist’s hands. And if you look at his final totals for 2009: a .297 batting average, 27 HR, 91 RBIs and a monstrous .948 OPS, you know we might only be seeing the start of a long career. And that is what is great about the reporting date next Friday down in Port Charlotte, Florida. It is the time for the next chapter in the Zorilla tale to begin.

 
 

 
Chris O’Meara / AP

And it was refreshing in the attached video to hear Zorilla and his wife discuss candidly the upcoming Rays 2010 season and the high expectation goals each see on the near horizon. Neither of them was shy in their opinions and both honestly saw the potential for a great year with more surprises and more Zorilla All-Star chatter. But what I really liked visualizing in that video was the basic fact you saw that these two people really liked and wanted the best for each other. I know that sounds corny and a bit insane, but sometimes you can be “in love” with a person and not like them, but with these two people, the love and the connection between them just shines through in a bright shining beam of awesomeness. Okay, maybe that was a bit much, but you get the idea.
 
 

I have gotten lucky enough to talk to Zobrist a few times while he has been with the Rays and he an intelligent and very open guy who truly loves talking about baseball. Even during one of the plays that seemed to have burst his name upon the ears of fans outside Tampa Bay, I was standing right there asking if he was okay and beaming with pride on the extreme effort he took on the play even before making impact with the low Rightfield foul line barrier. And when Zobrist came over the next day and signed his name on the broken piece of the wall, he genuinely thanked me for making sure he was okay. And maybe that is when the bromance from afar started. Because I finally saw a bit of myself in Zobrist and it forged an instant bond.

 
 

One of my friends once commented that my new found attention towards Zorilla was my self actualization that we both carried so many of the same values in life, and in that I found solace and respect for him. But I also find solace in the fact he is a “team guy” totally. So many times you hear about players who are “me” guys, well Zobrist is far from a “me” guy, and that fits perfectly into the culture of the Rays clubhouse. I got the idea to write this blog after reading a fellow Rays blog, Rays Index today and seeing Zobrist and his wife compared to Milly and Jimmy from the movie “Bull Durham”. And in reality, Zobrist does fall into that realm of the spiritual team mate who is always smiling and in a positive frame of mind. And that is infectious to a team’s chemistry and always a good guy to have around during the solemn moments. I might not personally throw “Milly” in with Julianna, but I do agree on her love of the game of baseball and for embracing Jimmy and his personality.

 
 

Zobrist is one of those budding players among the ranks of the MLB that we can be proud of knowing, watching play and showing our youth the positive things about the game of baseball. I imagine the Rays might have seen some of those special qualities when he was traded by the Houston Astros to the Rays back on July 12,2006 in exchange for slugger Aubrey Huff. And what he has brought to this Rays roster is a lot more than just his steady play and always improving bat. Zobrist answered in one of the attached videos he would love to play the rest of his career with the Rays.

 
 
And that is a good thing, because this team could use a guy like him on their roster not just for his play on the field, but for his motivation and character off the field too. As maybe I do spend a little bit too much time talking about Zobrist right now when discussing Rays baseball. And maybe I do have a bit of a bromance rising because of it. But is any of that so different than the man-crush our parents had with the play of Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle or Ted Williams? I actually think it is a healthy way to be, but then again, I am a Zorilla fan!

 

Digging the Rays Past (1996)

 


Raysbaseball.com/MLB.com

Every once in a while I get into one of these research kicks where I want to find out once and for all if something could of, did not, or should of happen concerning the Tampa Bay Rays or any other team. The object of my well, obsession last night was to see if any of the 30 Major League Baseball squads ever attempted to draft current NFL hero and New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees in 1996, when he lettered in baseball at Westlake High School in Dallas,Texas.

So I went on a long and detailed journey checking out every name for almost 100 rounds of the 1996 MLB First Year Draft online, and actually did not find a single mention of the Brees name. Some people might consider this then a waste of time and energy, but I did find a few very interesting secondary targets, and even a score of former Rays players I did not know were initially drafted in 1996.

 
 

The 1996 MLB First YearDraft was actually the starting point for first year player selections ever by the then Tampa Bay Devilrays and it set into motion the initial formation of their minor league ranks in their farm minor league system, which today is considered by many to be the best in baseball. And along the way, I found 24 names listed on that year’s draft board that one day would don the Rays emblem across their chests during a Rays game. 

Most of the Rays faithful know that the D-Rays picked Raleigh, North Carolina native Paul Wilder with the 29th pick in the First Round of that initial draft. But did you know that the last Rays selection in that year’s Draft was High School outfielder Michael Rose from Dayton, Ohio with the 1,736th pick?

 

It was a wild night remembering names and also associating them with past great Rays moments. Out of that first 1996 draft, the highest selected pick from 1996 to don a Rays jersey was outfielder Alex Sanchez from Miami-Dade CC, but most of us might remember him better for the April 3,2005  MLB press release that he would be the first MLB player ever suspended for violating the MLB’s newly instituted drug policy.

Not a great way to be remembered, but Sanchez did not last long with the Rays despite an early 2005 .346 batting average. His wishy-washy defensive play and the suspension might have hastened the Rays to designate him for assignment on June 13th 2005.

 
 

Besides Wilder, there was another name drafted in associated with the D-Rays during that first draft when they selected then, Florida Gators quarterback Doug Johnson in the second round. Even though Johnson did sign and report to a minor league team, he never seems to gather enough mustard to rise through the D-Rays farm system, and finally concentrated his efforts more on staying healthy behind the NFL’s Atlanta Falcon’s offensive line. It was a calculated gamble by the Rays Front Office to try and get Johnson to fit into their system, but the young player always seemed to be more comfortable with a football helmet on his head than the baseball batting helmet.

But what is even more surprising is the large number of other players selected in that season’s draft who would end up one day playing in Rays gear. During the 1996 MLB Draft, other teams ended up selecting a total of 17 players who ended up sporting Rays gear during their playing careers. The highest profile player might be 1B Travis Lee, who was the second pick of the First Round by the Twins that season. Also former Rays players LHP Bobby Seay(CWS), INF/OF Damian Rolls(LAD) and P Nick Bierbrodt(AZ) were all First Round selections that at one point wore Rays colors.

 


AP file Photo 

But down the draft line there were also players like P Chad Bradford(CWS), LP Mark Hendrickson(TEX), P Joe Biemel(TEX), INF Brent Abernathy(TOR),3B/C Eric Munson(ATL) P Joe Nelson(ATL) C Robert Fick(DET),LP Casey Fossum(AZ), DH/1B Josh Phelps(TOR),OF Jason Conti(AZ), P Brandon Backe(MIL), P Ryan Rupe(KC) and P Tim Corcoran(NYM). It is a bit unusual for so many budding players to find their way onto one team and prosper during their careers, but at that time, Tampa Bay was a good starting place to establish yourself within Major League Baseball by showing a good foundation, then moving onto another team with experience under your belt.

 
 

It is funny now to also gather the names of other great players who also debuted  as professionals from that 1996 draft.  Later Round selected Players like Astros P Roy Oswalt(23rd Rd), Cubs P Ted Lilly(23rd Rd),current Free Agent reliever Kiko Calero(27th Rd) just among the top 30 rounds of the draft. The you have guys like Yankee OF Marcus Thames(30th Rd), Indians DH Travis Hafner(31st Rd), Twins 2B Orlando Hudson(33rd Rd), rehabbing P Chris Capuano(45th Rd) and Nats INF Eric Bruntlett(72nd Rd).
 
 

But if you like to win odd baseball Trivia Questions, then I have one for you. You can win some major food or drink concessions (I have) by remembering that the D-Rays reliever Travis Phelps, who was drafted in the 89th Round , and the 1,720th player selected that season is the latest draft pick to ever don a Major League Baseball uniform. And because MLB restructured the Draft since his selection, he will be the answer to that Trivia Question forever. Easy pickings unless you are at a SABR Convention.

But he is not the only D-Rays player selected from that initial 1996 Draft to make it to the professional level and put on the jersey of the team that selected him. He shares that honor with current Rays reliever P Dan Wheeler( 34th Rd), P Mickey Callaway(7th Rd), P Delvin James(14th Rd), and last, but not least, 3B Jared Sandberg(16th Rd). Sandberg also went on to coach in the Rays farm system, and will be the head man with the Hudson Valley Renegades (oh yeah!). This will be Sandberg’s third season coaching in the Rays farm system.

 


 TBO.com file Photo

So last night’s scavenger search brought up some interesting surprises, and also a few great Rays moments for me to envision again within my imagination. It is kind of wild that Rays reliever Wheeler is the lone Rays representative from that initial farm system class of then D-Rays left within the Rays roster. And what it must feel like for him to be here during the lean times, then go away and experience a World Series berth(Astros), then come back and see this Rays organization that drafted him also feel that rush of emotions in securing their first Playoff berth and run towards the 2008 World Series with Wheeler in the Bullpen enjoying the view from field level.

 
 

And there was one more name that was hidden among the mass quantity of names in that 1996 Draft that totally shock and awed me. Hidden way back in the 59th Round, and selected by the Seattle Mariners was a young pitcher named Barry Zito. Some people say that if you fall under the 20th Round in any year’s MLB Draft, your odds greatly swing downward to ever see the light of day as an MLB player at a Major League ballpark. So many of the above mentioned MLB players fell below that invisible line and are living proof that will, determination and great talent can not always get you to the show. Sometimes you need a lucky rabbit’s foot too…….Right Barry?

Rays Life is not always Mosaic

 

  
                    
                                    RRCollections

I have known people up on the Corporate/Third Floor of Tropicana Field for a long time. And one of the biggest compliments I could always give this Tampa Bay Rays baseball organization is their extreme attention to details and doing more than needed due diligence by digging deep into the dark recesses and adequately formulating a favorable risk management course of action when dealing with past Rays business issues. 

 
So why is it that these same wise souls that I hold to such high standards within the Rays organization got so distracted and obviously mis-lead into dealing with a strip-mining company. And how is it that a multi-million dollar operation like the Rays could be corralled so neat, and packaged so air-tight in a naming rights agreement with one of their Spring Training counties biggest legal/environmental concerns without a raising a single red flag ?
 

How is it these same intelligent and resourceful Rays front office gurus got turned sideways and ultimately blindsided to the true life exploits by the world’s phosphate heavyweight, the Mosaic Company. Sure, on paper the deal look incredible for Charlotte County to get $ 75,000 each year for the next 15 seasons to help supplement their county-wide budget shortfalls. On paper, the entire deal might have looked like a total “W” for the Rays, but instead, it quickly became a localized fire storm of public concern and controversy with maybe a few misguided intentions.

 

I would have thought that the Rays would have had a team of public investigators, or at least economic or political renegades out in front of any type of naming rights agreements to fully dot the “I’s” and cross the “T’s” with total airs of confidence about any possible business misalignments with Mosaic. It took me only a short Google search on the subjects of “Mosaic Company” and “Charlotte County” to dig up a report filed by official of Charlotte County on a past Peace River pact and subsequent dealing with Mosaic and Charlotte County for “minor modifications” to their Old Colony Wetlands Resources Permit (146465-001) back in early 2009.

Or how local neighboring county, Manatee County filed civil suit after suit trying to protect the watersheds of the Peace River and their county from the possible potash pollutants produced by the strip mining of phosphates by the Mosaic Company.

 


    Arco.com


Or maybe they could of just pulled up a web listing of an old Lakeland Ledger article dated 12/12/2008 that showed just how ruthless and to what lengths Mosaic would go to get its way in this region of Florida. If the Rays had seen in advance the past civil dealings of Mosaic when they planned to “indirectly” extract their company will upon regional county governmental agencies by filing a supposed $618 million lawsuit over the action of the Manatee County Commission after they denied a 2,000 acre Peace River Basin project.

 
 

In December 2008, Because of the clout and possible fiscal damages that could be endured by Manatee County, the collective majority of Manatee County attorneys was trying to convince the MCC to accept a settlement deal provided by Mosaic, and re-enter into public hearings to determine the feasibility of Mosaic’s proposed mining activities on the 400-acre Altman tract, which was located in a North Manatee tract of high quality wetlands that was eyed by the world’s phosphate giant for possible mining operations.
 
 

It is rare that you find a team like the Rays looking like a total stooge in a situation, but in this case……….the shoe fits, and it is might tight too. And I am not proud of the fact that a Rays management team got so turned around by the supposed huge dollar figures over the next fifteen years and might have been blinded by the process of gaining another Corporate heavyweight in their corner as a possible ally.

And it is great that the Rays would have lifted up this deal and shown that they have the backing of one of the world’s leaders in an industry to boost their Corporate credibility among the Tampa Bay region by the collective thinking of infusing both Charlotte County and their own coffers with a giant in their industry. The problem is that it directly insulted their Spring Training host county, and the cities surrounding it. And the stink from that meshing might take a while for everyone involved to forget totally about down in Charlotte County.

And you can bet there is definitely going to be a corporate “cleaner” or a nice team of spin doctors assigned to make this naming rights agreement not only disappear, but fade from public view and scrutiny as swift as corporately possible. Some had to have misplaced an Email or even misdirected a report for this to explode like this in the Rays faces. And you can be sure there will be someone within the Rays organization that is going to have to sacrifice himself for this error of corporate judgment.

Sure most of us north of Port Charlotte and Charlotte County were not as extremely effected by the news as the locale itself, but they are our neighbors, and for that we have to throw a bit of empathy their direction. But it is going to be a week of walking on eggshells for Rays officials down in Charlotte County before all of the stench begins to fall away from this dealing. With Rays staffers already hard at work down in Charlotte County, hopefully none of them will suffer or feel any of the fallout from this naming rights deal.

Hopefully the community will see it as a simple error in judgment, or maybe even a “business deal gone wrong” and let the dealings repair itself in time. But no matter what the outcome down in Charlotte Country from all of this, to what extent did the Rays damage their own reputations.

 
 

Major League Baseball hates controversy, and maybe with the Rays able to dodge the bullet a bit here and get the situation handled before it really hit the fan hardcore, they might have saved face within the community both with fans and the corporate world. I do not write a lot of political or business based blogs, but in this case I felt it was needed to provide an outlet and a chance for the air to clear.
 


RRCollections

With the Rays requesting the removal of any naming rights discussion of Charlotte Sports Park off the Charlotte County Commission’s agenda today, it was the right and first step to rectifying a huge wrong to our neighbors to the South of Tampa Bay. Maybe if the Rays had meeting with the Charlotte County head honchos this mud would have never hit the fan and all would have been avoided with any damage control.

And this is an issue I think will die down fast to us up here in Tampa Bay, but I have a feeling it will still sting and stink in Port Charlotte, Florida for a bit longer than Spring Training this year.

www.mocsaicco.com still has an announcement of the proposed naming rights deal with the Rays on their corporate website .With the Rays asking the discussion of the Charlotte Sports Park off the Charlotte County Commission’s agenda today, it was the right and first step to rectifying a huge wrong to our neighbors to the South of Tampa Bay.

Maybe if the Rays had meeting with the Charlotte County head honchos this mud would have never hit the fan and all would have been avoided with any damage control. And this is an issue I think will die down fast to us up here in Tampa Bay, but I have a feeling it will still sting and stink in Port Charlotte, Florida for a bit longer than Spring Training this year.

Sunday Rewind: ” Rays trying to Boost Season Ticket Sales”

 


Bloggers Note:

It is still kind of wild how this same subject seems to coast to the surface right before the Tampa Bay Rays have their annual Fan Fest, but the Rays are again seeking to increase their Season Ticket fanbase for the 2010 season. So I decided that I might wander back to February 2,2009 and pull up an old blog entry that seems just as current today.


RRCollections
 


On February 2,2009, the St. Petersburg Times ran a story telling what local population segment the Tampa Bay Rays were going to be very aggressive in their push to increase their Season Tickets throughout Spring Training. The Rays currently still hold onto the bottom slot of the list among teams in the American League when it comes to active full Season Tickets, and the plan is to make the benefits of a Rays package or plan more attractive and further showcase what over 8,000 Rays fans already know, that Season Ticket packages give you some interesting options during the season. Television ads will begin their airtime barrage  showcasing key Rays players’ getting ready for the season and each will be narrated by Rays Manager Joe Maddon.
 

 


Most people in this region look at Rays Full Season Tickets as an expensive investment (81 games), but they are also not targeting most of the fanbase to purchase two seats in the Home Plate Club for around $ 12,400. for each padded seat. There are as many great season ticket packages and options as there are Rays selections in jerseys right now. And just because you select a seat in the Upper Deck, or even the T B T Party Deck, you are still considered a prime member of the exclusive Season Ticket membership
.

Now I have sat in my section (138) of the Trop in the plastic seat for the last 11 years, and I can not even imagine sitting anywhere else within the confines of Tropicana Field. but some people might not have the luxury of time away from other life requirements or  the money to invest in the team to this level. But for me, it is an investment in my sanity. Baseball is my form of relaxation and watching the game brings me down after the highs and lows of the day to a sense of neutrality again. 
 

 

A Full (81 games ) Season Ticket in the Upper Deck area of the Trop. went for about  $ 754.  during the 2009  season, which will come in at a discounted savings of $ 215. over the entire baseball season if you bought your seat at one time instead of fighting with Stubhub or Ticketmaster over the seats. But the Rays have also thought long and hard about the fan who can not make 81 games, or have  families or kids who play sports in the early Spring or Summer, which limits their chances to attend Rays games.

They have thought about this group of fans by including a huge list of  packages and seat options that could fit into anyone’s budget. And the team even offers a 20-game voucher system to induce fans to include friends, family or co-workers to come out to a Rays game on short notice. There are also half season Season Tickets that will let you pick from two great options that include weekdays or weekend games.

An example of the  weekday plan cost yaround $ 727.50 for a seat out in the Rays outfield seat, and included the Pomp and Circumstance of the 2009  Opening Day game and every game played from Monday to Thursday  during the season, including games against the Boston Red Sox, Philladelphia Phillies and New York Yankees.
 

 

Also offered again in 2009 was the popular 20-game package, which cost about $ 550. for a Baseline Box seat, such as Section 138. The package will be fine tuned and configured around the weekend games at the Trop. There were three viable options here, either you picked Friday, Saturday, and Sunday games, then the package was tailored to your needs.

The most popular option in the 20-game package was the Saturday night game option which gave you a seat for each of the Rays Concert Series performances in 2009. But this package also is limited in its effect to get you multiple games/seats against the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies in the same seat as your 20-game option. 
 

 

Then there is the entire Weekend Rays games plan which for an Outfield seat cost you $678.50 and would include every Rays home game played from Friday night through Sunday afternoon, and wiould include the popular Concert Series nights in the package. This package also gave you an additional ticket to attend the Opening Day game and  subsequent games against the Chicago White Sox, Red Sox, and Yankees. 

All of the half  season and limited game packages have a reduced level of Season Ticket benefits, but include such great items as priority numbers for Rays Postseason ticket purchases before the general publicsale ,10 percent discount for merchandise at the Tropicana Field Rays Team Store, and your own personal Season Ticket representative.

 

 
 


RRCollections

 


But there are other goodies that Season Ticket can get you that most fans never get to enjoy like using the Rays Season Ticket gate entrances at Gate 1 or Gate 3 for quick entry into games, and the option to purchase discounted parking passes to include Lots 2 and 6 for each Rays home game.  I used this option a few years ago, and I could actually park within 50 feet of the back door of the Trop. and get to my car in less than 1 minute after leaving the confines of the stadium.


This comes in handy during those wild rain showers we tend to have in the summertime here in Florida. You also have a priority advantage to either upgrade your seat, or even decide in the off season you want to move closer to the rail or aisle end, you can contact your Season Ticket Representative and he will work with you to get that desired location or seat for you. 
 
 

 

If the level of secured Season Tickets for the Rays game could increase from the level they are today, to about 15,000, the team would have a guaranteed attendance of 1.8 million fans each season. One of the big reasons for the push to increase the Season Ticket fanbase is to try and sit about the MLB average every season in total attendance. Another is that the team increased their budgeted payroll for 2009 to a level that is 2 1/2 times the 2007 payroll for the team. With the estimated payroll exceeding $ 60 million in 2009, it will be the most talented and expensive team assembled in Rays history.
 

 


Full Season Tickets gets you a lot of great benefits besides the ones listed above. Full season patrons also get a guarantee of your same seat for every Rays game, a personalized nameplate on your seat, and an opportunity to purchase extra tickets to games during the Spring Training and Regular season before they go on sale to the public. Another great benefits is the exclusive events and parties that the Rays provide every year for the Full season crowd. 

 




RRCollections 
 
In the past, Rays Season Ticket holders have enjoyed events during the All-Star game where the Rays staff has invited the Season Ticket folks to places like Game Works in Ybor City for a party and gaming with players and other fans. That event in 2008 attracted numerous Rays players like Grant Balfour, Jonny Gomes, Edwin Jackson and Rays Manager Joe Maddon. Players played video games and raced simulated car races against fans and Raymond during the event, which included free food and drinks and numerous prizes given out during the event.  And yes, that is me doing the chocolate fountain in the photo at that season’s event.
 
 
Another one of the perks of having a Season Ticket, is the fact that the Rays will give you a selection of pre-determined items from selected giveaways around the All-Star break. I can tell you as a Full Season Ticket holder since 2000, and a half season ticket holder since 1998, that it has been one of the best investments I have ever made, not just in Rays baseball.

Along with the game tickets, you can develop a sense of trust and personal face time with players and staff that is beneficial to having the true Rays baseball experience. And with this, it gives you a deeper understanding and knowledge of what Rays baseball is really all about.
 

 
Another Season Ticket plus that some people find pleasing this year is the fact that non Season Ticket holders over the age of 14, will have to purchase a wristband with a $ 10 donation to the Rays Foundation to get autographs this year during the upcoming Rays Fan Fest. Along with your free wristband, as a Season Ticket holder, you have the chance to gain early admission to the Fan Fest an full hour before other fans.
 

Not only that, but throughout the season you get Rays personalized birthday and holiday cards from the Rays staff, and also develop friendships and a common bond with your fellow Season Ticket buddies through the many events planned by the Rays staff throughout each Rays season.

 


 


RRCollections 

 
So be sure to check out  all of the great options being offered by the team this year in their Season Ticket packages either online, or by contacting the Rays Season Ticket office to start your purchase plans this season. As is the way with most things in this life, the more pricey the seat, the more extended benefits you can get with your Rays experience. But every seat within Tropicana Field is unobstructed and has great sightlines of their own
 
 
Not having the money to get the plush spots in the Trop should not keep you from wanting to come enjoy this Rays team. Exciting things are in store again this season, and if you decide to join the Rays train you can be on the ground floor with the rest of the 8,000 plus excited Rays faithful Season Ticket fanatics. Even if you can not afford to put out extra money right now because of the economic situation, please come out and support the team when you can. We are about to again embark on another great year of expectations and surprises from the Rays. And it would be a shame for anyone, even you, to miss out on that special brand of Rays excitement.
 
 

2010 Maddon’s Maniacs Video Shoot

 


RRCollections

I always seem to get a bit giddy when the Tampa Bay Rays Fan Experience department sends out an email seeking out members of the “Maddon’s Maniac’s group to come on down to Tropicana Field and participate in a in-game video promotional shoot for the upcoming Rays baseball season.

Not only has this become a recent yearly adventure for members of the group, but one that we all look forward to, and is a clear indication to all of us just how soon we will all assemble again for Rays home games. And the air around the group waiting outside the Trop. Was filled with great anticipation and excitement in the air as we collectively get ready to again pop our mugs upon the Jumbotron for another video to show our support for our Rays team.

And even with the rain darkened skies outside looking a bit more menacing by the minute, the enthusiasm of the Maniacs’ was sky high, even with the reports of a tornado touching down across the bay in Tampa. But outside in a drizzle of rain stood some of the core of the Maniacs group that currently hold over 1,500 card carrying members to the organization.

The video shoot today was going to be an in-game promos piece to include our loveable Seadog mascot Raymond, and include both young and young-at-heart Maniacs dancing and swaying to the music of Naughty by Nature and their hit “Hip Hop Hooray!”

 

 

Our first location of the day would be at the end of the long corridor down Leftfield Street at the Mountain Dew Extreme Zone to begin our video shoot. I was excited to again be down in this section of the Trop. The area was inspired to resemble an inner city stickball court with hubcaps strung up along the netting, an old Lincoln Continental for ambiance’, and colorful paintings and graffiti all over the walls to bring to life that city personality to the area. It would make the perfect backdrop for the urban hit, and also give a more hip-hop feel to the video. So the group took our places among the backdrop as the Raysvision production crew let us know what they wanted from us today.

 
 

I decided to park myself right nest to the banana-yellow Lincoln and the oil drum can. I had brought some drumsticks to use during the video on the oil drum that I knew was in the scene (I helped set-up this area years ago), but there was a little girl who had a broken leg, and we set her on top of the drum instead so she could participate without having to stand for a long time. It was great to see everyone so excited as we did a few run through of the song before trying a first complete shooting of the video.

We stayed in this area of the Trop for about another 45 minutes before finally switching to the Centerfield gate location where the Rays had positioned their Hummer for a second segment of the video shoot. In this scene, we were all suppose to run up to the Hummer, with Raymond on top and again do the hand sways and mannerisms of the song to give a second groove to the production. The Raysvision film crew decided to do a high angle shot from the top of the outfield stands looking down on us as we did our thing.


RRCollections

Again the kids were tremendous in this part of the taping, but some of them were a bit hyped up and go real close to the Hummer and might not have been in the shots. But again, it was a great moment for everyone, even the parents, to promote some team spirit and also do some dancing in the background.

 
 

So after another 40 minutes or so of grinding and moving to the music, we were done for the day, but most of us were still standing around chatting about what had happened during the off season in our lives, or the excitement of the upcoming Rays Fan Fest on February 20th. I have to again thank the Raysvision crew, the Fan Experience department and the countless fans who came out on Friday to again help promote our Rays team.

I always have a great time doing these types of ventures with the Rays, and hope that more of you can also do it in the future too. Again during this season’s Fan Fest, the Rays will be setting up a Maddon’s Maniac’s table near the Home Plate section of Tropicana Field to provide information and an opportunity for other Rays fans to also join this group.

 
 

In closing today I am going to post a pirated copy of the Maddon’s Maniac’s 2008 Rays production to promote the Major League Baseball set of “Ground Rules” that are broadcasted before each game. I am actually only in the first minute of this production as I went to the back section of the stands just after the first segments of shots to give some kids and other Rays fans an opportunity to see themselves up on the Jumbotron before all 81 games last season.

Again, this is just a small part of what this Maniac’s group does for the Rays during the season, but it is great that the Rays Front Office and their staff (Darcy Raymond, Eric Weinberg, Sean Liston )gives the Maniacs a chance every season to help show our support and our fandom for our favorite team. Can’t wait until they call on us again! Hopefully for a Postseason video version in 2010.

 
 
 
 

Do You Believe……..

 


RRCollections

On Wednesday night, I could not get a restful sleep to save my life. Sleep and me lately have not been on the best of terms, but I make due with what is dealt to me. And so I decided to go out snooping around one of St. Petersburg’s baseball destinations that have been known to encounter unusual or “supernatural” experiences in the past. I am a firm believer that there just might be some great ghostly baseball games being played beyond a mortal man’s eyesight.

So being in a restless adventurous mood, I decided to hit Progress Energy Park, which was built right on top of the old St. Petersburg Athletic Park, which was the Home field for the Boston/St. Louis Browns, and then the New York Yankees up until that structure was razed and the new concrete stadium rose in 1947.

 
 

I wanted to head towards this park because in my old Pepsi-Cola position as the Special Events Coordinator, one of my greatest job activities was supplying the stadium with products and having the run of the stadium before, during and sometimes after Spring Training. I spent some odd moments going underneath and explore the nooks and crannies of this stadium, and I did find a few treasure troves that I was allowed to take from the stadium.


RRCollections

Nothing of significant historic value per se, mostly old newspapers dating to the early 1950′s and I even found a small room that smelled of old Cuban cigars that might have been where Miller Higgins went to have a pre-game, or a post-game cigar before heading out of the ballpark. I also could smell the signs of decay from the inner bones of this stadium, but I still marveled at what it must have been like to wander within its hallways during the Days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, who both stayed just a few blocks away in the Ponce De Leon Hotel penthouse suites when they came down every Spring. I could almost visualize Stan Musial or some of the other St. Louis Cardinals warming up under the stands ready to play in the revised stadium after 1947.

I really was not expecting anything of value in tonight’s venture, or anything really, just wanted to kill a few hours before finally falling asleep exhausted, and maybe dreaming of those past baseball days in this park. Now I am a huge fan of believing that this life is just a beginning, and that there are some things beyond our control that might have us wandering in this realm after we are gone from this world. I think that basis to my psyche developed when I hit a electrical cable with a J-hook while hooking up a car to pull it out of a sandbank when I was about 8-years old helping my Dad pull cars out of Sunset Beach during bad weather.

So that gives me a realistic basis for wanting to believe shows like “Ghost Hunters” and “Ghost Adventures” could give us a sample tidbit of what life might be like for us beyond breathing. Because believe me, if I have my choice, I am haunting my Season Ticket seat for a long, long time (lol).

 

It was still before 5:30-ish and extremely dark still, so I decided to head to the St. Petersburg Pier and look out at the water and upon the beautifully-lit Vinoy Hotel, which itself holds a fantastic paranormal history between its walls. But it was a bit too windy to even get a great night shot of the Vinoy or nice landscape photo of the bright city lights and I decided to cruise down Beach Drive towards the stadium. It still gets me that I have to call this field Progress Energy Park. The “official” name is Progress Energy Park at Al Lang Field, but that looks really snobbish on a brochure for the City of St. Petersburg.

 
 

The last Rays Spring Training game in this stadium ever was held on March 28th,2008 with Matt Garza on the mound against the Cincinnati Reds. The Rays lost that last home game in this grand stadium 6-3, even though Garza threw 5 innings without giving up an earned run, but the sell-out crowd could not boost the Rays to a win. It seems like just yesterday I went under the stands and found 2 garbage cans full of broken bats and game-used bats with mostly Rays players’ names on them. And here I was walking around the building again with the fine lights of the morning beginning to pop through the cloud cover.
 
 

But I was not outfitted like a Ghost investigator, my only tool was my camera and a small digital recorder, but I was here more for remembering than for a full-on balls-to-the-wall type of venture. In essence, I was trying to kill a few hours of the night without disturbing my neighborhood with 5 am basketball, or even a melody of 1980′s hits from I-Tunes Radio. I took about 30 photos from all different angles and locations while wandering around the stadium.

I wandered around the rectangular building in front of the ballpark that used to be the home of Minor League Baseball before they bolted from St. Petersburg for another locale. And took a few minutes to ponder that I would have been standing in Rightfield of the new Rays sail-inspired ballpark if the POWW committee and the grey Panthers had not put the kibosh on the whole deal and sent the Rays and the City scrambling for alternatives (ABC Coalition).

 
 

So I popped the camera through the locked double gates near the Leftfield Berm area, plus the small singular gated entry that had for years been the threshold for game day Umpires and Visiting team members to used to get quick access to the field without going into the clubhouse. I then took a long stroll beyond the high green outfield walls around the outside of the stadium back near the sheds that housed the old Batting Cages and small infield drill areas and found three baseball sitting in the damp grass.
 


RRCollections


I finally came out on 1st Street North and headed North to end up at the old Knot-hole Gang fencing area just beyond the Rightfield Berm with a clear visual all the way to Home Plate and a nice sweeping viewpoint of the entire playing surface. I took 10 quick pictures at this spot and really was enjoying just watching the sun start to peak out over Tampa Bay and provide a great backlight to the empty stadium. There were Batting Cages set up, but no cars anywhere around the stadium so it had an eerie feel to it all.
 
 

At that time, I really did not know how eerie it really was……..until I got back home and pulled the pictures through my Windows Photo Gallery to see if I had any keeper photos, or if they were all just trash. Well, in one particular photo, I kept coming back to it and looking, then going forward to the next picture taken maybe a few seconds before it, and there was something odd in that first picture that kept calling me back to it. I marveled that I might have caught something, but it was a bit hazy. I made a quick mental remembrance that there was no odd colors draped around the baseball diamond to promote a sort of non-green background in this photo.
 
 

Now I am not saying it is anything, because that is up to total individual interpretation, and someone could have snuck into this dark stadium at night, and walked towards the Home Dugout. I have had a few people check out the photo and have gotten mixed reviews back, but people say that seeing something like this on film is like either of us standing in the Ringling Museum viewing an art masterpiece.

Each person sees a different analogy or interpretation as an authentic piece of art, or someone paint splattered in different directions by a drunk man. But that is also what I love about opinions, every one has one.

 
 
I am not saying I caught a glimpse of the past walking by that night. I think something was caught, and wouldn’t you like to believe that the past does perform residual events, or might be inclined to show us a glance into realms we do not understand. I am a huge skeptic on so many levels about other things, but on this subject, I am a bit torn at both ends. I do not want to think about it as an apparition. I would rather go hog wild and romanticize it as a gift from baseball’s past to me that night. I want to believe, so I might have saw something.
 
 
And maybe that is where the real trouble lies for me in this event. Just like Kevin Costner in his great ” I Believe…” speech in “Bull Durham”, I want to believe in supernatural existence within the annuals of the Church of Baseball, and that they might have revealed themselves to me. I relish the thought of the past saying a quick “Howdie”, then heading for the hills. But then I also want to believe that I could someday do that same thing after I am gone.

I want to believe that I can still enjoy the game from the other side, and maybe even mis-direct a few balls down the foul lines, or tip a ball out of a glove, or over a wall in the future. Heck thinking about it now, that might be the only real chance I will ever get to touch a ball in the field of play during an actual game………And believe me, I am dying to do that…Big Time!

 
 

Andrew Friedman……Scavenger Hunter Extraordinaire

 

                  
                    Www.Tbo.com

Have you checked out the new show on the History Channel on cable called “American Pickerswhere a pair of average looking guys venture out around the country rummaging through people storage spaces, weed-infested backyards and barns on that endless quest to find the perfect pieces to put an accent on their collections or for a possible resale money bonanza.

Well, the guys on this show do seem to find some incredible items, and also seem to dig deep and find a few unforeseen treasures, but the show sometimes comes off as so analytically calculated, and borders on the outer realms of eccentricity, but the action does reminds me of the “digging beneath-the-surface” player searches and untapped player explorations that Tampa Bay Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman has become famous all around Major League Baseball for since he took over that spot with the Rays.

It has become the norm around the Major Leagues that Friedman always seems to be on the phone doing so-called “courtesy calls” to check-out every single player ever put up on the trade block, or any free agent that could potentially be a instant “plus” for the Rays. You only have to go back to 2007 when Friedman might have shocked a few people by signing First Baseman Carlos Pena to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite.

Friedman took a guy with such great potential when he was drafted by the Texas Rangers back in and made it to the MLB when he played for years with the Detroit Tigers, but had been hidden amongst the weeds in the minor league system and Friedman and his scouting staff could see the potential.The way he seemed to pick Pena out of that situation and we all quickly saw him rise again to MLB stardom is a testament to Friedman’s scavenger hunt mentality when seeking out players for the Rays. By Friedman keeping a watchful eye, and ear to the ground to aggressively seeking out that prized piece of personnel who could improve the Rays has become a trademark of his tenure with Tampa Bay.

Another great example might be the trade a few years ago with the Minnesota Twins where he sent a disgruntled Delmon Young, infielder Brendan Harris and minor leaguer outfielder Jason Pridie for the package of pitcher Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett and reliever Eduardo Morlan. And it is still amazing that of that group, two members of that trade have formed the backbone of this team, and Bartlett has exploded to become one of the best shortstops in the American League.

But it is this scavenger mentality that maybe sets Friedman apart from his peers. That extra sense of looking deep and maybe even stepping back and then looking at a player again to find that special piece of the chemistry that might solidify the Rays roster. Friedman really reminds me of those people who weekly flock to the local Flea Markets or stroll around your own neighborhood feasting on Yard/Garage Sales and seems to find that one item just kind of loitering around the table, then he picks up at this item for a bargain basement price much our amazement.

But Friedman has also been laid out to dry a few times trying to sneak a player or get a bargain and then have it blow up in his face. All you have to do is mention the name Josh Hamilton to him and you see a bit of the fire die behind his eyes. That was an early wake-up call to Friedman that not everyone else was in awe of him, and if he made a mistake, there were more than a few people who are willing to pounce on his errors. With him trying to sneak Hamilton through the Rule 5 Draft with no one noticing might seem manic, but it was a calculated risk, and one that will haunt Friedman, but also made him wiser about the whole process.

 
 

And then you have the current bloodbath concerning Rays designated Hitter Pat Burrell, who came to the team with maybe some over blown expectations, but still did nothing to subdue the anger and frustrations of the Rays faithful to Burrell or Friedman with his abysmal hitting and injury concerns in 2009. But there is still another chapter to be written in that story, and if all the reports are true, Friedman is still actively trying to be another suitor for Burrell. But this one might stick to Friedman the way the “Hit Show” fiasco stuck to former Rays GM Chuck LaMar. And sometimes people forget that it is what you did just yesterday that people remember, not what you have consistently done during your entire time with a club.

 
 

And for that, I do consider Friedman one of the true great assets of the Rays. He might not get a chance to hit a walk-off homer like Friedman 2008 early pick-up Gabe Gross, or repay the Rays for their confidence in him by pitching a one-hitter like Garza, but this team is a constantly evolving and revolving sphere that is Friedman’s world. There was a recent article by Josh Fisher of “The Hardball Times” baseball blog that Friedman might be one of the best assets in baseball for what he does behind the scenes to improve, orchestrate and also balance this Rays franchise 365 days a year.

And it is real easy to throw stones at the ivory tower on the third floor of the Trop., but Friedman actually has an outstanding track record if you add all of his player moves and removals up on two sides of a sheet of paper. And maybe that is his best quality. Because if you do add some items to Column A or to Column B, you would ultimately see in front of you the true essence that he might be way ahead of the curve and has actually done some amazing things in such a short time. But it is the timing of some of these things that tend to stir the controversy pot for Friedman. Some hate the player discussion comment blackout where the team will not discuss any possible deals in the works until they are finalized, or tossed away.

 
 

And even if the Rays front office formulated a solid strategy to end all active arbitration figure exchanges at a predetermined point and it got some well focused anger from the new MLBPA head honcho Michael Weiner. But missing from those raging comments by Weiner is the actual facts that fellow MLB clubs, the Washington Nationals and Florida Marlins also put arbitration time limitations on their arbitration exchanges between the two parties. It is a bit unrealistic that Friedman is solely being hung out to dry on this factor, but that is the reality of the process. Sometimes the “hot name” or the “Golden Boy” get the shaft while the others scramble to do their own form of damage control before the heat hit them square in the jaw.

 
 

Chris O’Meara/AP


People around baseball are always looking for the next big name, or the hidden gem within the minor league systems of your competitors. And right now, Freidman and the Rays Scouting department might be a bit ahead of the curve. So the next time you hear a rumor about the Rays checking in on Chan Ho Park, Orlando Hudson or even Orlando native Johnny Damon, remember that it just might be a courtesy call from Friedman just checking on the status or asking price and nothing more. But with the Rays code of silence imposed until the signature is on the contract, there could be a few deals sitting on the shelf for consideration especially if there is deferred money involved right now.

 
 

And could today’s signing by the Rays of former San Deigo First Round Draft pick(2004) pitcher Matt Bush be another chapter of Friedman finding a talent buried within the minor leagues that could one day produce for the Rays. So if within the next 21 days a player like Damon, Park or another unseen player does fall into the Rays hands, you can be sure the Rays did their homework and poked and analyzed every angle of the equation before Friedman ever steps to the podium to talk about……..anything.

Can Winston Abreu make the Rays Roster?

 


DRaysBay.com

Coming into the middle of February in 2010 when the Tampa Bay Rays pitchers and catchers begin to report for Spring Training in Port Charlotte, you have to realistically visualize the picture that there might only be one lone slot left on the Rays 25-man roster for another reliever. And considering this Spring invitees will include Durham Bulls relievers like Randy Cromier, Dale Thayer and Calvin Medlock, there is still one name missing off this list who I think might have a real legitimate shot at securing that solo seat on the Rays Bullpen bench for 2010.

Sure, we can debate back and forth for days as to the merits of the other three guys I have mentioned, or a even the merits of other relievers currently on the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits roster who could also make some huge advances and impressions both the field and in the minds of the Rays organizations Coaches minds by the end of March 2010. And the one name missing from this group is Winston Abreu. I think that Abreu has the stuff on the mound and the acquired veteran wisdom needed to secure his first Opening Day roster spot of his 14-year professional career.

Sure some people will certainly point to his extended journeyman minor league career with only two prior Major League promotions to the before the 2009 season with the Baltimore Orioles (2006) and Washington Nationals (2007) as a bit of negative fodder that his name should not even be uttered with such confidence. But then again, in all of his past promotions to the Major League, he has been a stop-gap guy filling in for a veteran persence missing on that Major League roster, and that shows you teams knew he had the abilities.


DockoftheBay.com


But again, in 2009, Abreu did appear to fill that same type of gap for the Rays securing a limited role with the Rays Bullpen after the team put veteran reliever Jason Isringhausen on the Disabled List on June 14th and only gave Abreu two appearances before designating Abreu  for assignment after veteran reliever Chad Bradford was ready to rejoin the Rays Bullpen after an injury.

And sure you can also throw the added negative bonus of the Rays then trading Abreu to the Cleveland Indians on July2,2009 and Abreu only spending about a month on the Indians roster before they also designated him for assignment on August1,2009. But Abreu quickly rebounded and signed with the Rays again and was sent to the Triple-A Durham Bulls for the second time during the 2009 season. And within 30 days of Abreu rejoining the Bulls, he was selected as the International League Pitcher of the Week for August 30th after only surrendering 1 lone hit in his last ten appearances of 2009.

And even if Abreu’s stats while pitching with the Indians held up a gaudy 23.14 ERA for the whole baseball world to see in his only three appearances for the Tribe, most people around baseball seem to remember his actions during a July 27,2009 game at Safeco Field. Abreu took the mound in the ninth inning after Mariner’s starter Chris Jakubuska’s hit Ben Francisco square in the back with his first pitch after surrendering a 2-run homer to Asdrubal Cabrera earler in the top of the ninth inning.

Abreu countered in the bottom of the ninth inning with an action that should happen according to the unwritten rule book of baseball and plucked M’s Third Baseman Jack Hannahan. Sure both benches and Bullpens’ cleared and came out onto the field, but order was quickly restored and the game started up right after the Home Plate Umpire ejected Abreu because of the retaliation pitch. Abreu was subsequently given a 3-game suspension for his part, along with a fine for good measures. Most people would see that as a negative blemishe on a pitcher’s mental make-up to try and incite a brawl, but I actually see it in a different light as a veteran pitcher understanding the unspoken code of the game, and doing the right thing for his teammate.

But the main reason I think that we will see Abreu make this year’s Rays 25-man roster might have come about with MLB.Com naming him the Triple-A Reliever of the Year after posting a 3-1 record with a 1.94 ERA during 37 appearances for the Bulls last season.  That might have been the cherry on top of that Triple-A Championship sundae. But with abreu coming back to the Bulls after his Indians disaster and showing his rubber mental consitution by getting 15 saves, you can see Abreu as a reliever who has that proverbial ice water in his veins that the Rays seemed to be missed most of last season.


RRCollections

Abreu has that veteran mustard and wealth of past experience that the Rays Bullpen will need during their 2010 season. And sure he might have a few quirks like carrying his glove with him to the Bullpen restroom during his time up with the Rays, but the guy truly  understands the game from A to Z. The Rays farm system has a bevy of ample arms sitting down in the minor leagues, but they do not have any relievers with prior Major League experience besides Thayer and Abreu right now. When the Rays resigned Abreu on December 14th, I felt they made the move for his expertise, not as a reward for winning a Triple-A title or a post season MLB.Com award.

The guy has take a long journey through the farm systems of the Braves, Cubs,Dodger, Diamondback, Orioles, Nationals, Indians, Royals and now the Rays during his career. And the abundance of knowledge he has as a veteran pitcher could be a valuable asset in 2010 for the Rays. I mean if he was such a middle-of-thepack reliever, then how did he pitch for Bobby Valentine’s 2008 Chiba Lotte Mariner’s squad over in Japan?  You know Valentine stresses pitching on his teams. So coming into this Spring, I am going to be watching Abreu to see if he is one of the guys to get a lot of reps in Spring Training contests.

Last season Abreu made it all the way up with the Rays Spring Training roster until March 16th when the Rays sent him to the minor league camp also located in Port Charlotte, Florida. Hopefully during this this Spring Abreu can make a lasting impression on the Rays Spring Training coaching staff to get a chance to stay and earn a roster spot. Abreu has everything you want in a reliever at the major league level. 

Abreu has pitching ability, the vast experience and a yearning to succeed at the highest level of the game.
And we also know from his little incident in Seattle, that Abreu also understands the little things that
revolve just under the surface around the game of baseball. I guess all Abreu needs now is a chance on the mound to show he should be one of the last decisions of the Rays this Spring, and be sitting on that Rays Bullpen bench watching the first pitch of the 2010 season.

Crisis brewing in the Tampa Bay Tidepool

 


1 out of 8 citizens within Tampa Bay region currently do not have the luxury of report to a job on a daily basis. And it is this impending economic pickle that might finally sour the Rays Front Office to this region effectively corralling the numbers needed to support the team in the next 5 or 6 seasons. With the team basically coming “out front” and telling their fan base they have collectively “borrowed” money for payroll from future Rays squads, this might be a sign of leaner times for the Rays until the entire economic system rebounds and again begins a healthy upswing.

 
 

But this is also a National crisis, but the media and blogs posted in the past month or so questioning this region’s passion and love for the game are ridiculous. These same postings do not address solutions within the region, but point to outer posts or locales where a “healthy” revenue stream can be obtained with minimal effort by the men who guard the coffers. And with their statements, they do not even surface emphasize or firmly grasp this region’s struggles to simply tread water right now because they are not down in the Rays trenches on a first hand basis, and seeing the growing fan base increasing potential and the beaming pride from the ground level of both young and old fans in the stands.
 
 

They point to the black-and-white facts of the Rays lacking great local Corporate support and ticket sales, or even the abysmal Season Ticket holder numbers which in comparison would look firmly out of context numbers when stood next to the Corporate support shown within the large capital cities of industry like New York, Philadelphia or Boston, which have over 100 years of baseball support systems in place to form a solid fan foundation compared to the less than 20 years of total Tampa Bay’s Major League Baseball existence.
 
 
 
I have seen recent postings by the people throwing stones at this region for not showing “undying” gratitude or support to the Rays after their tremendous 2008 Playoff run, but what they fail to show is the honest fact that even in these increasingly financial tough times, the Rays have raised their overall attendance marks for three seasons in a row. They want to throw out the simple factoids that the Rays are ranked 23rd out of 30 teams in overall attendance figures, and base their streams of logic towards figures that the Tampa Bay region can not fully support, or even stand behind their Rays squads with any large community voice or presence.
 

And some of these same authors’ have been bold and brazen enough to label this community a “Spring Training town” and not able to muster the needed revenues or support to even keep a Florida State League team in our abandoned waterfront stadium. But these same voices forget to tell you of City of St. Petersburg legislation to secure baseball events like the ACC Baseball Tourney and other yearly baseball tournaments for the currently vacant Progress Energy Park.

 
 
 
But some of these same fears distributed by writers might become true very soon because of the unemployment epidemic that has plagued this entire country, not just this region of Florida. The increasing unemployment situation will give a more solid foundation to their points and counterpoint suggestions that the Tampa Bay area is just treading water in an ever expanding sea with up to 12.5 percent of the region’s prospective ticket buyers (Pinellas County), and a majority of the people in this area maybe turning away from the Rays situation for a spell to support their families, or even securing their home ownership dreams by fighting off the foreclosure hounds that have ravished this area.
 
 

The basic instinct of prioritizing their family finances, and cutting out such past luxuries as attending countless Rays games could dramatically effect Rays game attendance figures throughout 2010. I know this region is just a small puddle within the larger pond of increasing frustrations felt by citizens throughout the United States by this growing epidemic, and it might hit hard on MLB teams in other cities like Detroit, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and the list can go on and on….until we are again on a solid footing. But even that first hint of a ripple, that first stone dropping into the water can change the outcome and appearance of the entire scenario in a matter of seconds. This time is that important right now here in Tampa Bay.
 
 

As of December 2009, there are over 15 million people just like myself, fighting to find even a part-time gig to support their sole existence, not just their MLB yearly habit. And it might be someone like myself, or even you who ultimately adds one more failure to the Rays board by not being able to attend games, or showing a physical presence at the ballpark every night. But I also know I will do everything short of becoming another street dweller to raise the bar and show my pride physically as well as fiscally in my love of the game and my hometown Rays, as long as I financially can… But there are many who will not be able to make that financial commitment or even take these types of chances in 2010 with their incomes, or even attend as many games because of fiscal woes and their decreasing disposable income limitations.
 
 

And that will fuel the non-support flames even higher towards the Rays bonfires again, not the reality that this service-oriented, transient populated Tampa Bay community lives and breathes off the tourism dollar and the seasonal ventures by out-of-town fans that come here for weekends or weekdays following their teams road trip schedules during the MLB season. And even the most dedicated Rays fan might have noticed the economic effect in the stands during the 2009 season when Boston and New York came to town the Rays could bank on being sold-out in advance, even during the mid-week.
 
 

RRCollections

But in 2009, there was an increasing ocean of empty blue-colored seats poking out towards television cameras to viewers in the other reaches of the United States. And to them, those empty seats transferred quickly to lack of support, or even a visual reminder of just how hard this region is struggling with itself to fill those same empty seats on the usually slow Thursday night games. My tickets for 81 games come in at $ 1,799 for the season for my little seat right next to the Rightfield foul pole at Tropicana Field. That breaks down to around $ 20.21 per game. And I will be honest, some nights that $ 20 could be better spent, but it is my personal commitment to this team that I give it to the Rays without a single moment of hesitation or concern right now.
 
 
I know I am not bringing up anything surprisingly new to the extent or the possible damage this could do short-term to Rays attendance figures, or even the Rays Front Office’s future plans to further invest in this community long-term, or instead begin ways behind-the-scenes for the Rays to look towards their next revenue options or hidden agendas, maybe even into moving to another locale. And to some reading this, that same commitment by me to securing my Rays Season Tickets might seems as a form of fiscal suicide, or even a hint of insanity, but it is my personal part to stand up nightly and try and keep this team here by showing the Rays Front Office that some of the fan base within the Tampa Bay community will do anything short of being homeless to show their team spirit for this franchise.
 
 
 
The entire MLB community will experience up and down movements in 2010 in their team’s game attendance marks. But right now, it is critical within the Tampa Bay area to put as many fannies in the seats as possible to squash suggestions and opinions from outside the region as to that ,” what is best for us” propaganda from afar. It is a moral imperative that this community does something to deafen the attendance volleys from these same writers that are heard high and clear within the confines of the Third Floor offices of the Rays. But there is a breaking point to every relationship, even a community bond such as the Rays and Tampa Bay.
 


Mark O’Meara/AP 
 
 
Even with the ABC Coalition report findings showing mixed results for the area, this region will show signs of internal splintering and sub sequential re-cementing its focal points over the stadium issue and location for the next few years. Misunderstandings and unsubstantiated rumors and biased opinions will rule the day until forced out of people’s minds by the stark reality of the truth unfolding in front of them. But a community, which inter-locks its arms together can push back a stronger show of force and strife than a community that stands divided as the opinions and slander flows through the cracks like the ebb of the tide.
 
 

For our much maligned region of Florida to survive the attacks and the volleys from outside our walls we have to join and remain strong in our bonds and commitments to baseball in our community. I remember another city back in 1984 that also thought they were on solid ground and enthusiastic towards their opinions that ” things would work out” for its city and its NFL team coming to a harmonious agreement. And the citizens believed in this team and community meshing until the Mayflower moving vans formed outside Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and their team relocated in the middle of the night to Indianapolis, Indiana.
 
 
Nothing in life is ever guaranteed. If it was, we might not have to even consider this post or the possible existence of baseball ever leaving Tampa Bay. So within this 2010 season the Tampa Bay community will be given time to show their commitment to baseball. And if we fail, we have no one to blame but ourselves from the Goodbye waves to the moving vans again from Tropicana Field.
 
 
 
 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 273 other followers