October 2010

A Haunting Good Time

 

People have always questioned if there is something after this life. If there is an existence that follows between this physical life, and an afterlife or even a possible state of timeless limbo before we might finally be transported to another realm. It is one of those cosmic questions that each of us seek the answer to at some point in our lives. Each of us play and weigh the realities and possibilities within our own intelligence to hopefully come up with our own reality limits and beliefs.


With All Hallow’s Eve beginning in several hours, I thought it might be a bit interesting tonight to dig into the history and possible presence within my little township of St. Petersburg, Florida to bring out a few examples of paranormal or odd baseball-related coincidences within the city limits of a town where baseball might be played all year long, even beyond the human sightlines. With a city like this so rich in baseball lore, maybe you want to believe it is happening.. or maybe you have seen it yourself?

There are several sites I could bring into this discussion tonight from the downtown waterfront Ponce De Leon Hotel penthouse suites where New York Yankee legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig spent their time in this small hamlet while Spring Training with the Bronx Bombers. Where tales of the heavy footsteps and loud chuckles when no one is in the rooms with you echo at night. The smell of cigarette and smoke clouds when no one is on the porches or verandas during the early evenings.

 

Or maybe there is an unforeseen baseball tourney going on just down the street in a small neighborhood park just off 13th Avenue North along side a quaint city park that used to house a single field that used to be used by the Yankees and several other teams that have trained in this city in the past.


That to this day city employees still think the small baseball complex is still visited by unknown guests, possibly by Ruth and the Yankee Clipper, Joe Di Maggio. Where the smell of cherry scented cigars, a favorite of former Yankee Manager Miller Huggins s till permeates the early morning air as employees enter the locked building for a new days work.

 

That Huggins-Stengel Field, which is now the home turf of the St. Pete High School Green Devils baseball team might not be the only team taking batting practice and infield. Also watching might be a lone apparition sitting in a dugout just as he did with his Yankee players so long ago. Could former Yankee Manager Casey Stengel also be spending some of his afterlife viewing the game he loved, or still commanding his troops on the field during the eerie cloak of darkness?



Or could the Rays actually be getting some unseen help by the paranormal as visiting teams stay in a local hotel steeped in ghost tales even before the Rays existence in 1998. Most people outside of St. Petersburg would not remember the tales of the old Vinoy Hotel during its derelict days as vandals, the homeless and countless other unseen residents of the once swank hotel walked through its dilapidated halls and rooms after first closing its doors to the public in 1974.



But then another coat of glowing pink coral paint was applied to the hotel in the 1990′s as the discarded hotel property was purchased and restored to its old former glory as the Renaissance Vinoy Resort. And the swank hotel then became the hub for visiting Major League Baseball teams who came to play the hometown Rays, and were met by more than a few fans from beyond the baseball realms.

Since that time, visiting team players and Rays players experienced unusual events and happenings in their stays at the hotel, with a few players even balking at returning to their rooms at the 5-star resort .


My favorite visiting player event happened to former Baltimore Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons who rushed up to his room on the fith floor in the old section of the Vinoy hotel to catch an early night’s rest. Before he hit the sheets for the night, Gibbons set the alarm clock by the edge of his bed and went into the bathroom to wash up and get ready for his nightly sleep.

As Gibbons returned to the bed, he noticed the alarm clock, which he had previously set was now off. He immediately sat up to reset the clock and noticed that the power cord was draped over the clock . The electric plug was located near the floor area of the room and behind the nightstand. Gibbons ended up sleeping with the lights on that night.


But he wasn’t the only visiting player to get a rough night’s sleep from the Vinoy’s unseen staff. Former Toronto Blue Jays Manager Cito Gaston also had an event where his hotel room door, which was previously locked by him kept unlocking and swinging open during the course of the night.

I could fill a book with the names and events by countless players and staffers that have had the paranormal “touch” them by events in this hotel. Here is another one. Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts even had his own experience after he put some freshly dry cleaned clothes in the room’s closet and closed the closet door only to find those same clothes out of their plastic wrappings on his bed when he returned to the room. Could a courteous transparent chambermaid put out Robert’s clothes for the evening?

 

My favorite event actually involves a old Rays Bullpen player. Jon Switzer was a old left-handed reliever for the Rays who had his first brush with the presences at the Vinoy when he was first called up to the majors by the Rays.

Switzer and his wife stayed at the Vinoy on the fifth floor of the older section of the hotel and were both awoken by a scratching sound that seemed to be coming from within the walls behind their bed’s large headboard. The sound persisted for 15 minutes then disappeared, but returned later that evening even loud enough to awaken have have both of them bolt upright and turn on the night light to investigate the room.
 

It was at this time that the room’s presence quickly made itself known to both Switzer and his wife as they both viewed the painting above their bed seem to come to life. The painting was of a woman in a Victorian outfit with a basket of flowers in his right hand. The picture, which originally had flowers in the woman’s left hand was now showed the woman’s left hand scratching at the glass as if to find a way out of the enclosed glass. The couple stared in disbelief at the picture for several moments before finally bolting out of the room.
The stories about the Vinoy are so widespread among baseball players that when the Toronto Blue Jays once pulled up to the resort for an upcoming series against the Rays, ex-Blue Jay outfielder Jose Cruz Jr once got on the charter bus P A system and told the players, “Hopefully you guys got sleeping pills because this hotel is haunted.” 

Most people seem to have forgetten about this hotel’s sordid past. That during World War II, the hotel was been used as a military rehabilitation hospital where many soliders checked in, but not all took a final journey out of its doors on their feet. Death and suffering has lingered among these hotelhalls and rooms for a long time.


Combined with the years of neglect and decay following its closure for 20-odd years, residual energy seemd to have been stored among the pink coral and ornately carved wooden moldings. Countless unnerving events have been documented by other hotel guests besides the visiting baseball players. Unconfirmed deaths among the hotels while is disrepair, including a homeless person who supposedly drowned in a water-filled elevator shaft after falling and breaking his neck only help to fuel the legends.

Whether you believe or not, these events did happen and are happening today.


 

How many of you remember the photo I took this January of a pre-dawn Progress Energy/ Al Lang Field where an out of the ordinary blue hue interrupts the most darkened green background of the grandstands. I am of the belief that even if you do not actively believe or even acknowledge the existence of these events you have to respect the intentions that the past can be relived over and over again.

And on a night that will come in a few hours where the macabre and the unknown are to rule the activities, isn’t it at least wise to not taunt or treat them with disrespect…even in a small hamlet like St. Petersburg?


And We Almost Miss It!

 

 

I only caught a short sound byte of a classic musical moment that rocked AT&T Park last night during Game 2 of the 2010 World Series. It all started just after Ranger slugger Josh Hamilton’s fly out to Giants centerfielder Aaron Rowland’s to secure the last out in the top of the eighth inning. Suddenly Fox Television took the rest of us to a normally scheduled commercial break, but with that decision, we all collectively got to miss a genuine and emotional musical moment that will be lost to most baseball fans in history, but was just so San Francisco.


While the rest of the country was probably sitting in their living rooms, maybe ducking to the kitchen for a bite or possibly in a local watering hole laughing or talking, there was a moment happening back live in San Francisco that sent 43,000+ into a true love fest for this classic “City by the Bay”. And I got to admit it, I was extremely jealous I did not get an great opportunity to treasure and sing during this awesome moment myself.

From the beginning of the first few bars of this classic rock ballad, the assembled crowd must have been mystically transported back to 1973 when in this same fair city, former Santana Manager Herbie Herbert put together a small eclectic group together first known as the Golden Gate Rhythm Section. But this San Fran born band did not develop their true heartbeat and soul until 1977 when they let the cascading vocals of Steve Perry flow into their music.

I would have cherished hearing those first few bars echoing in my ears, providing a grasp of past and present moments with each note struck in a bit of suspended time, but also getting a chance to show my chops off on a World stage like that, even if only a few people around me got hear me roar.

I immediately harkened back to a few weeks ago when an old Karaoke friend Michelle and her son got to sit behind me at the Rays game when the team clinched their postseason berth and she began to tell everyone around us about my “Journey” voice. Believe me, Michelle herself has a great set of pipes, and coming from her those comments did make me blush a bit…inside.

I am an admitted Karaoke junkie, tortured garage band singer, and someone who has the range and ability to sing this same song with intensity and clarity it deserves….I am a fond fan of the song “Lights” from the first time I danced with my date during my Sophomore year at the Homecoming Dance.

This song to me is a great homage to the sparkling lights and nuances of a cityscape and can be evolved and contained to remind anyone of their great city with just a closing of their eyes. Classic musical moment lost by the advertisements of humanity to sell me a bigger, fattening Chalupa.


Just like Boston has their Neil Diamond classic “Sweet Caroline” and New York has Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” , music can set the tone and rhythm of our lives. Heck, who doesn’t get a bit excited when something like “Cotton-Eyed Joe” comes out over the loudspeakers at a game…Just be glad it was not the “Chicken Dance“.

This one Journey song may have its origins south of this Golden Gated city, but it is all San Francisco treat from start to finish.

It is one of those songs that has stuck with me from my youth and is on my friend’s Jerry permanent “Rays Renegade” play list when I enter the Banana Boat tavern where he does his weekly Karaoke show. Funny, it is one of the first songs people want to hear from me, and maybe since we are also a “City by the Bay” here in St. Petersburg, Florida, I love performing it.

During that short three minute time period the crowd within AT&T Park went on a sentimental trek of sorts singing at the top of their lungs about a classic ballad that actually was about Los Angeles, but seems more fitting and poetic about the winding streets and cityscape of San Francisco.

Duk, who writes “Big League Stew” for Yahoo Sports got to be within those 43,000+ fans singing their hearts outlast night in Rightfield. Nestled above those lucky fans who got to stand in the “Knothole Gangs” spot for free for three innings and possibly also witness this awesome musical moment. And wouldn’t you know it, great Giants fan Steve Perry was in the house rocking out to his classic tune. 


But me, I was channel surfing during the commercials and oblivious to the emotional wave taken over the assembled crowd in San Francisco. But because of conscientious Youtube fiends and videophiles I will get a chance to try and picture myself among the 43,000+ singing at the top of my lungs in my home until that those last few sung words of “Do I wanna be there in my city?”………..Oh, oo oh….I Do!
 
 


Looking Back at the Rays 2010 Concert Series…Part 2

 


 

So after a few days getting over a slight bit of misfortune of food poisoning eating some I relish…a hot dog, Ironically, it was my last hot dog of the year at a local High School football game against a bitter inner-city rival that took me down…Figures, thanks Northeast H S.


No more stalling, time to get this final edition of the Rays 2010 Concert Photos underway. One of the greatest thing I like about music is that the first few song of the musician’s sets are sometimes pre-programmed to get the crowd into a rising energy so that the concert can take a particular flow throughout the night.

The first seven concerts of the 2010 Rays Friday Fest and Rays/Hess Express Saturday Night Concert Series definitely set of tone for the final second half. From John Fogerty to Barenaked Ladies, the Rays concert events began and uphill turn that never ended to the last event of the year, Bret Michaels. Each of the 14 concerts this year left a special mark with me. I was lucky to take photos during 12 of the 14 Rays concerts and get in tune with practicing my concert photography.

 

I am not a professional photographer, and my little Fuji S5100 has seen better days (Thanks drunken Yankee fan), but I think I do the best with what I got. Sure would love a $ 4,000+ Canon or Nikon camera body and a lens as long as my arm, but that is not in the slim, money-less budget right now. Now back to the awesome years in Rays music.


 

 

Vanilla Ice did not attract as many to the Trop’s infield as I might have thought for his concert, but it was the most high energy event of the year. Vanilla Ice has changed his modes operandi to push more towards the hard guitar and drumbeats that pumped through the crowd like a large heartbeat. Combine that with the (I thought) whimsical idea of Vanilla Ice trying to get the photographers’ wet, and you get a audience/photog participation event. This was the first of three straight Friday Fest concerts that would hit all spectrums of the music World, and it hit on all levels.


Sure most in the front photo pit with me that day did not totally see eye-to-eye with the whole water and expensive cameras’ bit, but I was laughing and having a good time dodging the 20 ounces of unexpected water, and a few time Vanilla Ice looked down and smiled at me that I seemed to have understood it was part of his method…or his madness. It was tied for my favorite Rays concert offering of the season, and a great way to push off the second half of the concert schedule.

 

Of course there was one concert missing from this list this season, and I want to send out good vibes hoping that GoGo’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin recovers perfectly from her ACL injury sustained when she fell while hiking near her home in California. With up to a year recovery time for such an injury, hopefully we can again see the GoGo’s possibly perform in the future. It is a great concert event that I have not missed (even in Jannus Landing) since the band first started coming to the Tampa Bay area.


 

 

Los Lobos is one of those bands that I do not think would have ever hit y musical tastes if not for their great rendition of the classic Ritchie Valens “La Bamba“. I also would not have known that recent Oscar winner T-Bone Burnett produced their first album “How Will the Wolf Survive” and one of the songs from that album is playing over the opening credits to the Sean Penn/Robert DeNiro classic “Colors“.


My first tastes in live music were preserved in a small beachside bar in Maderia Beach, Florida that a certain well known Florida ocean troubadour used to frequent named Jimmy Buffett when he came up to see his band pal Mike Utley.

I got used to hearing tunes that flowed with the waves and just seemed to roll in the ears and settle for a while to sit and ponder things. I got the same vibe from this Friday Fest concert by Los Lobos. It might have been more refined to a South Texas border town that a beach resort on the Gulf of Mexico, but the whole time I was wishing for a boat drink…or a shot of Avion (thanks Entourage).


 

 

The next Rays Friday Fest event featured a band that to this point had to be the most audience involved and totally choreographed dancers of the Rays concert series. Felt kind of eerie at first covering the Village People concert more for the fact of having to remember what I wore back then, and seeing myself again with long curly hair, but I took one for the team here.

Seriously, it was a great event in that we got to see most of the original members of the band still out there supporting their music and dancing their well known routines. But it did seem a bit unusual to me to see rhinestones and glitter on a construction worker…just saying.


It was another high energy night and a great moment if you are fond of the 1970′s or even want to remember back that far. I even found a bit of glitter all over me camera when I took it out of my backpack when I got home. As a nice sidebar to this concert, after I posted my concert review, the Indian from the Village People actually Direct Messaged me on Twitter with a cordial thank you for covering the event. It was a great time in my life, so maybe I should thank him again for helping remember some great moments in my life sans the platform shoes.

 

 

Train really did roll in to the Trop for the next concert event. This is one of those bands right now that are right on the cusp and thoughts of so many in the music World because of their song “Hey Soul Sister” plus the million of samplings of the song in countless commercials and advertisements Worldwide right now.


Train front man Pat Monahan also did one of the coolest things I have ever seen done ( so far) during a concert when he posted two pictures of the crowd during their song “If It’s Love” that I still have as my desktop background on my aging laptop. Monahan also became the second performer to do an infield sprint around the Trop when he started an impromptu walkabout from the stage to the area near the Visitor’s dugout.

Reminded me a lot of the same run M C Hammer had done two years earlier, but Monahan seemed more at ease strolling amongst the 4,000+ fans on the Rays Field Turf.


 

 

Allison Iraherta was not originally suppose to open for Adam Lambert, but Orianthi had to pull out of the opening act gig after some family situations. Iraherta still looks a bit nervous and wooden on stage, but her music more than makes up for any sense of clumsiness or irrational movements on stage. But the raspy voice of this young woman definitely makes you remember her voice and her music.


She has one of those resounding voices that brings back memories of past singers like Janis Joplin or even Joan Baez. Iraherta will definitely be on that “one to watch” list, and opening for Lambert will get you some extra exposure she desperately needs to get noticed beyond her huge American Idol triumphs. In time the stage set will mellow out and become more fined, and with that the star in the center of the stage belting out those tunes will shine brighter.

 

 

What can you say about Adam Lambert’s concert. Well, I guess my concert review was good enough to still be placed on his International website and with that came over 78 comments within 24 hours. Got to tell you I always know bands have their followers, but this guy definitely has an army ready, willing and able to carry out his wishes. But the concert was even more amazing to me than the response by his followers. It really was stage musical to me. Set with great costumes, gyrating dancers and spectacular musicians playing some incredible music.


For effect, this concert was tied for the best concert event (with Vanilla Ice) of the year for me. It has a little bit of everything to it. And the wildest part is that one of my photos was also popped on the Lambert website and I took it from over 100 yards away since this is one of the two concerts I did not get approved for ahead of time…how ironic is that.

But it was a fantastic journey of music performed by Lambert, and his dancers brought a great melding of it all together into something worthy of the Broadway stage. Some might say it is more of a stage show than a concert, but I remind you that David Bowie and countless other have done just the same thing for a long, long time.


 

 

Last, but definitely not least is the Rays Saturday Night Concert I was waiting for all year. The climax at the end where I got to see another artists that every time he comes into the Tampa Bay area as a solo artist, I am in the crowd. The last time was in a more fan-friendly environment of Ruth Eckerd Hall, but no matter where you put him, Bret Michaels is all about the music and a good time.


When the announcement was originally made near the end of May, it might have seemed to ambitious or even ill advised for Michaels to throw himself back into his musical tour so early after his health situations, but that is one of things that endears you to him…his strength, fan commitment and his desire to do what he loves to do….sing to the masses.

Some might say the night was not as energetic or the usual ” Bret Michaels” show. But to me it was a celebrate of his music and a way for all of us to send some healing vibes and also sing a few classic tunes that always stick in our minds. Michaels even did the Country version of “Every Rose Has Its Thorns“, and it was taken in by the crowd like it was the original. For myself, it was the perfect ending to the Rays 2010 concert series. I was taken photos of a rock icon who had taken a dirty and dangerous road of medical problems and whisked them away like road dust to sing.


 

Some say these Rays concerts were devised for the pure sake of escalating Rays attendance figures and bolstering their overall yearly numbers while most of the Major League Baseball teams were experiencing up to 6-10 percent decreases in their yearly attendance numbers.

Sure that reasoning is true, but I kind of look at it another way. It is also a way for the Rays entire staff and the Rays Republic to collectively celebrate this great team we have here, and also enjoy some great music.


Thank You Rays for this year’s Concert Series. Looking forward to another killer schedule in 2011.

Looking back at the Rays 2010 Concert Series..Part 1

 


 

During the Tampa Bay Rays 2010 season, the Rays front office brought together 14 great artists during the course of the season to play in either during their Friday Fest celebration or their popular Rays/Hess Express Saturday Night Concert Series. This season the Rays surpassed their previous collection of artists by bringing some of the most musically loved and admired artists of this era and the past. This post will be a small collection of some of my favorite moments during the 2010 Rays Concert series.


It decided to cut the concerts completely in half and bring you 7 today and possibly 7 in a day or two to show again the music and the great fun Rays fans had both in the stands and on the field in 2010. I will try and pick what I consider my two most memorable photos out of the more than 581 photo that made it onto my online photo collection on Flicker.com. I do not in any way consider myself a professional photographer, but I can assure you I am taking a few classes this off season and the 2011 photos will be (hopefully) miles above my present collections.

So kick back, relax and maybe pop on a I-Tunes or Internet Radio station as I begin a short journey again through the musical journey furnished to all members of the Rays Republic in 2010. It was great journey from times from my young youth (John Fogerty/ ZZ Top) all the way to a duo of the most talked about artists in the last two years (Adam Lambert/ Bret Michaels). I can guarantee you, I will be checking these photos out for years just trying to relive the great moments and still singing their songs.

 

 

It was great to see John Fogerty this year out singing during the 25th Anniversary of his baseball-themed classic “Centerfield“. I had always thought Fogerty had a Southern twang and feel to his music, but this was the first time I have even gotten to see him live and really take in both the accent and the great musical talents this artist brought to us in the first of 14 Rays concerts. Fogerty did a great array of his own classics, plus a nice mixture of C C R classics to make the entire Trop seem to be swaying to his music that night.


 

 

ZZ Top was one of those bands in my youth where I had cassettes like “Afterburner” playing on my car stereo during road trips or if I was in a hurry to get somewhere. It was also the first concert that I got my green Rays photographer credentials to get up close and personal shots of the band during their first four songs.

It was a new opportunity for me, being an amateur photographer and blogger to push another nice item onto my online resume` plus get instantly into the energy and vibe of the concert. The definitely wasn’t nothing “cheap” about ZZ Top that night.


 

 

Nellie was held on the day after my birthday, so it had a special fee because of the significance of this date to me. But it was the great pumping of the bass and the music that got me to enjoy this concert. Instead of standing in front of stage tonight, I snuck into the front mosh pit area to take my photos tonight.

I think I took over 400 photos, but with the rocking and swaying movement of the crowded pit area, I got more than I expected to out of focus shots or even muted photos. It was a great example of why photographers are in the photo wells and not among the fans during a concert. It was a well lesson learned that night.


 

 

Hall & Oates was an interesting concert for me. Not that the band ever held a great significance in my musical tastes, but if you dated in the late 70′s-80′s this band held your dating prowess firmly in their hands. If you wanted to have a romantic rendezvous or even a chance to dance with your date, you usually had to have a Hall & Oates tune playing. But it was also a time to reconnect with some of the past for me as a few friends from Philly came into town and were more excited about being on the field than me for this concert moment.


 

 

Dierks Bentley is one of those country music stars you know by his music, but ladies just loved to mosey up and just watch him sing as if he was singing to them. His band just seemed to sweat high energy that night and it was one of those concert moments you do not soon forget based on the music and the high level of involvement and dancing even in the crowds.

 

Added a third photo to this selection because it was such a great moment to sit there and watch Bentley bend down and hold the hand of a young fan in the front of the stage during his performance..simply magical.

It was the first time I had ever seen a huge line dance of his hit “Sideways” in my life, and a moment that will stay close tome. Wish I knew that dance, but I have been sideways a few times in my life…maybe.


 

 

Most of Tantric’s music was a bit of an unknown to most Rays fans before this Friday Fest concert but we all collectively knew their tune “Down & Out ” because of its connection to Rays All Star Third Baseman Evan Longoria’s who uses the tune as his walk-up music. Just the first few bars from the violin of Mark Ratzenboeck and the entire Tropicana Field crowd went nuts yelling, screaming and singing the words to the tune.

Tantric was one of the concerts this year, like Dierks Bentley where I got to hear some new music that I was not accustomed to, but became a fan of the group after the concert.


 

 

The group Barenaked Ladies have a sad reminder for me. My daughter’s mother was ill and in an area hospital when I decided to take my then 10-year old daughter to Universal Studios for the day and the band was playing that night as a musical guest.

The music of this group is very up-tempo and their beats and rhythms can get you instantly into moving and grooving to their music. It was a special night then, and this night was extremely special also because of the group doing an extended set and really connecting with the Rays crowd on so many levels.

So we are at the halfway point in the photo review of the Rays 2010 Concert series and I am going to sign off now and get to checking out a few more photos and concert footage to post some more great moments and events online in the next few days. 2010 was for me one of the best concert years, and with the Rays also involved in that process, it became an instant “win-win” opportunity for me.


I was lucky enough to have photo credential for all but one (Fogerty) of these first 7 Rays concerts. But one of the unseen great items of getting this opportunity is being in front of the stage and meeting so many of the great fans who also wanted to get as close as possible to these artists.

 

It was great to talk with some of them before every concert, and even discuss both the band and the experience with them before the event started. It was fantastic hearing some of the opinions and songs they were hoping to hear during the band’s sets. But in the end, it was not about the conversations or even the photos, it was all about the notes and lyrics of this great music.

 

Does a Turf War Await the Rays?

 

The first experimental synthetic playing surface was installed at Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island back in 1964. Artificial field surfaces have come a long, long way since that first applications. The industry has evolved over time and has now outfitted more than 15,000 fields Worldwide with the playing surface that needs no water, and minimal upkeep.


But there is a turbulent storm brewing on the horizon for the Tampa Bay Rays. One that will possibly pit both industrial leaders of this unique surface on opposites sides of the table as the Rays front office might begin to fully investigate possibly replacing their current FieldTurf surface in the near future.

Members of the Rays grounds crew have told me the surface is aging faster than expected and is in need of either intensive rehabilitation or replacement within the next few years. But will the Rays automatically turn to FieldTurf, or will their decision be compacted by the outside influence of another industry giant with the backing of Major League Baseball.

Could the Rays playing surface final recommendations be made more difficult by MLB’s 2010 announcement to deem AstroTurf to be the “Official Turf for Major League Baseball”. The MLB stamp on using the AstroTurf style might have been further punctuated by the fact that in the 2009 off season the Toronto Blue Jays removal of the still fresh FieldTurf playing surface and put down the next generation product produced by AstroTurf.

I find it really interesting that the last MLB team to change to the FieldTurf system from the AstroTurf playing surface in 2004 was the Blue Jays. The change was accented by the team’s concern over all of the unexpected infield bounces or odd outfield hops off the artificial surface. The Blue Jays got AstroTurf’s newest creation called Game Days Grass 3D which is said to more adequately mimic the real grass feel and texture. Individual monofilament blades are suppose to produce a more natural appearance.

But here is where it gets difficult. The Rays currently have the
FieldTurf application on the concrete surface of Tropicana Field, and has been the preferred artificial surface provider of the Rays since it was first put down at the Trop. back in 2000. The battling escalated between the two competing brands as FieldTurf and Rays 3-time MLB All Star Evan Longoria would become the “face” of the FieldTurf baseball brand. Presently there are 350 FieldTurf baseball fields and that number is skyrocketing largely because of the consistent ball bounce and performance properties associated with the FieldTurf brand.


There is no question that Evan Longoria is one of the preeminent names in all of baseball,” said FieldTurf President Eric Daliere. “Being one of the game’s best hitters, in addition to being named to the All-Star team and winning a Gold Glove, is certainly no fluke. Evan’s commitment to being the best and his success on FieldTurf is very exciting to us. This is a tremendous opportunity to form a partnership with one of the most exciting individuals in the game today. The baseball product that we have developed is without question the finest in the world. FieldTurf is extremely proud of its position as the worldwide leader in synthetic turf surfacing, and we very much look forward to working with Evan.”

Some may have viewed this as a preemptive strike by FieldTurf to facilitate a stopgap measure for the Rays to talk first with FieldTurf before even considering a competitive brand for the Tropicana Field playing surface. I have spoken to several members of the Rays grounds crew about the FieldTurf in the past, and this season the opinions are leaning more towards a possible replacement of the playing surface soon.

I asked Dan Moeller, the Rays Head Groundskeeper  at a point during the 2010 season what he thought after returning from a first Rays road trip to Toronto this past season and he is not a fan currently of the AstroTurf system installed in Rogers Centre. Moeller felt that the underneath lining used in Toronto would not work in the Trop, but we all know that these situations are usually constructed to work with the individual needs of the client.


Rogers Centre will take the extremely long rolls of AstroTurf up for concerts or motor events while Tropicana Field keeps the FieldTurf in place during their off season events. The differences between the two products is minimal as both use a monofilament fiber as the basis of their systems. With the inclusion of the same type infill materials such as silica sand or recycled rubber, the two companies produced similar products.

Each competitor has their own unique patented system of employing the filaments to their respective surfaces, with numerous backing options and infill variations. With the possible pluses and minuses begin about the same, the final decision might come down to the financial side of both applications. Will AstroTurf give the Rays a hearty discount or possible free installation to get another foothold on the MLB marketplace.

Would FieldTurf possibly be willing to supply the Rays with their latest product as a show of respect and admiration for the Rays sticking with the company faithfully since 2000. Losing another MLB caliber client could be disastrous for FieldTurf. Tropicana Field is just one of over 500 fields that currently are aged over 8 years or more who are still performing they were when first installed.


 

But the Rays carpet is showing its wear and tear. Its luster is beginning to fade and talks will possibly begin this off season into furnishing a replacement option for the Rays. Will MLB have a final say in the matter? Can the Rays get enough of a loyalty discount from the makers of FieldTurf to continue their long standing tradition ,or will AstroTurf swoop in with an offer they can not refuse?

Usually when I envision a “turf war” I do not even remotely think of a green expansion of monofilament carpet with small granulated grains of sand and rubber used. But the fight between these two industry giants will be just as intense as one company tries to keep their image strong among baseball elite, while the other is knocking at the front door wanting another chance with some huge muscle behind them. Personally I like FieldTurf, but then again an upturned jagged seam edge on an older style AstroTurf field help conclude the end to my football career.

Watching as the Ryan Express Whistles Past Me

 
 
You have to wonder if sometime during the off season in the Winter of 2009 if Texas Ranger Team President Nolan Ryan did not take a secret mission trip to the Middle East, near the site of the old empire of Persia and possibly found a very generous Genie in a lantern during a desert trek. To some within the baseball hierarchy that is the only way this Texas team could have changed their destiny so drastically in the last 365 days. You have to immediately consider an outside influence, or maybe even a few “wishes would have been granted for such a grand unexpected Rangers rise to prominence .

How else could the Rangers have had this purely magical season transpire in 2010 without three huge changes in the team karma, and we are not talking about Rangers pitching Ace Cliff Lee either. There has to be some other form of metaphysical reasoning that the final stamp of approval for change of ownership in the fire sale for the Rangers would have ever levitated towards the Ryan group of investors.

The big bets were placed firmly on the big money mob headed by NBA millionaire Mark Cuban, not Ryan’s posse` If you were a big wheel within the circles of Major League Baseball, or even a judicial member in charge of this millionaire’s garage sale, you had to see the fat and bulging wallet in Cuban’s back pocket and summarize immediately the endless possibilities of another Cuban led success story in sports.

Ryan and his group seemed on the outside like just another smart Texas born “Good Ol’ Boys” network compared to the flashing and high profile Cuban conglomerate that wanted to push the image of this team skyward in a New York minute. There had to be some sort of wishing, praying and possibly rubbing of an old lantern to facilitate such a change of rationale towards the soft spoken Ryan finally getting the final approval to taking over the Rangers.

 

The second item rubbed out by the new Ryan group might have further cemented this Rangers franchise into the MLB bright spotlight for a long, long time right after Ryan announced from the podium of a economic epiphany by the local Fox Sports Network affiliate (FSN Texas) to a thunderous Rangers broadcast package that could be valued as high as $ 3 billion dollar over the length of the deal. It would essentially push a huge wheel barrel load of cash of possibly over $ 80 million a year into the coffers of the Texas club to use as they see fit, or generally guarantee themselves a secure payroll foundation just a touch under the cusp of the “Big Boys”.


That figure would give them a bit more fiscal stability to possibly resigning Starter Cliff Lee, or even the thought of possibly entertaining a secure long-term deal with a player like Josh Hamilton. Heck, that kind of extra chicken scratch could make someone like Rangers catcher Bengie Molina put off his recent retirement chatter and suddenly decide to play one more season, adding some extra large pieces of cheddar to his retirement nest egg. The revenue could do wonders to solidify a roster that could contend for years based solely on the extra coinage.

Ryan’s third wish by the genie in the bottle might have been the best one of all. It would have centered around Ryan’s new troops getting a chance to showcase their style of pitching and hitting to the baseball World. Because you know Ryan wished for this talented Texas squad to go against the “mighty ones” in the postseason.

Ryan as a pitcher was never afraid of pitching a bit close in on the eyeballs or even dusting you with a 100 mph fastball in the ear hole. With that same reasoning spewing out of his heart for his Rangers wranglers’, you knew that Ryan did not want to skirt taking on a huge challenge in the postseason, and got this wish with flying colors.


 

Ryan’s squad was considered the fourth best option in the American League by most people around baseball even days before the Major League Baseball season ended. For some unforeseen reason, his Texas team was never seen to stand a chance in the postseason or somehow earned the respect due to a team that won the American League Western title. The same Rangers team who initially celebrated before the two major players (New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays) his team faced in the ALDS and the ALCS.


His Texas team firmly sandwiched 5-1 victories between three additional games against the Rays and came away with a Game 5 victory that further established them as the team to watch closely this postseason. Even as their National League Western Division second cousin, the San Francisco Giants were taking their own bit of revenge on some of MLB’s elite, this Rangers squad began to show signs of being a Ryan inspired team that could never be counted out until the 27th out.

Even during their current match-up against the high and mighty New York Yankees, there have been moments over the first 5 games of this series, that showed this young Texas squad was as ornery and feisty as the vintage Ryan to take it to the Bronx set and dish out their own forms of Western justice. But Ryan’s third granted wish did not ends here, it is still evolving and transforming.

There is still another plateau to ascend to yet. Another stage for Ryan and his band of urban cowboys to step onto and accept its challenges. It is a pristine spot where Ryan himself only ventured once during his Major League career. Back in1969 when Ryan was a young pup reliever with the New York Mets was the only other time he has ventured this close to the Fall Classic. Even his bulging resume` of an MLB leading 5,714 punch-outs or his 7 No-Hitters, Ryan could not seem to get him back to this final stage. Another trip at this juncture in his new role running his favorite franchise would just be magical.

The sudden escalation of this Texas franchise in such a short period of time might not even have a single Persian influence after all. It might not come from wishing on a brass lantern or even praying to a higher power for the chance to again dance and celebrate on the green grass of the Ballpark at Arlington with his team. It might just be heralded by so many as just another chapter written in the never ending saga that is Ryan’s baseball World. But his fingerprints and nuances are all over this Texas team. Ryan is the behind-the-scenes sculptor that has molded and kneaded this piece of formed pottery into a cherished Texas heirloom.

I do not know about you, but I am definitely excited to see what transpires as the Rangers and Yankees change their focus from the bright lights and big city environment of New York back to the slower and more cherished home-style cooking of this Texas 25 as they two-step towards America’s heart. Where the mannerisms of claw and antlers will make up the backdrop, and increasing sounds of the homestead crowd should push them towards checking off another item on Ryan’s “Wish List”.

 

Ryan might have dusted off and spit polished his old competitive moniker of “The Ryan Express” and again became the lead conductor on this epic journey towards baseball’s promised land. Ryan has done almost everything imaginable as a player, including his 1999 induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Maybe it is that time in baseball history for Ryan and his charges to also write their names upon the roll of baseball’s greatest surprises and shed that title of “underdogs” forever.


I am pulling inside for Hamilton, Lee and Ryan to get that special gift of moments in the baseball World’s spotlight. To thrust themselves firmly into the minds of all baseball fans around the World, and to possibly bring home a new Tiffany masterpiece for their stone fireplace mantle sitting just under that monstrous 15-point bucks huge antlers. Some say that baseball is entering into a closer version of parity than every before, but I do not see it that way. I think it is just time for some home cooking…Texas style.

Did Shields Throw his Last Pitch for the Rays?

 

 

Sometimes we have to do things we do not like in life. Sometimes the idealisms and good things we have collectively done in our lives really do only amount to a hill of beans. With baseball becoming more of a business and streamlined industry every season, sometimes even the good guys can lose out because of one inconsistent season. There is one member of the Tampa Bay Rays who might have a interesting Winter, and possibly be venturing into another clubhouse this Spring.


We are not talking about Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, or even Joaquin Benoit. Even though he is a pitcher, his worth to this Rays team can be measured in many variations, but also his 2010 statistics show a decline not witnessed before in his short Rays career. With talent like Rays rookie Jeremy Hellickson and the rest of the Rays farmhands knocking at the Rays backdoor, James Shields might find himself the odd man out by the end of the Winter.

This is the time you start to hoist up a starter like Shields and see who take long glances or inquires deeply on his tenure with the Rays. This is the time you take small meetings and discuss the future without or without the Rays Opening Day starter for the last three seasons. Just because you were a vital cog on Opening Day three years straight doesn’t mean you are invincible or “off limits”. Rays team tenure doesn’t really mean that much on this young squad, it only means you have been here a while.

 

It doesn’t matter in the long run that Shields was the 2009 and 2010 Roberto Clemente recipient for the Rays, or that you designed your own T-shirt as a Rays fan giveaway. It doesn’t matter that you are the oldest member of one of the youngest rotations in the Major Leagues. In the end it just comes down to if you still have enough value to possible get the Rays some of the pieces needed to formulate another winning line-up or Bullpen.


Shields has the past stats and the veteran leadership to command a good piece from a competitor in return for his services, and being signed already to a pretty low cost contract considering his experience, his value will ultimately be set by the top tier veterans who hit the Free Agent market. But with the earmarking of Shields even being considered as trade bait comes the reality that he might also be viewed as a questionable commodity considering his uncharacteristic sub par 2010 season.

Simply put, could Shields have already peaked as a pitcher and we are suddenly seeing his decent from the top tier of pitchers, or is he just not making adequate adjustments during the game that have seen his seasonal ERA climb from 3.56 in 2008 to balloon towards a 5.18 ERA fort his season. No one will question the heart of Shields as he ventured past the 200+ inning mark for the fourth straight season, but could it have come with a cost this season for Shields. Could his pitches have finally been charted and projected so well that now they seem routine or forced to the plate?

977.2 innings over a career is an incredible feat that so many other MLB quality pitchers’ wish they could count on their resume’. Combine that with a franchise high 56 victories and winning the Rays only World Series game, plus an added distinction of winning the Rays first playoff game (2008 ALDS Game 1), and you get a resume’ few can argue with around the Major Leagues. But even with those lofty accomplishments firmly within his grasp. Shields has also has some moment in 2010 that we all wish we could somehow forget.

What Rays Republic member can forget that Shields, as the eldest member at 28 in the Rays rotation gave us a few times where we all openly gasped at his lack of control at critical times this season. Currently Shield sis riding a 5-game losing streak all the way back to his September 4th loss in Baltimore 8-4 to the Orioles. Lost among that losing streak is the positives that Shield’s 853 innings pitched since 2007 is the 3rd most in the American League behind only starters’ Mariners Felix Hernandez (879.1) and Tigers Justin Verlander (867.0).

Even though Shields only missed the Rays strikeout lead by one single K to fellow starter David Price in 2010, Shields had 5 games of 10 or more strikeouts this season, a career high. Shields strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.67 was the fourth best in the American League , but punctuated hard on his record was his 15 total losses, which also was a career high. Accenting this downward trend further is the fact Shields gave up 34 Home Runs, first in the American League and led the Major Leagues 128 runs allowed and 117 earned runs allowed while surrendering 246 hits, which tied him for the MLB lead with Chicago pitcher Mark Buehrle.

And odd point to Shield’s rollercoaster 2010 season, he was on the hill as the Rays starter for Oakland Athletic starter Dallas Braden’s perfect game on May 9th in Oakland, California. Shields last victory was August 29,2010 in Fenway Park against the Red Sox. Combine that with the fact Shields only logged 7-plus innings twice in his final 18 starts and you see a reason to wonder about the once solid Rays stalwart.

The last time Shield threw for 7-plus innings was his start against the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field when he went exactly 7 innings and picked up the win in the Rays 8-6 victory. Shields left that contest with a 7-3 lead. For some reason Shields has gotten more predictable on the mound for the Rays. His change-up is still his mystery pitch, but with him starting to overload his throwing of it in key situations, hitters are beginning to adjust and wait on the slower pitch.

Even in fastball counts Shields has been relying more on his change-up to get him an advantage, but has instead just gotten a fresh ball from the Home Plate Umpire. Because of this, it makes Shields expendable for the first time in his MLB career. Even with one of the best change-ups in the Majors, Shields might have to re-evaluate the pitch in the off season and tweak it a bit to bring himself back to game form for 2011.

With his team friendly contract of several one-year options ( $ 4.25 million in 2011) there is the flexibility for another team to try Shields on for size without a long term commitment. With the Rays also seeing two of their other starters begin to reach past the million dollar mark in salary in 2011, it makes him more expendable because of salary than for his 6 Home Runs allowed to the Toronto Blue Jays in 4 innings of work back on August 7,2010. Funnier still is that Shields only gave up one more Home Run in his other 6 starts in August.

Maybe it is time the Rays break their ties with one of their senior members of their pitching staff. Possibly a change in scenery will do wonders to Shields refining his crispness on his pitches and finding another team that will value his devouring of innings. Right now With Hellickson and possibly Matt Moore sitting at the Rays backdoor looking for a spot and a chance to perform at this level, it puts a target squarely between Shields shoulder blades.

 

Suddenly it will be more about future potential than past accolades for Shields. More on the focus of the Rays upcoming 2011 business model than on his T-shirt endeavors. It will center squarely on whether it is time to cut ties with Shields, or try and ride his coattails for one last time hoping for a meteoric rise rather than a star fizzling out.


Shields is still a valued commodity around Major League Baseball that needs to be dealt to induce Rays farm talent a honest chance to rise to his once great level. It might just come down to the black and white on the page instead of the color and personality Shields brings to the Rays. Possibly we saw Shields exit his last Rays game during the ALCS never to wear the Rays sunburst again

Was Burrell just plain Evil as a Rays Doppelganger?

 


 

There was growing Tampa Bay Rays rumor floating in the Rays clubhouse prior to the 2010 season that Rays All Star outfielder Carl Crawford would not even entertain an idea of a contract extension because of this one player. In 2009, the tension grew and grew between these two leaders in the Rays clubhouse until finally a confrontation between the two exploded and Crawford had to be restrained by Rays starting pitcher James Shields.


Crawford’s adversary had taken a cheap shot at his friend and teammate B J Upton after a contest, and somehow pushed Crawford beyond his boiling point. Immediately a thickening line was drawn in the sand nonverbally that if the Rays valued Crawford, that this one individual had to go. Increasing rants and raves outside the locker room began to point towards this lone figure and provide a mountain of blame because of his decrease in productivity and leadership to this young budding squad.

More and more the sediment became apparent in the stands that member of the Rays Republic has seen their tempers growing thin with his antics and his chatter . That his mown rhetoric of playing in the field fueling his motivation fell upon increasingly deafened ears as the divide began to grow deeper between himself and the Rays fans. Finally on May 14, 2010 after he went 0-4 in a 4-3 loss against the Seattle Mariners at home in Tropicana Field, the door closed quickly on his time in a Rays uniform.

On that Friday night in May when he hit a long fly ball out to Ichiro Suzuki in the bottom of the ninth inning, it would be his last time putting on a Rays uniform. After that night, the evil doppelganger that was Pat “The Bat” Burrell was laid to rest by the Rays. The next morning the Rays front office officially designated Burrell for assignment, but he was not even in the Rays clubhouse.

Burrell had already heard the news and was adjusting for another shot somewhere else. He would have to endure a 10 day storm of criticism and negative innuendo before finally weathering the storm and searching for his next opportunity. He had hit a paltry .202 during that short span with the Rays, but he still knew he could play the game if he could find an employer who would listen to his plea and give him an opportunity.

 

Burrell had been crying to the heavens before his release to the Rays staff that he needed to ” get into the flow of the game” by playing in the field with an occasional Designated Hitter relief spot. That playing everyday in the green grass(turf) got him into a positive flow and environment where he produced instead of sitting on a bench expected to rise to the occasion 4 or 5 times a game. He needed a consistent game flow, not one predicated by InterLeague games and Spring Training starts only in the outfield.


So were we all fools not to heed Burrell’s logic? Did he really know the essence of his hitting stemmed from his getting some time in the fresh air and outfield, or was it just a ruse? Considering the pure fact that Burrell seemed to suffocate within his new restrictions as a DH in the American League, did that predicate his departure again for the National League and a chance to again force a team to insert him into an outfield situation?

Was Burrell’s pleas and wants to play in the outfield met by deafened ears within the Rays system and not even thought of as an alternative to getting his fires churning before the Rays designated him? Here the ideas are speculation, but the proof is in the pudding. Burrell suddenly seemed to excel again once his tootsies touched the green grass/turf of the outfield.

 

Burrell had to shed the evil doppelganger persona and renew his NL allegiance by signing with the San Francisco Giants for the rest of the 2010 season for the league minimum salary. The Rays were still on the hook for a bulk of his $ 9 million salary, but they now had no ties or bonds to the enhanced positive spirit and exuberated talents now showcased by Burrell during the reminder of 2010.


His evil doppelganger never reared its ugly side in San Francisco, instead a more centered and reliable bat spilled out of the rejuvenated Burrell. Before May 14,2010 ( 24 games) Burrell had compiled a .202 batting average with 2 HR and 13 RBI. In tune with the evil doppelganger, Burrell had struck out 28 times in only 84 plate appearances. Simple nasty numbers considering his high salary and the demand for consistent performance from his DH position.

Upon his return to the Major Leagues with the Giants in 2010, Burrell went on to play in 96 games for the G-men posting 18 HR and 58 RBIs and boosting his OPS to a .872 mark. His strikeout totals were still high (77 in 289 at bats), but Burrell quickly quadrupled his walk totals and provided a much needed offensive piece of power for the Giants. Burrell even felt a rejuvenation in his play in the field playing 87 games in the Giant’s outfield and collecting only 2 errors. A total of 632 innings in the outfield and only two small errors. By comparison, the Rays right fielder Matt Joyce played in 63 games for a total of 472 innings and had 3 errors.

Simply put, Burrell might have been right about his fielding help accentuate his hitting. Maybe if both the Rays staff and the fans given him a chance to play in the field occasionally, it might have worked to the satisfaction of both parties and given Burrell a renewed energy and vitality at the plate. Of course this is purely speculation because in hindsight, who knows what Burrell could of done if Burrell was included in the platoon mix in Rightfield for the Rays.

 

The cycle has now seemed to have turned 180 degree for Burrell with a level of success and another trip to the post season firmly within his grasp. Burrell is having the time of his life renewed by the pressure and stress caused in trying to win a National League pennant for his new club against his old squad, the Philadelphia Phillies. Funny how ironic it is now that the Rays signed Burrell as a offensive weapon in their arsenal for the next time the Rays could have faced the Phillies in a playoff situation.


Crawford has now boxed up his equipment and gone home for the season, possibly never to wear a Rays uniform again. The Rays never seemed to have gotten a level of consistent power or hitting from their DH even after Burrell’s departure. Ironic again that the Rays might have finally cut their ties with Burrell thinking he was not the piece that would get them to their final goals in 2010. Now Burrell is preparing for a trip home to San Francisco with the series tied 1-all and a chance to again be anointed as a godsend late addition to the Giants than as a possible evil Rays doppelganger.

Rays Best Non-Trade of the Season

 
 

Back earlier in 2010 when the Seattle Mariners put a “For Rent” sign squarely on the chest of starting pitcher Cliff Lee, the Tampa Bay Rays were quick to phone the Mariners and see just what they had to dangle in front of the seafaring squad to entice them to send the left-hander to another coastal town at the opposite end of the country.

The Rays were not in denial that it would only be a 3-month rental, possibly 4 at the most, and would have to probably give up some substantial player personnel to push this deal towards the finish line.

There were more than a few speculations that the Mariners wanted a pitcher in return who was already Major League ready, or currently on the Rays 25-man roster. There was also a good indicator that the Mariners would be wanting possibly two infielders, one from the Rays stable farm system, and then possibly another MLB ready candidate.


Whispers were prevalent that the Mariners were seeking Rays rookie Wade Davis or possibly Rays farmhand (at the time) Jeremy Hellickson as a first point on the triangle of talent to secure Lee’s services for the remainder of 2010. But Davis had begun to shown a more mature pitching style at that moment and was beginning to show his true colors and adaptability to Major League hitting when the deal was being considered.

Hellickson on the other hand has run into a few situations in his recent starts about that time and was still a very unproven MLB commodity. With neither of these Rays pitchers’ solidly in the chatter between the two teams, this discussion was over quicker than it started. But who else might have been on the wire for the Mariners to consider? What other MLB caliber players or possible Rays farmhands possibly would have been plucked to complete a trade of this magnitude?

 

Rumors abounded all over the stadium that the Mariners were more than eager to solidify their shortstop position, and their attention went immediately to Reid Brignac. The young Rays infielder had developed a more power infused hitting stroke, and his defensive play had made him a valuable asset to the Rays not only as a left-handed option, but as a cog that could be popped into positions all over the infield.


Ray farmhand Matt Sweeney, who was acquired in the Scott Kazmir trade in 2009 was also seen as a possible trade addition as a future third base option for the Mariners and might be a year or two out of the Major Leagues with the Mariners, but would have to change positions to get to the same level with the Rays because of 3-time All Star Evan Longoria standing in front of him on the Rays depth chart.

Word was also circulating that Leslie Anderson, the former Cuban National team member was also being scouted as a possible future Mariners option at first base with both current M’s Casey Kotchman and Russell Branyan being Free Agents in 2011. Options were plentiful, but the Rays also did not want to give up too much in MLB potential for a short rental property like Lee.

In the end, this possible trade came back to haunt the Rays as Lee eventually went to American League West divisional winner the Texas Rangers and solidified their pitching staff after a short adjustment period. During the post season, Lee has now extended his winning streak thanks to two remarkable performances again the Rays in Game 1 and Game 5 of the ALDS.
 
It is a bit ironic that the one pitching piece the Rays had sought to bolster up their rotation in the end helped to create the demise of the team that wanted to acquire him. Ultimately the left hand of Lee added to the Rays misery and their early departure in the ALDS, but they got to keep pieces of their farm system and team who could play major roles in 2011.

Hellickson and Davis should be key components for many years of a maturing Rays rotation and be two valuable right-handed options in the Rays pitching staff for at least the next 5 years. Reid Brignac could have developed enough in 2010 to possibly unseat incumbent Jason Bartlett and his possible 4.5 million 2011 salary and make Bartlett trade bait this off season/. Matt Sweeney is growing his power potential with every game he plays and should be a great power option possibly in late 2011 or 2012,possibly at Designated Hitter.


 

Anderson is going to play in the Arizona Fall League (Peoria Saguaros) to gather some more training and game experience with a possibility for a 2011 Spring Training invite to challenge for the Rays First Base position. All five of these players who were thought to be in the trade process between the Mariners and Rays for the limited services of Lee until the end of this season.


The Seattle and Rays management not liking the players pairings for Lee and then shutting off talks and then having the Mariners end up sending Lee to Texas might be one of the best deals this season for the Tampa Bay Rays. People argued at the Trade Deadline that the Rays might have been too picky or too silent and it cost us a chance to go deeper into the postseason.

In the end, the Rays front office’s strict guidelines for a substantial return on their short term investment in Lee might turn out to be their hidden gold mine by keeping their stockpile of young talent.
 

 
 

My Personal Top 10 Rays Photo Memories of 2010

 

 

I was reading an photography article before the beginning of the 2010 Major League Baseball season, and a quote from the esteemed photographer Ansel Adams just popped out at me. ” There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer“. And immediately after seeing this quote it dawned on me to try and catch a few extra essences of the game of baseball in 2010 that hopefully other will enjoy.

Yesterday’s post included my second 10 favorite moments and photos of the Tampa Bay Rays 2010 campaign. Today I will include in this post my Top 10 selection which I think had a direct impact on me, and hopefully a few of the Rays Republic. I am a true photography novice, but I guess this quote by famous photographer John Berger says it best for me today :

All photographs are there to remind us of what we forget. In this- as in other ways- they are the opposite of paintings. Painting record what the painter remembers. Because each of us forget different things, a photo more than a painting may change its meaning according to who is looking at it“.

Below are the Top 10 photos I have taken with my little Fuji camera that I think tells a great storyline to what has transpired through my lens this season. Rays/ Hess Express Saturday Night Concert photos are not included in this top 10 list, or they might have dominated the listing. These are moments caught in my lens that made historical significance to me and the Rays 2010 season. I hope you can see the vision within them today.

 

Photo # 10 was taken recently at the Rays welcome home celebration at the St.Petersburg/Clearwater Airport following the Rays clinch of the 2010 American League East title. The reason this young guy caught my eye and not the small boy near him sporting the Rayhawk is that this is the Rays future sitting on his Father’s shoulders. This is the expression and the excitement the next generation will need to have for this team to be here after 2027.


 

Photo# 9 was one of the photos taken from my Zorilla Gorilla photo segment in which I buried one of the furry creatures in the white sands in Fort Desoto Park, just at the Southernmost point of Pinellas County. I really wanted to get the sea oats in the background along with that sparkling white sands that permeate this region that was chosen one of the World’s Best beaches several years ago.


It was also a secondary way for me to show some friends in other parts of the country that the B P oil spill had not reached this region. The event crippled this region’s usually robust tourist season, and the effects of that will be felt for another two years or more before it rebounds. But then again, the media forgot to tell you that when arguing about empty seats in the Trop.

 

Photo# 8 was taken during the Rays InterLeague schedule when the Florida Marlins came up and played against the Rays in Tropicana Field. All season long on Sundays, the Rays mascot Raymond brought his three mini Raymond’s onto the field with him before the Rays games.


On this date, he also invited Billy the Marlin and his half pint also onto the field as they strolled around before the game and greeted and entertained the Rays and Marlins fans. Was a great way for the Rays to accent the family vibe of the Sunday Family Days, and the Rays got great support and played to an average of 25,990+ Rays fans during the team’s 13 Sunday matinees.

 

Photo # 7 is a recent picture taken on the night the Rays clinched their second postseason bid in three seasons. Rays pitcher David Price, who also got the victory on that night was coming down the line greeting fans after a small champagne bath from his teammates in the clubhouse.

What was so special about this photo is that both Price and Evan Longoria were side-by-side as they made their way down the Rightfield sidelines, and this was moments after it was officially announced that the duo was giving away 20,000 FREE seats for the next night’s contest against the Baltimore Orioles.


 
Photo # 6 was taken during the Rays home opener against the Baltimore Orioles in which the fans got a pair of Rays Manager Joe Maddon glasses. The Rays Bullpen took it a step further and each member of the Bullpen had a pair of these Maddon giveaway glasses on their face during the National Anthem, and most kept the glasses on or near them most of the night. Was waiting for someone (possibly Randy Choate) to actually wear the glasses onto the mound, but maybe that was just my wishful thinking.

 

Photo # 5 was another example taken from my Zorilla Gorilla sampling and was set on the beach just beyond the huge 3-story waterslide at the Tradewinds Resort and Spa on St. Pete. Beach, Florida. Sure I had to muster up a pail and shovel and do some manual labor, but it was a great way to get some extra Sun, plus get a free day out at one of the best resorts in the region that also were great Rays boosters.

Tradwinds was also the sight of more than a half dozen great outdoors Rays Watch parties that were emceed by Rays Radio host Rich Herrera. Combined with the great sunshine and beautiful scenery, the oversized blow-up television screen provided great Rays away game presentations along with some great prizes and Watch Party events.

 

Photo # 4 was taken during the Rays home opener against the Orioles when the Rays used more than a few different levels of pyrotechnics to salute and introduce the Rays starting line-up for their first home contest. Got to admit, even down in the right field corner, after a few moments you could feel the heat pushing to you from the field, but it must have looked simply amazing on television.


 

Photo # 3 was taken of Rays reliever Lance Cormier and his young son who got a chance to throw off the Rays Bullpen mound following a Rays Sunday afternoon contest. Cormier worked out on the mound and in the field with his young son for about 20 minutes before both of them casually walked to the Rays clubhouse.

It was a great reminder to me that so many of these guys are also fathers and husbands and made that special time for the kids and significant other, even on a “getaway” day like Sundays as they embarked on a road trip.


 

Photo # 2 before the game it was announced that the Rays would be wearing a selected blue-hued plaid BRayser for their upcoming road trip with each member of the team forking out $ 300 for their own personal piece of Rays fashion history. It was just another of the great bonding elements thought up by Rays Manager Joe Maddon as a way to unite and bond his team off the field.


Recently Sak’s Fifth Avenue’s location here in Tampa, Florida announced that Rays fans could also come and get a Brayser custom fitted for themselves for $ 300. Remarkable how plaid just seemed to flow within the Rays clubhouse and stands after the premier of this fashion statement by the Rays Bullpen as they all strolled out to the benches wearing their personal outfits before a Rays home game. Do not know if a Brayser is my style, but I am warming up to it more every day.

 

Photo # 1 is a top view of the Harley Davison motorcycle tank that was part of the awesome motorcycle given to Rays pitcher Matt Garza to commemorate his June 26,2010 No-Hitter against the Detroit Tigers. The motorcycle also had the signatures of everyone on the Rays roster that night, plus a great airbrush rendition of both the on field celebration and linescore from the Rays Jumbotron. The bike was simply amazing and will be on permanent display in Garza’s California home.


So this concludes my Top 10 Rays photos that I took of game events during 2010. It was a great season and I did take a bit of time to go through the thousands of photos I took this season to even get close to a Top 20 that I posted the last two days. There might have been better photos or even better events that could have illustrated the 2010, but these were the moments and the photos that stuck deep into my mind this season.

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