It Doesn’t Feel like 15 Years

 

 
RRCollections

It is still hard to believe just what has conspired over the last 15 years. It seems like just yesterday we were hearing the Major League Baseball “Acting” Commissioner Bud Selig announce to the Tampa Bay region’s fans that the Major League Baseball owners had rejected the relocation request of the St. Petersburg Baseball Group to move the San Francisco Giants to Tampa Bay. That same news was so heartbreaking to a region that blindly constructed a baseball venue and was relying on a hope that “If you build it, they will come.”
 
 
How many of us remember hearing that same quote being tossed out on our portable FM radio’s by the Q Morning Zoo and DJ Mason Dixon that the building of the Florida Suncoast Dome would show MLB that the Tampa Bay area means business. But we did get a second announcement from Selig not too long after that in the Spring of 1995, and this time, the news would be a bit more enlightening to Tampa Bay’s quest for a Major League level baseball team.
 
 
On March 9,1995 in the Breakers resort situated on the East Coast of Florida, right between most of our lunch time activities at 12:54 pm, Selig emotion-less face was again thrown up on our local television sets with another message to the Tampa Bay area. This time, by a 28-0 vote by the other current Major League owners, the St. Petersburg Baseball Group led by Vince Namoli was finally going to pop the cork on that celebration champagne bottle. Yes, finally we had Major League Baseball coming to the Tampa Bay area past their usual Spring Training dates.
 
 
And a small side note to all of this is that the Breakers is a resort that tends to bring good omens and news to this region of Florida. For in 1991, in this same resort, the Tampa Bay region also was awarded their National League Hockey franchise from this same Conference Room. And so began the franchise that would evolve within those 15 years from the Devil Rays, that were printed on the first T-shirts and Uniforms presented to the media at that announcement, to our present day Rays.
 

And these word spoken by then Rays Team Owner Vince Namoli to the Tampa Tribune might sum up the great celebration and also the knowledge that we still had a long journey ahead of us before that First Pitch in 1998. “It’s been a path of 10,000 steps, 10,000 phone calls, 10,000 frustrations. Now we’re at the end of the path, but we start a new path,” Naimoli said. “We start to focus on hiring a general manager, on the Dome, on the development of the franchise, on the minor-league system, on Opening Day 1998. We’re into the fun path.”

 
 
What a huge rollercoaster ride it has been over the last 15 years. From completely setting up a professional complex in the existing Spring Complex that the New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals had used in the past in western St. Petersburg, to finalizing the lease agreement with the City of St. Petersburg so that the then D-Rays could pursue their initial changes needed within their new domed home. And the $ 150 million that Namoli and his group first paid to finally become the first owners of this franchise seems pale now considering all the great moments and events that have transpired since that announcement.
 

I still remember both announcements as if it was yesterday and still have that memory of finally hearing we had our dream of a professional baseball team in our sights and had a hard road ahead of us, but one that always has been a pleasure. From our first pick (Paul Wilder) in the 1996 First Year Players Draft, to the recent announcement of two-time All Star Hank Blalock being signed by the Rays, to paraphrase an old television commercial, this team has come a long way baby!
 

And today I hope all Tampa Bay fans take a moment after 12 pm to again try and remember and enjoy this moment. Sure we might have had a few rough years starting out before our Rays farm system began to churn out players like outfielder Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, or pitcher Joe Kennedy who showed us that building through our minor leagues was our path to the top. And less than 7 years after Crawford first played on the turf of Tropicana Field, we envisioned a rise to Playoff status, and an eventual ride to the World Series.
 

 

And as we near that special moment in time today, it is actually fun for me to go back in time and remember I was sitting in a local gym when the announcement hit the airwaves that sent the room into an instant celebration. Because around me also working out were minor league players from the Orioles system and also a few University of Florida football players getting ready for Spring drills. Instantly the mood went from working out to celebrating, and I know we were not alone in wanting to paint the town red that night.

 
 
15 years can be a long time. Heck, when I was 10 years old I always dreamed of being 15, which gave you more responsibilities like playing Senior League baseball, or driving the car with your parents with you. But year 15 for the Rays might be a benchmark season. Already there is a air that this season might assemble the best team overall to ever man a Rays jersey. This season the possibilities are there for the Rays to again claw there way past division rivals Boston and New York to fight for their October rights to play for that shiny gold trophy. The announcement on March 9,1995 was the Tampa Bay area’s eight chance at trying to secure a Major League team.
 

I think the best way to celebrate this blog today is to remember a story posted by the Rays team writer for MLB.com, Bill Chastain, who at the time of the announcement was an employee of the Tampa Tribune. In that story, his last paragraph was a quote by Namoli on the day’s events. And I can think of no better way to end this blog than remembering those same words spoken by a man who somehow saw into our team future and made such a prophetic statement 15 years ago.
 
“Some fans and media will shorten our last name to Rays,” Naimoli said. “And, so, I will leave you with that: Hip, hip hoo-Ray.”
 

20 Comments

Okay – I still slip and call them the Devil Rays sometimes! ;-) HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the Rays!!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com

Julia,
You owe the Rays Foundation $1 for that slip up.
I can get away with it only because it is in the context of the story because that was their “original name” when they announced them in 1995.
But I will forward a few dollars anyway becuase I like the Rays Foundation and their many charitable causes.
I thought of opping another bottle of champagne, but I am down to my last one and might save it for October………maybe.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Wow. Has it really been 15 years? Where does the time go? The Rays organization certainly has been through a roller coaster ride and I know you’ve enjoyed every minute of it. (Well, maybe not EVERY minute.)

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Jane,
Actually, I have enjoyed most of the Rays moments since the beginning.
I guess it is rooted in the fact as a kid I wanted a MLB club to call my own, and finally got one and have never taken them for granted at all.
Been lucky to get in close and also have a balanced relationship between myself and the team’s actual goals and results over those years.
I got used to the expecation and came to grips with the realities of having a team steeped in talent, but low in the fiscal coffers.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Only 15 years! Wow, well lets hope for 15 more great ones with Evan Longoria and that young pitching staff leading the way!
Brady- (BK and Teen-Tiger)
http://5toolblog.mlblogs.com/

Brady,
Not sure if we will have 15 more of Longo, but we should see at least (hopefully) another 5 years.
And the Rays pitching staff will age a bit before they get younger again within the next few years.
I am thinking we might not see too many over 30 starters for the Rays for quite a while, unless it is James Shields or Matt Garza.
But it is going to be fun.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

15 years?? Unbelievable. I’m like Julia. Every once in a while I think Devil Rays.
http://catlovesthedodgers.mlblogs.com

Yeah, I catch myself saying devil rays, but then correct myself. This should be a good year for the Rays. The window of contention only stays open for so long before it shuts. Though, I think the rays are in good hands and have a lot of depth ready to burst onto the scene. Good Luck http://clevelandbaseball.mlblogs.com

Cat,
Caaaaaaching! Another dollar for the Rays Foundation & Rays President Matt Silverman.
I have not had that same trouble mainly because I follow thew team religiously, so that is my excuse and I am sticking to it (lol).
Even if they play like tham at times, this is far from the 1998-2007 Rays on the field now…..and that is a great thing!

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cleveland,
Since you catch yourself…..No dollar taken from you!
It is a year that is so high in expectations knowing the payroll will dip considerably in 2011.
But then again, 4 of the top 5 salaries will either be gone, or re-signed at a significant “local” discount.
I knbow Carlos Pena wants to retire a Rays, but will the salary demands equal what is availiable following 2010…..To be continued

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

WOW… 15 years… doesn’t time fly when your having fun… it’s always tough when a player wants to stay, but either the team has diferent ideas or maney becomes an obstacle, sometime i think when a player says he wants to stay teams think they can get htem for next to nothing…

~peter
Outside the Phillies Looking In
http://devilabrit.mlblogs.com

Oi, those early D-Rays unis are so ugly… glad they got over that!
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

I have to agree with Jeff, those were so atrociously ugly! Good thing you got a fashion designer in town :)

I agree that the last quote was genius. How did he know the name would be changed.

I kind of like the Devil Rays, it had a ring to it.

But now its just Rays. One syllable.

Boring.

But your team isn’t boring itself Cliff, it is very successful and its astonishing how far they came from nothing.

Hopefully the Browns can follow in your footsteps. :)

Ted

http://tribewithted.mlblogs.com/archives/2010/03/contention-time.html

Peter,
The reality of not being in Philly, New York, Los Angeles or Chicago is that money flows downhill for us from revenue sharing and hopeful rises in attendance at Rays games.
The Rays Concert Series during some of the low attendance series will boost the overall attendnance.
Just look at teams with some of the concert, Royals, Mariners, Diamondbacks, all teams that might not bring in fans just by their names.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Jeff,
Actually the 1999 D-Rays jerseys that were black with a more defined spectrum of the rainbow on the logo was a bit more subdued to the pre-2001 Rays green and white with blue piping vests/jerseys.
Almost surprised the name “Rainbow Rays” did not stick tightly to the team with those jerseys.
I still have about 3 of them hidden in the closet.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Ted,
Not sure who made the intial uniform decision for the newbie D-Rays, but Rays owner( at the time) Vince Namoli gave the final stamp of approval.
Not blaming him at all, but people were going to buy it no matter if it was a blank T-shirt with “Rays ” scribbled across the chest.
My submitted choice was actually Ospreys, which is a pretty well known hunting bird in these parts of Florida. Especially at the outdoor ballparks near water.
But, such is life.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

15 years and you have a retro uniform for those special occasions too! You are a very big part of their history my friend.
mike

Mike,
I am going to paraphrase an old bumpersticker here:
“Floridian by Birth, Rays Fan by the Grace of God”
I have been lucky to be here since the beginning.
Think of all the great stories I am going to have for the retirement home in 20 years.
Guess I might not be popular with retirees from the Northeast….(lol).
You know history, and if you are not part if it, you are in the way of it.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I can’t agree with Jeff and Ted, I Love those retro Rays hats! The black ones with the purple Rim they wore back in 2004(?). I was looking for one when I was in Madeira Beach but I couldn’t find one my size.
Mike
http://mikebarryu.mlblogs.com

Mike,
I remember buying one of those black hats back in 1996 and wearing it for almost 2 years before the first game.
The best thing about the re-invention of the Rays caps is that you can trace them right to the team’s own evolution from the loveable losers’ of 1998, to the 10th year anniversary, and Playoff berth.
Hope you and your family had a great time in “Mad. Beach”.
That region has gone through some amazing transformation over the last few years, along with the new bridge being the main traffic snarl.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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