October 2010

My Picks for the Top 20 Rays Photos of 2010, Part 1

 

Most people know I took the blinders off this years and decided to do more photography before , during and after the Tampa Bay Rays game. With the media changing every day, I decided it was better to have a multi-faceted approach than to just sit back and write a blog and hope the someone in the photographer’s well got the same photos.

Being an amateur photographer (but getting better with every shoot), I decided to try and throw together two different posts to include my top 20 photos that I personally took from the Rays 2010 season. Today I am going to include the bottom ten (11-20) of my Top 20 2010 photos. Tomorrow’s post will have my Top 10 overall photos. These photos are not arranged or selected based on just the photo taken. Some have interesting back stories or reasons I feel they are in this top echelon of pictures taken during the 2010 year.

These photos will go from the day that Pitcher’s and Catcher’s reported to Port Charlotte, Florida this season, through Spring Training, and ultimately conclude with a Rays post season airport celebration photo. They will not however be any of the 2010 Rays/Hess Express Saturday Night Concert series photos.

I decided to do another post in the next few days with my top 2 photos from each of the Rays/Hess Express Saturday Night Concert Series concerts that I got to shoot down in front of the stage in 2010.


Considering I have no training or experience before this season taking photo except for a 7th Grade Photo class back at Tyrone Junior High ( they weren’t called Middle Schools then), I think my under 340 dollar old Fuji camera can sometimes get some pretty good shots. That being said, let’s get right to the top numbers 11-20 photos that I picked to include in this end of the season package.

 

Photo # 20 is a crowd photo taken from my seat region during the Rays annual Parks and Recreation Days that can fill Tropicana Field with over 15,000+ children all using the Rays Thunderstix either for crowd noise or for their own personal sword fights. Reason this is one of my favorite photos is the fact this is the day that Royals starter Zack Grienke complained about the “circus atmosphere” within the dome and it was all because of these great kids doing their part all game long.

 

Photo # 19 was taken during one of the St. Petersburg Times Sunday Fun Days when Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey decided to commandeer the Rays mascot Raymond’s All Terrain Vehicle during the Rays pre-game/ Hickey actually rode the ATV around for a few minutes, usually in a circle around Raymond before he got back to his regular Coaching duties before the game. Raymond finally got his ATV back, which he uses to entice the crowd excitement before the beginning of the Rays game, but it was great to see someone get the better of the blue fuzzy one for once.


 

Photo # 18 was taken at Bright House Network Field up in Clearwater, Florida during the Rays versus Phillies Spring Training game. In the photo we see Rays infielder Elliott Johnson chatting with a small ballplayer who just got done throwing a bit of pre-game warm-ups with Johnson for about 10 minutes. I found this photo intriguing knowing that Johnson hold small instruction lessons and camps with kids in the Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina area when he has been up playing with the Rays Triple-A affiliate, the Durham Bulls.


 

Photo # 17 was taken during the first day that Pitchers and Catchers’ reported to the Rays Port Charlotte complex back in February 2010. So many people do not get to see this side of Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg as a big a fan as the rest of us. But also, he is always a gracious and hospitable guy who is more than willing to chat baseball or even sign for the Rays faithful fans. I consider Sternberg one of the most accessible owners in baseball, and his Carolina Blue sweater is usually a key element to his game day wardrobe


 

Photo # 16 is a unique photo of Rays Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi putting the finishing touches on an inter-locking ” T B ” logo that the Rays Bullpen put on the back of the Rays Bullpen mound during the 2010 season. Not sure why the symbol did not get adapted or formulated for the Rays main pitching mound in 2010, but possibly it is just a experimental thing being done to see if they can duplicate some of the mound MLB team logo impressions. Like the tell-tale “A” of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.


 

Photo # 15 is special to me because it is the only photo of Rays left-handed reliever J P Howell in his Rays “whites” in 2010. This photo was taken on the Rays Opening Night and was the last time Howell would put on a Rays uniform and stroll down to the Rays Bullpen in 2010. It was a significant loss when Howell went down with shoulder fatigue, and then went under season ending surgery. I have gotten word Howell is doing great in his rehabilitation and should be ready to go in Spring 2011.


 

Photo # 14 was also taken at Bright House Field in Clearwater during the Rays versus Phillies game this Spring. During the middle of the 7th inning after Grant Balfour was done doing his side running in the outfield, he came over and signed for the Rays crowd for a few minutes before popping into the Rays dugout. Always find it interesting and exciting to see the pitchers’ after their outings running on the outfield

Warning track during Spring Training. Wonder if any of them have either been hit by a batted ball, or accidentally became involved with a ball in play?

 

Photo # 13 was taken on the night Rays closer Rafael Soriano set a new Rays save record. Just like thousands of Rays fans, I wanted to know what Soriano writes on the back of the pitching mound so many times during his outings. But it is a Soriano trade secret. I did take a photo however of his cap at one game and finally figured out that he has a bit of a cheat sheet in his cap to help him with hitters he faces on the mound. Going to be hard to find someone to duplicate Soriano’s dominance this season,.


 

Photo # 12 was one of my Zorilla Gorilla photos that I took one Sunday afternoon when the Rays were out of town on a road trip and someone within the Rays front office got me a few of the gorillas’ to put in some unique poses. This photo was taken at Lake Seminole Park in central Pinellas County on a sign by one of their great smaller lakes within the complex. The sign just seemed so perfect. Had a blast that day hitting over a dozen different locales taking photos that I submitted to the Rays.


 

Photo # 11 was taken after one of the many extra innings games by the Rays this season. It was actually a 1-0 win over the New York Yankees thanks to Reid Brignac’s walk-off Home Run. The Rays mascot Raymond always has a few interesting costumes he changes into during the game, but this pajama and nightcap ensemble always gets me laughing. I know that we do not have Spider-Raymond or Rally Raymond costume in-house anymore, but this night time Raymond just needs bunny slippers and it is perfect.

Hope you enjoyed the bottom ten of my Top 20 photos taken during the Rays 2010 season. Do not forget to stop by again tomorrow as I post my personal Top 10 photos that I got to take druing the 2010 season.

A State of Emotional Bankruptcy

 

 
Mike Ehrmann/Getty

I am not sad. But I do feel a bit numb right now. Rushing through me is a huge wave of emotions that I can not fathom or even comprehend without just sitting here and letting them rush over me like a huge Monsoon wave. A swirling gambit of feelings from happiness to sadness is ebbing at me, but I am staying strong as I stand and give a last huge round of applause and gratitude to my Boys of Summer….the Tampa Bay Rays.

As I stand there clapping, I can feel the gurgling and churning of emotion beginning to rise towards my head. I feel weak, a bit disoriented, but still stand erect, providing a rhythm with my hands to show the respect, admiration and total commitment I have given this team since I was the first fan to walk into their Port Charlotte Spring Training complex when pitchers’ and catchers’ reported in late February.

Suddenly that pent up emotions I have been fighting leaks out through the cracks and crevices of my soul to spill upon the Tropicana Field seat I have cherished for the last 13 years. I am in full disheartenment now knowing that my baseball is done for the year. My eyes are watering, but not out of sadness, but out of the joy and extreme excitement I have witnessed on this patch of Field Turf that is to be replaced in the off season.

I instantly felt the extreme contentment swamp over me that I got to experience the “Perfect Season” in 2010. I attended 81 games this year, including 3 post season contests and was always inspired and at ease within this domed building. As other around me mutter disgust and admonish the end result, I am totally at peace with this ending, finally knowing that this squad had taken their entire band of brothers as far as fate would let them journey.

 

As I give a small salute to my oldest baseball buddy Rays Bullpen catcher Scott Cursi I have a tear of happiness trickling down my cheek. For in about a month, Scott and his wife Stephanie ( an ex-Rays employee) will celebrate the birth of a future Rays second baseman. That gives me hope for the Rays future. But I also remember that within the next few weeks Rays reliever Dan Wheeler will also have the joy of having his first daughter enter his life.


As the members of the Rays Bullpen began to walk towards the Rays dugout for the last time this season, I want to shout all their names and thank them, but it would have fallen on deaf ears right now. Collectively they are not in the celebrating mood, or pondering the immediate future than remembering the great moments of the last 7 ½ months since they first assembled. One by one I see them slowly and gracefully disappear, each stealing a last glimpse toward the sight up beyond Home Plate of the Texas Rangers still celebrating their series victory.

Just then my legs begin to tremble and I sit down in my seat emblazoned with my “Rays Renegade” black tag. I sit there for about five minutes and just take in the sights and sounds again. People want to talk to me about the game, but I tell them to “savor the moment, this is not the time to condemn or admonish, but to reflect before it is all gone”. Some understand, but most just laugh that I am too emotionally attached to this team. That I invest too much of myself into their wins and losses.

 

They might be right, but I also know that soon this team will be disassembled like an old jalopy not because they are rusted and mangled, but because of fiscal constrictions that will strangle the 2010 formation of this team that never seemed to quit. Suddenly it hits me like a ton of bricks that I might have seen the last days of a few of these Rays decked out in their Rays royal blue uniforms and that wave of acknowledgment rushed through my at breakneck speed.


It is over. It is done, and there is not a thing I can do about it. There is barely anyone in the stadium bowl now and a few of the Security force that know me well have left me sit there far too long. I have to go now. It is time to make that solemn walk through the bowels of the stadium and out into the regular World again. As I walk past the Tropicana Field Rotunda , there are a few people still taking their photos with the 7 foot Rays-inspired Mickey Mouse showing a few smiles and joy in an overflowing ocean of emotions right now.

I decide to sit down and listen to Rich Herrera as he does the last Rays Radio post game show of the year and he nods his head towards me as if he could see deep down into me and the pain and emotions churning like a bad dish of hot wings in my belly. He is the last Rays face I see this year. The last member of the fourth floor brigade, but I will miss them all too for their friendship, advice and just general good conversations. I sit there past the end of the Radio show and still hesistate to want to leave, but I must go. Within the next few days my normal life will return with all the stress and pressure these same players have felt this season. My refuge from reality is over for the year.

 

It is time to again find a way to live without my baseball for a few months before I again pack my Rays goodies for a February Rays Fan Fest date. Finally I head outside the large overhead doors of Gate 6 and I am instantly hit with a gust of cool wind. It awakens me to the pure fact that this is the last glimpse, the last moment I will be here this year.


Most people just seem to detach themselves from this place and just walk out like it is just concrete and paint. But I used to work here, sweat here, and saw some of the greatest Rays feats ever accomplished just beyond the insides of these large doors. I take one last look into the Trop and wish the roof could have been orange tonight, but tonight that orange hue is vacant.

As I turn, the whole kit and kaboodle of pent up emotions hits me all at once like a runner into the catcher. Suddenly I have to come to terms with the fact this is it. This is the end of my 2010 Rays baseball experience. But just as fast I remember something joyous and proud that will happen in April 2011. Another banner will be raised to the rafters, and that give me a bit of solace to make that long walk to the bike racks and begin to pedal home into the dark Florida night, but wearing the Rays cap with honor on my head.

 

I stop the bike about a block from the stadium, but still within the majesty of its beauty and take the cap off and offer a last salute to the Trop. Some say she is a slanted roofed abomination, but she is my Church of Baseball. Where I rejoice, find redemption and also attend some of the greatest game played on clay and turf.

It is the place I watch and talk with the great guys who grace the Rays logo on their heads and chests and leave a little piece of myself there forever.


I am not sad, but I do feel a little numb right now. Rushing through me is a huge wave of emotions that I can not fathom or comprehend without just standing here and letting them rush over me like a Monsoon wave. A swirling gambit of feelings from happiness to sadness is ebbing at me, but I am staying strong as I stand and give a last huge round of applause and gratitude to my Boys of Summer….the Tampa Bay Rays.

Gunslingin’ at the O K Trop Corral

 

They say that old Western gunfighters used to use their eyes to bring their opponents down in a street side disagreement. That a twitch of the eye or even a glimmer or glance could trigger an explosive event where one lies dead and the other victorious. Why is it tonight I think we just might be preparing for the fight at the O K Tropicana with plenty of fireworks and unexpected results before either teams give an inch tonight.


I do not think there are enough superlatives my pocket size Webster’s dictionary to illustrate the true essence of what tonight’s game means to these two teams itching with their finger firmly on the trigger knowing that tonight’s eventual winner gets another crack at those city slicker New York Yankees.

Both the Tampa Bay Rays and the visiting Texas Rangers have shown that they both have a huge propensities to post impressive victorious campaigns in the other’s hostile environments, with both combatants hushing the home crowds. That is all about to possibly end tonight, for it is now a solo “Win or be Gone” situation where a gunfighter’s mentality may just be the final key to being crowned the victor and getting a champagne or Bud Light shower, with and the loser seeing their playoff dreams dead in the water..

Presently both the Rays the Rangers know what is at stake with a lose, and can see with their own steely eyes how to come out victorious tonight and get another shot at those smug Yankees. Not lost within all the predetermined drama and swirling circumstances is the small aspect that no matter who the victor is tonight…. A new chapter of baseball history will be written with the game’s final out.

Who knows what misadventures on the field or post-game jubilations awaits either team as they get set to play in front of 40,000+ highly energized fans under the Teflon roof of Tropicana Field tonight. Not lost on their minds, and those of their fans is the fact have a slight edge as the Rays are 45-18 (.714) lifetime playing in front of crowds 30,000 and above, but that pure and plain fact will not rattle the confidence of these ornery Rangers.

Still undecided is which page of the current ALDS history will be re-written tonight. No matter the final outcome, you can bet the fans both inside Tropicana Field and watching in Texas and around the country will get their money’s worth tonight. If the hometown Rays take it to the Texans tonight, they will be the first team since the 2001 Yankees to come back from a 0-2 start at home and finish off in the victor’s circle in an ALDS.

If the Rangers were to upend the high flying hometown Rays, this Texas team would be celebrating their franchises first postseason title …..ever. Not even the founding Washington Senators even won a single game in the post season, much less win a series. An added plus is the pure glorious fact that the ultimate winner will get to host the Yankees at their home stadium for the first two games of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) set to begin this Friday night.

 

Not lost in all the frilly glitter and plaid glamour tonight is the fact that if the Rays were to be defeated at home tonight, these two teams would have combined their collective road victories to become the first ALDS pair to even win all five of their road contests. But then we get the added bonus of superior pitching match-up between some of the best throwing left-hander in baseball in a ALDS finale.


How incredible is it that the Rays David Price and Rangers Cliff Lee get to square-off again tonight with some much on the line and put their own personal stamp on their team’s chance for victory. Lee posted a clear advantage in Game 1 of the ALDS, but there have been heavy whispers that Rays Manager Joe Maddon has made a few adjustments to his line-up card for tonight and will have the Rays coming out at Lee with both barrels blazing.

Neither of these pitchers’ or their teammates’ have shown an ounce of stepping down, or aside for the other during this 5-game Battle Royale. Ultimately, it may come down to whichever team shows the first sign of weakening. Both have solid defenders in the field, but a slight miscalculation could provide the needed crack in either team’s armor right now.

This ALDS has been a classic old fashion baseball barnburner with no preconceived notions on the horizon as to who should be favored tonight. Who would have imagined less than a week ago that those “Claws and Antler” loving strangers from the Lone Star state could have moseyed into the Trop and put a hurting on the home town Rays by outscoring the homesteaders’ by a 11-1 margin in those contests, plus send more than a few shivers up the spines of the Rays Republic.

But with the Major League Baseball best road record in 2010, the Rays again showed why you can never count out this spontaneous team until recording the 27th out. The feisty Rays might have wandered into Arlington, Texas with a huge disadvantage in the series this past weekend. Then provided the Rangers with a personal double dose of the Rays old fashion Southern in-hospitality by strolling into the red-clad Rangers homestead and pushing the Rangers around for two solid games within their own green pasture.

But with everything squared-up and even now, it is again about time to see if we have a Rangers redemption or Rays celebration tonight. Before the clock ever strikes midnight, there will be an other Rays versus Rangers historic performance written in stone under the dome of Tropicana Field. Now we just have to wait and see which team’s fate and destiny gets written tonight into the MLB record books.

How much poetic justice would be served if a former Ranger and current Rays reliever Joaquin Benoit could provide the initial punch needed after being booed by the partisan Texas crowd in Arlington this past weekend. Or how insanely ironic would it be if a current Ranger and former Rays farmhand Josh Hamilton were to deliver the first deathblow to the Rays playoff chances after being applauded by Rays fans in Game 1 and 2.

Neither team has to be coached or prepped on the severity of the moment, and the fact that their 2010 season is at stake tonight. Both team’s have itchy fingers and are ready and eager to go at it tonight.


Some say that the actions of a pitcher and a hitter at the plate mimic those of a pair of gunfighters’ ready for battle. Each trying to provoke and gain an advantage before finally administering the final shot that would decide one’s death or elimination. All night long these battle will be undertaken by both team’s until the ultimately there will only be a team of 25 still standing and celebrating the victory.

It reminds me definitely of a deadly gunfight where two may enter the field of battle, but only one is left standing in the end.

Rays Getting their Virtual Hands Dirty on “We Farm”

 

Back when I played sports, the Internet was still in the early infant stages and wireless devices consisted of maybe a walkman or a portable transistor radio. The advent of WiFi technologies and World wide gaming communities had even came into anyone’s mind yet. Mostly we just played a variety of cards games like Poker or Hearts to bid the time before suiting up for warm-ups or during our transport to and from our charter flights.

Laptop were not even in the future thought process yet, and the Apple I Pod and I Pad were possibly just dreams or faint ideas still in computer technology think tanks.


With the advancements of the wireless and computing technologies all around us today, the Internet and games of chance with a side order of obsession are just a small mouse click away. I have a few friends who have plunged deep into the online farming community on Facebook known as “Farmville“, but as of now, I am still virginal and not partaking in that ritual farming industrial community. I
t is intriguing and a bit understandable that the players within the Tampa Bay Rays might have caught onto the growing fever of these downloadable games where compulsive endurance and chance both seem to rule the process.

These games seem just perfectly suited for a bunch of baseball players due to the odd facts that during a 162 game Major League Baseball season, there is a huge amount of “down” time usually spent away from home, waiting for something to happen (pre-game, rain delays) that could entice a person to become entranced into developing and cultivating an online community of their own.


During the 2010 MLB season, I have heard many whispers about an ever growing obsession within the Tampa Bay Rays clubhouse of several downloadable games and obsessive-compulsive programming that acted as buffers to the game pressures and simultaneously garnered internal competitions between the players. This rumor encircling the Rays clubhouse did not have to do with any World Poker Tour card playing websites, or even Fantasy leagues.

Somehow the Rays clubhouse, who all seem to have embraced their WiFi friendly Apple I Pads, has developed a budding cultivation within the online farming communities in the “We Farm” game. A game that is FREE to download from I Tunes or Apple, but can be as addictive as a large cup of caffeine if you give it a chance.

Several members of the Rays clubhouse have become a bit addicted and currently spend countless hours tending to their crops or designing the perfect scenario to be awarded a possible Blue Ribbon animal or get picked as the “Farm of the Week”.

 
Most of us who do not cruise an Apple based I Pad system might not have even heard about this downloadable game for I Pads and Apple WiFi devices. This farming community gives game players the tools to make the barnyards of their dreams. Farmers who range from city slickers to real life rural country boys, have taken to this addictive game. As the 2010 progressed, more and more of the Rays roster have been engulfed by this addictive competitive game.

Maybe it is purely the fact that they can be a simulated Roy Oswalt and outfit their personal farms with tractors, hay balers, sprayers and even build produce stands to sell their farming products just beyond their own fields. Maybe it is the majesty of knowing you can surrounding your property with multi-hued outhouses or the great non financial aspect of breeding and raising your own digitally rendered faux horses, pigs, sheep, cows, duck and even ostriches within a online community that has peaked their brainstems.

Maybe it is something as simple as a PG-13 rendition of an activity that everyone, including involving their children into helping on the farming projects that can be developed mutually as a entire family inspired working farm.


The game seemed to have introduced into the Rays clubhouse by Rays starting pitcher James Shields, who used to help tend and tailor his young daughter Ashtyn on her own “We Farm” spread on off days and during a Rays home series. Quickly the competitive fires rushed through the Rays locker room as David Price, B J Upton, Matt Garza, Kelly Shoppach, Matt Joyce, and Shields were suddenly going head-to-head on their own farming communities, trying to be the best in the Rays small kingdom.

When late season addition Chad Qualls came to the Rays via a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Qualls soon fell quickly into the Rays farming community battles. There is even a section of the game where you can have your friends and neighbors take pictures with you and your prize winning animals at the county fair. I wonder if Price has done that feat yet?
This farming community game has become such a web hit that the currently have their own Youtube Channel, and their own social media outposts to keep you updated and in tune with the whole sha-bang of new additions and words from game players all around the globe.

 

Even heard a wild rumor of some “We Farm” trash talking and farm challenges being issued by the Rays farmhands. Maybe if the Rays finish off the Rangers tomorrow in that Game 5 finale, for their next road trip (possibly to New York City for Games 3-5 of the ALCS) the Rays could all dress in blue overalls and straw farmers’ hats as a team homage to the “We Farm” gaming site. .

Heck they would be heading to the big city, the Big Apple, why not dress accordingly with their new found obsession. Think “Green Acres” or Petticoat Junction” if you need any motivation here. There are still plenty outside the city limits of “We Farm“-ville who do not understand the total intrigue and pull of the competitive game…..yet.

But you can bet that those already playing in the community within the Rays clubhouse will take their time converting more than a few other Rays roster members as they pick them off one-by-one and get them interested in the great off season treat of playing this game as a possible team bonding unit for 2011. Could also be a great way to indirectly see how teammates and friends are doing in the off season as everyone goes their separate ways until mid-February.


Wonder how many of the Rays players have unlocked the Diner at Level 23 that come complete with a surly waitress? Or the possibility of owning your own Drive-In that appears on Level 33. What a treat it would be to pull your pick-up backwards into the parking spot and watch the movies from the comfort of an old chair in the bed of your truck. Wonder if any of the Rays players have currently unlocked the farmhouse upgrade in Level 35 of the Outland Chateau?

These games can be great stress relievers and a great way to get your mind off the pressures and bottling emotions that can be constantly churning in your mind and stomach this time of the year. They can be hotel and airplane lag time deviations that can give you an outside visual or a faraway place to recharge, reconnect or just restock your chicken coop.

With the level of intensity all ready churning in the Rays clubhouse over “We Farm“, it will be amazing to see the level numbers and the upgrade or “Gro” options that the Rays involved players will have selected and presented to their colleagues come this Spring. It is a harmless and victimless game of competition that has no victims, no weapons or gore unlike some other obsessive online simulation games.

It is a great way to kill a few hours in-flight, during a rain delay, or possibly just before heading out onto the field for Batting Practice. Leave it to Shields to be the one character with tunnel vision in the Rays clubhouse that doesn’t let his every day actual job slip too far from his mind while playing online.

In Shields perfection on his farm he has constructed a baseball diamond within a surrounding mesh of blueberry bushes. Maybe there isn’t a corn option yet on Shield’s levels, but if there was, it would truly be his own personal slice of a Field of Dreams…Tampa Bay style.

 

If You Remove Them, They will Come!

 

With the Tampa Bay Rays pulling off a miracle of their own today in Arlington, Texas, you would hope that Major League Baseball hierarchy, which takes over the prospective team’s stadium (Tropicana Field) for the postseason would possibly even entertain the far fetched thought of uncovering the 5,762 seats currently hidden under a veil of blue plastic in Tropicana Field’s Upper Deck.


For the entire 2010 season, MLB has stood silent and let more than a few National and local media sources batter and bewilder the Rays front office with the team’s visual weekday 2010 attendance woes. With attendance down in every ballpark within the MLB kingdom, they let the media pound the Tampa Bay community as MLB’s (New York) office took a back seat totally within the dark shadows.

Boasting sell-out crowd in both Game 1 and Game 2 , both in the afternoon of the first round of the American League Divisional Series against the Texas Rangers, you would think maybe it was time for MLB and the Rays front office to possibly re-discuss and jointly decide to uncover the dusty obstructed view Upper Deck seats and get a few more excited and extra revenue inducing Rays Republicans in those lofty seats.

MLB’s executive offices (in New York City) had been more than firm with the Rays front office even as far back as 2008 on their on-going commitment to not even let the local Rays consider removing those blue tarps until the team possibly advances to the 2010 World Series. Even if www.raysbaseball.com would conveniently sell out their remaining Game 5 tickets before 10 am on Monday when tickets are available to the general public, MLB will stand concrete in their previous decisions to leave the blue tarps upon the Upper 300’s section’s seats.

Gone is the common sense mentality that even with a fast sell out of online tickets, opening this previously tarp-covered region would go deaf upon MLB’s ears even with a nice monetary incentive of deciding removing the tarps and providing extra vocal and unexpected revenues towards the postseason money pot.

 

The only other time the MLB has given the Rays Front Office permission to sell those seats was in September 2008 when MLB decided to unwrap the high level seats for Game 6 and Game 7 of the American League Championship Series with the Rays playing their usual sell-out opponent, the Boston Red Sox. That small decision increased the Tropicana Field capacity from 36,048 to an audio-popping 42,048 fanatics. But if the Rays can logically sell out those extra 5,762 seats before issuing Standing Room Only (SRO) seating in the lower bowl, isn’t it a “win-win” opportunity for the Rays and MLB in the long run?


But maybe that is the problem with my logic. It makes sense, and usually that kind of rhetoric doesn’t apply well with the aspects of unforeseen money and a possible variable of ticket revenues that would have to be eventually pushed into the playoff pot and divided accordingly with the MLB, the teams and with the players. With the aspect of expendable money at a premium in this Tampa Bay region, if a Rays fans, or any baseball fan want to throw their money at you , wouldn’t you be foolish to push them away towards game day refuge at a local Sports bars or sitting at home watching on television and loosing that instant revenue?

MLB could give the Tampa Bay region the ammunition right now to fight back the well disguised ruse of our overall attendance situation and show that this Tampa Bay region is a great baseball community by providing additional seats by removing the tarps that some view as a hindrance to this community getting total respect from the Baseball World.

By MLB giving the Rays Front Office even the remote possibility or permission to tuck those tarps away for this deciding ALDS game could be viewed as their admittance that this region can sell seats and give the wrong impression to the rest of the Baseball World.

That right there might be a solid reasoning why MLB can not in full faith offer that option.

If MLB does grant this request, it would be like the MLB hierarchy is not condemning the low seasonal attendance, and instead maybe rewarding the bandwagon fans who might be here just for the ALDS game, then revert back to their usual viewing habits. What could be viewed as a great “win-win” situation for the organizations involved might in fact trigger a external discussion on why this facility is not suitable for baseball.


 

There is no way that MLB will open the forbidden “Pandora’s Box” of the Rays impending stadium situation by giving something to reward the few Rays Republic faithful who still seek to attend a ALDS game. It is sad, but true. Baseball is a huge industry that will not intentionally put itself in a bad light towards the Rays future situation.


But why is it that the possibility of removing a few blue tarps in the Trop’s Upper Deck being treated like a political red herring instead of an opportunity to entice and gather more Tampa Bay community fans to the Major League Baseball community. MLB has said in the past that Tropicana Field present ( with tarps) capacity provides an intimate setting for baseball. That might be true, but wouldn’t 5,762 extra fans yelling ,screaming and spending their money make MLB and the Rays smile from ear-to-ear.

If you need someone to help clean, unwrap or even dust those seats before Tuesday, give me a call. I will do whatever I can to get an extra 5,762 extra members of the Rays Republic into those seats and make the Trop shake with enough noise and thunderous movement to set off a seismometer somewhere in the Southeast.
 

High Noon Rays versus Rangers Showdown

 


 

Did we possibly see the Texas Rangers today accidentally awaken a sleeping Rays ball club. Could the Rays offensive explosion in the 8th and 9th innings tonight be a by-product of the outstanding pitching performance being provided tonight by Rays starter Matt Garza. With this sudden burst of often elusive firepower coming from all sides of the Rays line-up, could this game prove that the heart and soul of this Rays squad is still very much alive and pumping some extreme energy ?


Tonight’s game truly looked like a team slowly awakening from a slumber of the lumber when the once offensively dormant Rays finally pushed across their second run of the American League Divisional Series in the top of the 6th inning. Could this Rays team have finally wiped the sleep dust out of their eyes and become the solid hitting machine this team needs for the rest of this series. Or could tomorrow be more of a return to form of Games 1 and 2 anemic Rays offense. Interesting sidebar point in this ALDS series is that the home team has not won a single ballgame, or been in a position to win after the 8th inning.

19 other times in modern baseball lore, an American League club has gone down 0-2 in a ALDS with only 4 teams (1995 Mariners, 1999 Red Sox, 2001 Yankees and 2003 Red Sox) having the stuff to fight back from the brink of defeat to solidify themselves and eventually take the ALDS series. Interesting enough, the 2001 Yankees were the only team (before the 2010 Rays) to fall behind 0-2 at home. Could it be a great omen that the 2001 Yankees completed their ALDS comeback and went on to win that season’s World Series?.

Before tonight’s 6-3 Rays victory, the Rangers had outscored the powerless Rays 11-1 and out hit the usually potent Rays offense 19-8 over the first two games of this ALDS. Tonight the Rays belted out a 11-6 hit advantage over the Rangers, and made the red clad Texas crowd take their brooms back home under their arms. The anemic Rays were truly pitiful at Tropicana Field, hitting a paltry 1-13 ( .077) with 9 strikeouts with runners in scoring position before tonight’s offensive awakening.

Tonight the Rays were 3-9 with Runners in scoring position, a massive improvement with the Rays trio of Carlos Pena, B J Upton and John Jaso all providing key hits to score or provide insurance runs to show support for the 4 Rays pitchers that took the hill tonight. It was a solid team effort from a team that looked puzzled and bewildered before they boarded a charter flight to Texas after Thursday afternoon’s contest.

Rays hitters produced an impressive 11 for 37 ( .336) mark tonight as the Rays saw a total of 173 pitches, 50 pitches more than the hometown Rangers. To throw a quick comparison with their prior two performances, in Game one the Rays saw 136 total pitches and only managed 6 hits with one Rays Ben Zobrist getting 2 of those hits and their only run. Game 2 saw the Ranger pitching staff throw 135 pitches with only 2 hits with only Willy Aybar hitting an extra base hit (double).

 

The way the Rays offense woke up today was remarkable since the rays offense had only produced 3 extra base hits and a solo run ( Zobrist HR) before the Rays produced 5 extra base hits tonight, including Home Runs by Carl Crawford (solo) and Pena (3-run HR). How dramatic was the Game 3 turnaround of the Rays? According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only one other team has begun a preliminary postseason series (ALDS/ALCS) with no more than 1 run and no more than 8 hits in their prior two contests (2009 Boston versus Los Angeles Angels). Tonight that statistic is just dust in the wind as the Rays kept from being swept and sent packing by the Rangers.


Finally this Rays team is beginning to hit the ball like the American League East Champions. All along you knew the power and the strength was within them, but now they are bringing it to the plate and providing more than enough ammunition to defeat the Rangers. But the hard work is far from over. Will the Rays formulize an effective hitting and pitching scheme on Sunday to provide the fourth losing game in this ALDS for the home squad.

The Rays will be sending rookie right-hander WD-40 (Wade Davis) to the mound tomorrow afternoon with a chance to again take the Rangers to the Trop. for a one and done possible rematch of lefties David Price and Cliff Lee in the decisive Game 5.

Some within the Rays republic have questioned the idea of starting Davis in this key Game 4, but I feel he has more than shown his maturity and value throughout this 2010 season. Davis has been one of the most solid rookie pitchers in the American League in 2010, but might have to throw the game of his career to get the Rays in solid position to win this contest.

But going into this game, Davis’s had won 7 of his last 8 starts, with only a non decision to blemish his record since coming off the DL. His only non decision came in Game 162 with Davis’s start last Sunday in Kansas City on the last day of the regular season. Since July, the Rays have won 9 of his previous 13 starts. Davis finished the MLB season leading all AL Rookies in ERA (4.07), winning percentage (.545) and was second in innings, starts and strikeouts behind only Baltimore rookie pitcher Brian Matusz.

More importantly, Davis has been gaining more consistency and control as he took the mound in his last 7 starts, and finally seems to be very comfortable in his MLB skin. That bodes well for the Rays, and a solid first five innings could prove to be a vital key to a possible Rays win. If Davis can keep this game close or possibly scoreless and let the Rays offense get their new found hitting on track, this series could definitely be headed for a fifth and final contest.

 

That has to be the front and center the motivational centerpiece for the Rays right now. If they take their new offensive awareness to Rangers starter Tommy Hunter tomorrow, then their fate will definitely rests in their own hands. But if they falter, it is going to be a long Fall and Winter for the Rays 25. But the ice has been cracked, the Rays once lifeless bats have been awoken to bring about a Game 4 old fashion Texas showdown.


Game 4 will officially begin just past high noon (12:07 pm CST) in the Fall Texas sun, but it will be definitely hotter and more humid with every hitter from both team’s who step in the Batter’s box tomorrow. Both squads desperately need a victory for another step towards bringing another page of history to their respective franchises. If the Rangers win, it will be their first postseason series win in their club’s Washington/Texas history.

If the Rays are victorious, they are still on track to become only the fifth team to come back from 0-2 to be in line to possibly win their once lop-sided ALDS series. It is time for the Rays ultimate “Feel the Heat” motivational scheme to further push the Rangers new fangled “Claws and antlers” into the background. Sounds like the perfect Texas mano-on-mano style gunfight. Wonder if the Rays will come firing blanks or multiple bazooka rounds in this high noon showdown?

Cliche`s Are Our Friends

 


 

You want to throw out the clichés` right now. You want the whole Tampa Bay Rays roster to suddenly throw out the usual emotional and symbolic cloaking devices of baseball World that hide the true emotions churning within their own bodies and souls as they approach a moment that could be transfixed in their minds forever.


You want them to throw out the vocals of cinematic baseball poster child Crash Davis as he instructs Durham Bull top prospect Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh in the classic baseball movie “Bull Durham” to “Learn your cliché’s. Study them. Know them. They-re your friends”.

We gotta play ‘em one day at a time“.

Epic cliché’. One small sentence that transcends the true emotions and activities going on in the entire Tampa Bay Rays squad’s mind at lightning fast speed just as the National Anthem ends, and they assemble one last time before the squad gets ready to play one of the most important games of 2010. How the ALDS scenario has dissolved into a “Win or be Gone” moment mixed with a “Must Win” ultimatum for these Rays that will either see their playoff door open wider, or slammed shut by the Texas Rangers.

This last game team mentality can not bubble to the surface and be seen by the Rays faithful. That is where the cliché` plays it biggest role to hide the ever flowing emotional tide of this Rays team and shadow it from the sunlight. It odes no good for the Rays roster to show an ounce of this fear and anxiety. They have to stay nestled within the bosom of the cliché’ warmth where it is safe and free from commitment and the many faces of defeat.

The cliché` will now harbor that increasing emotional crush that pulls at their minds and hearts. It will magically fill their mouths with solid vocal pronunciations of inspiration and determination, and not the internal stammering realization of doubt constantly swirling within their minds.


 

I’m just happy to be here and hope I can help the ball club“.


As this cliché` rambles off their tongues, the need for offensive and pitching severities eludes their mind. They are focused on the best scenarios, the most prolific results, the ultimate prize still within their gaze and grasp. At no time can there be an outburst of doubt, signal of nervousness, or visuals of incompetence within their mannerisms or routines. Has to materialize as “just another day for the Rays” as they collectively get ready for the fight of their playoff lives.

A win gives the feisty crew another day in the Texas Sun to trample and set back their opposition. While a loss provides an emotionless and sullen charter flight home, and a unexpected adventures of the beginning of the Major League Baseball off season for players and staff. 22 teams currently envy the Rays place in the Sun, and would have lusted to be in their shoes for just a moment in 2010.

But these 22 other Major League Baseball squads have already done their season ending volleys of goodbyes and hurried packing of their personal baseball gear and been sent home without the glory of the post season. These Rays are fighting for the chance to again provide their region with a reason to thrust out their chests and boast.

To be a beacon of hope and playoff miracles instead of possibly being the first fatality of the 2010 post season. Down 0-2 is a formidable hole to fight your way out of, but it is a task that has been completed before, and with this glimmer of hope and positive affirmation, this Rays team trudges onward.


I just wanta give it my best shot and, Good Lord willing, things’ll work out.”

There hidden within that cliche` is a bit of a sullen ruse for the Rays. This team have not shown their usual assertiveness or acceleration, they have sputtered in all aspects of the game and not shown the promise their fans have come to treasure in them. In reality, this Rays squad has not given the playoffs their best shots yet…..But there time also draws to a close to provide those aggressive moments. For some odd reason this Rays team has shown more of their past than their present in the post season.

Providing lackluster muses and uninspired scenes straight from a pre-2007 Rays hitting and pitching fortunes to find themselves in this dire situation by not following their own proven guidelines that got them here. Somehow the Rays wanders from the path that got them here in the first place. Squandered opportunities and situations and provided zero reason for joy or confidence . They somehow strayed into the deep woods losing their own personas and momentarily forgot their way, or the path of their earlier successes. They had began to read the passages and posts about their prowess, but lost their Lion’s heart in the process.

But that is the unhampered beauty of a cliché`, it can be the end-all to get-all phrasing to evoke change or disguise failure. It can hide the Alpha and the Omega within its vowels and consonants. The cliché` can be your best motivational tool if used with the right intentions. It can harbor or even eliminate the fatal flaws of human speech and throw out nuances and characteristics that are not present in the mannerisms and patterns of the usual preoperational sequence of things.

 

It can create a imaginary illusion and hide the mentality and symbolic gestures of the moment. It provides shade for the nerves and trembling within with tried and true cliché` manufactured for just this type of occasion. The way you use the art of the cliché` can speak volumes as to your understanding of basic Sun Tzu militant strategies and word formulations.

The cliché` can be the stealth weapon of mass propaganda to settle the outsider’s own anxiety and self-perceived notions. The cliché` can provide a deadly accuracy or a mindless banter, the key is in the voice of the orator.


Cliché’s have been called the imaginary “best friend” of the gambler, the thief and the athlete. It can be used to provide a ruse, or fake imagery that will be transmitted to those outside the circle of truth and provide misinformation or a strategic point to gain alliance with an ally. They can provides a shield or force field against the true intentions and apparitions of the insanity of the precise moment. The cliché` can turn as lion into a lamb with just the simple act of speaking.

No matter what happens to the Rays today, be sure to seek out and listen for the pearls and gems of the cliché` today as either teams speaks before, during or after the contest. Cliché`s are our friends. They are the closest allies we can have at a time of deception and cunning, and they can be the protectors of the true emotions flowing within by bartering time for us as we collect ourselves for the journey. Or that also sound a bit cliché`?

I Miss Him Already!

 
 

He is one of those people who could fade into the background at a party and become part of the wallpaper. He has always seemed to be point-on when it comes to staying out of trouble and not projecting a highly-paid bad boy. He has always been a role model, but maybe the rest of the Nation is just getting a glimpse of this great person we have known since 2002.


Has it really been 8 MLB season sine he graced the Trop’s turf with his uncontrollable chaos running style, but smooth as silk stroke and acceleration towards any base. Have we really seen the last of him on Thursday afternoon, or will there possibility be a return engagement in 2011? How much have we gotten accustomed to his sudden speed and grace flowing in the outfield making hard plays looking routine that even a one game rest for his weary bones makes the Tampa Bay Rays look like an entirely different team.

The solid image of him just standing in the Batter’s Circle before a plat appearance just portrays speed and grace with every pore of his body. How fitting that in possibly his last season to grace a Rays uniform he was selected by the local media as the Rays 2010 Most Valuable Player. Ever since that first jog out into the outfield in Toronto he has slowly and silently become the glue that holds this team together.

 

Even when the Rays were victimized by opposing pitching, you knew he would get a critical hit or make a play that stood out as a beam of light towards the stands. He is the kind of guy you could give your son his name based on him as a person as well as a ballplayer. He is the kind of guy you would hang out with if he was not making millions on the ballfield, and possibly play with on a Adult Softball team.

Has he gotten so woven into the sports fabric of this Tampa Bay community that when he departs and plays elsewhere, when he returns to Tropicana Field he will still get a louder ovation and applause with the sound of his name echoing over the loudspeakers than any current member of the Rays?

He has become that iconic Rays player you hope is not just once in a lifetime. His way of playing the game has never been questioned or seen as rebellious.


He has played the game to his own tune, and that melody rings loud and true to the man beneath the uniform. No matter if he is thrilling us with plays or being a spoken voice of his comrades, his voice is one of the most respected voices ever in that Rays clubhouse. And he earned that honor by doing it the right way. Defending his teammates in every instance, being a silent but deadly team leader in that Rays clubhouse. A voice respected, admire and seen as a true inner voice to the distress or extreme joy within those walls. He has been the voice of the Rays without even knowing it.

 

And I was one of those 35,000+ chanting his name in Tropicana Field in the eighth inning on Thursday night. Immediately upon hearing the cheer and chanting start I rose to me feet and celebrated in mass the career that will transcend time in my mind. To celebrate a man and a player that might be the first to wear the Rays colors into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Applauding a man who will always be solid in my mind as the model of the perfect Rays player.


You might have noticed I have not put his name once into this post. Not once have I uttered his nicknames or even tried to write his name. Because it pains me to do so. His possible departure aches me within with a pain that I do not want to acknowledge until that last moment. For his name will always make me smile, always make me remember Rays moments, but mostly it will remind me of what a great human being, father and key component to any organization. He will that bright sunburst until he hangs his cleats up for the last time.

 

He started as a keystone to this revival of this franchise. Was here with the strife and pain of getting better and winning those close ones. He celebrated titles and possible advancements that we only dreamed of for this club. He was the guy we all wish we could trade places with for one day. I got to end this now because there is a problem with my eyes.

For some odd reason there is liquid beginning to pool in my eye sockets and it is not customary for me to display this emotion. But that is the biggest reason to be a life long fan of this guy. He makes you believe through his actions, words and lifestyle that the true athlete is no dead in this culture. That there is still at least one guy who will lay it all out on the field each night, strive to be the best and not utter the complacent “me” when discussing his sport. 


 

Once in a lifetime you meet someone or see someone who can transcend the norm and become one with the ongoing heartbeat and rhythm of baseball. May fahter used to tell me tales of Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle and their times in St. Petersburg. But I have my own icon of what I think is the perfect baseball player, for me, his name is Carl Crawford, and I miss him already and he is not even gone.

Half an Inch can be a Huge Difference

 

 

They say that hitting a baseball is one of the hardest thing to do in sports, but I beg to differ. I think the hardest thing to do ever in sports is to thread a breaking pitch within that segmented half inch space with respect to velocity and depth. Think about I here for a second, if a thrown ball by a professional pitcher is even a half an inch high or inside, it can be the catalyst for a 3-run homer, or go the complete opposite and be a routine foul ball out caught by an infielder or catcher.


That is why I think a pitched ball, perfectly thrown to a designated spot with a certain purpose in mind can be one of the most energizing and most stressful actions in sports. Simply put, if you hit the mark with your desired velocity and break, it is a pitch even the MLB’s current legendary slugger Ichiro Suzuki might see his knees buckle as it crosses the keystone of Home Plate.

Over the last two games, the Tampa Bay Rays have seen more than enough of this pitching perfection. Some want to throw the Rays hitters’ under the bus for their lack of confidence or even bravado to swing at a pitch outside of the zone and try and make something happen in these first two games of the American League Divisional Series. But the truth is that both of the Texas Rangers starter ( both lefties) had that formula going spot on for them in those first two contests, and the Rays were left just gasping at the plate.

Time for blunt honesty here. This 2010 Rays team has had seen a great plane of movement between their moments of grand glory and their plummets of utter defeat this season. The 2010 season looks more like a EKG chart than a solidified and unified correlation of consistent patterns or results. The Rays have scored 7-runs in their half of an inning, or gone 27 outs without a single hit.

In both hitting aspects, the solid and visual truth is that their opposing pitchers either were fighting for their velocity and control, or threading the needle with perfection. It could have been lucky guessing or even the intelligence of accumulated statistics and probabilities that aided the Rays, but now they are left naked and vulnerable by their latest fiascos.

Hitting and pitching is a simple process that has been over analyzed over dramatized and in effect taken a huge part of the human element and flushed it completely out of the equation.

But within that de-humanizing effect, the game has gone beyond the simple battle of pitcher and hitter now and transcended to a bigger more elaborate battle. Team now employ Video Coordinators and extra personnel to just label, adjust and formulate pitching charts, tendencies and even a probability chart to show what pitch a certain pitcher might use in the given situation, or with base runners in scoring position. No longer is it all as simple as throwing the ball or hitting it with a bat.

The simple art of pitching has now been transformed into quadrants and formulas that employ pitching to contact or trying get a groundball for defensive play to get out of an inning where in the past, a pitcher would just be un-democratic and just try to strike you out. As our lives have gotten complicated, so has the game we all know and love. Mechanics are videotaped and scrutinized for the smallest advantage or the optimum time for a runner to try and take an extra base.


 

Facial expressions and body language are studied closely hoping to provide keys or tip-offs within the usual body ticks and odd movements to see if you can get a remote advantage, or provide a key indicator of a certain pitch leaving a pitcher’s hand. Science has invaded the game, and it is only going to get worst.


When ALDS Game 1 starter Cliff Lee got 10 strikeouts and shut down the Rays in his 7 innings of work, the press and the accolades went to Lee, not the thousands of man hours evaluating tapes, motions and possible keys. The physical human target got the praise and the applause, but beneath it all science and the ever growing eye of video might have also played a unique role in the end result.

When C J Wilson took the mound on Thursday afternoon and sliced and diced the Rays with fine precision, unseen measures had to have given him a edge, an instant clue as to what the ever patient Rays might do to gain and advantage or put am money wrench in his rhythm. Pitching as evolved in present day from going to the hill every five days to countless hours of studying and dissecting hitters and their tendencies.

Lee has to have studied game tape of his opposition and formulated a plan of attack within his mind and on paper. Both Wilson and Lee used breaking ball hugging the outside corner to entice and get the Rays salivating, but if either had thrown that pitch an inch up or inside, a different outcome could have quickly materialized and Texas would be behind the big black 8-ball right now. Simply put, the Rangers guessed right, and the Rays went back to instinct and not technology to try and rattle the Texas two-some.

The Rangers played their pitching guessing game to perfection over the last two games. They got the usually patient Rays to chase pitches and get out of synch with their commonplace routines at the plate. Breaking pitches with an extra half inch depth or pitches hugging the black of the Home Plate keystone were the keys to this first two games of this ALDS series. Rays Manager Joe Maddon always stresses that “Pitching sets the tone of the game”.

Such has been very true the first two games of this series, and if the Rays even expect to get back into this fight with any vigor and realistic chances of rattling the Rangers pitching foundations, they will have to maybe re-evaluate their present hitting procedures and maybe go “on-the-fly” a bit more and make a few rogue swings. I thought it was humorous the other day when the Rays Evan Longoria called Game 2 a “Must Win” situation for his Rays comrades.

Reality of that quote is that in whether it is a 5-game or 7-game series, getting an early jump on your competition takes the pressure off your pitching staff and puts it firmly in the opposition and adjust, reconfigure and retaliate to get back into the series. Sure the Rays did not go about their usual hitting sprees or even remotely display the talent and abilities we have grown to love out of this Rays machine.

 

Now it is time for the Rays to establish, recognize and attack the Rangers pitching staff starting tomorrow when the Rangers send right-hander Colby Lewis to the hill in Arlington, Texas. They will have to deeply analyze the young rightie hoping to find a clue and subtle giveaway to his pitches, or face a possibility on a early exit in the 2010 post season.


Right now I can see Rays Video Coordinator Chris “Chico” Fernandez deep within a Dallas/Fort Worth hotel room along with Rays Hitting Coach Derek Shelton looking for the answers to some huge Rays hitting question marks. But in the end it will come down to a few precious half inches of depth or velocity. If the Rangers execute their game plan again with precision and efficiency, the Texas triangle could de doing the two-step by 9 pm.

But if the Rays devote themselves and figure out that half inch, that slight deviation at the plate, then they could gain their own valuable inch towards getting back into this ALDS. Funny how a half an inch could either send the Rays home in defeat or give them another chance to change their destiny. The distance between to fingers held together could decide this ALDS either way.

I Have a Fever, and There is No Cure!

 


 

I was sitting at the outside bar at Ferg’s, a regular Rays watering hole just beyond the shadow of Tropicana Field right before heading into the 72 degree confines for Game 1 of the American League Divisional Series and an old college friend of mine, who is an ex- Army corpsman and a current St. Pete Fire Department EMT told me I looked like liquid garbage sitting on that wooden stool. Always nice to hear such sweet nothings like that from a cute brunette in a uniform, but instantly I became alarmed by her observation.

But deep down, I knew she was right. I was suffering from something that has been constantly growing deep inside myself for the last few days. It has begun to start overtaking a huge chunk of my life with regards to the normal every day activities. My friend turned a empathetic ear towards me and sat there quietly listening for a few minutes ramble on about the weird changes that had been happening recently to my body and mind.

Of my enduring wild bouts of sudden insurmountable insomnia that had me watching replays of Rays games on MLB.TV until 5 am, or about the increasing night sweats after a few bad Rays losses. Or even about the thoughts circling within my brain bringing me to a stage of insanity that routinely rings in my head after a recent close ballgame that could have gone either way. I told her how my reaction time to foul balls was uncommonly sloth-like instead of being like the usual human Venus flytrap.

She instantly began to humor me a bit and just sat there and nodded her head from time to time as I went on about the lack of concentration on thoughts that did not revolve around baseball, and the difficulty I was having prioritizing even simple events like laundry or eating lunch at the same time. That I turned my cellphone to silent to keep my little world secure from friends in Texas, Minnesota or New York from ruining my little Utopia right now.

 

I complained to her that for some odd reason, only three things seemed to matter to me right now. That I am impressed that my body is still doing routine tasks, but that they seemed more centered around what time the Tropicana Field gates will fly open at the Trop. She just sat there listening like a $200/hour personal shrink with a spoiled rich kid with social network anxiety problems on a overstuffed leather couch.

I even went as deep into it all as to tell her about my new found preoccupation with minimal issues like my special free parking place at the bike rack at the stadium, or my routine of biking to and from the stadium a certain way, and not deviating from that path a single step, even if there was a taxi or car in the way. I had gone into a unforeseen mode of superstition and daily routines I had not experienced for two years. I was down right going bonkers before her very eyes.

I rambled on about the way I was battling a huge bout of game time indecisions on the simple decisions like if I was going to have the Cuban sandwich, or got “hog-wild” and stack the loaded nachos with a bevy of jalapenos and hot sauce. My basic decision-making process was now being bogged down by a sense of internal mental fatigue that made me not even want to consider anything out of the ordinary, or remotely new right now in my day-to-day routines or game day patterns.

That in the bitter end, even after a huge win lately, I was battling a huge mountain of fatigue and restlessness that had never entered my life before. I felt like something was trying to invade and take over my body. That a foreign object or beings was infiltrating my soul and pushing the usual Renegade to the curb.

Through all of this she just sat there listening and mentally jotting down the symptoms and the causes to give me a quick spot-on diagnosis that people who work as E M T’s have to do almost instantly so many times daily on their job. You could almost see the smoke and wheels turning in her mind as she was eliminating mental illnesses and adding psychological responses and placebo cause and effects that could be the ultimate source of this epidemic that has bogged down my mental and physical being. Then she began to clear her throat and made a announcement of what I needed to do right now:

“You have to understand that this aliment has been around for a very long time. The cause of your problem is not solely physical in nature, but can be processed through your body at an astounding rate that will boggle your usual senses and day-to-day routine abilities. That your internal clock right now is being sped up to an alarming rate by a visual and environmental stimulation brought on by your own emotional pull towards the subject matter at hand.”

She then laughed and smacked me in the noggin a few times. She still had not fully revealed what was her final diagnosis. She just kept teasing me with it, knowing that I might not be able to handle the truth, or maybe was waiting for my nerves and the mind games that were already playing in my head to swirl a bit longer and turn me into a mental bowl of mush. She was sitting there trying to see if my orbiting energized electrodes could pick out the aliment all by itself before revealing the cosmic truth at last. She was truly amazed that I could not figure this simple aliment out all by myself without outside help.

“Darling, you really still can not figure this illness out by yourself?
You, my dear friend are suffering from a odd-cultural ailment that has plagued man every since the ancient cavemen first picked up two sticks and began fighting with the assembled tribe watching them. You are suffering an urbanite-based version of battle fatigue that effects people who follow a particular sports team and sometimes lives and breathes on their seasonal outcomes. You are beginning to show extreme signs of a acute case of Post-Partum Playoff Disorder”


And the news immediately shocked me. Here I was a strong-willed guy who had never fallen into that unforeseen trap of competitive silliness for years while ademently following my local team. But for some reason during this point in every season I fell face-first into the unobvious abyss and uncoiled for some reason. She saw my face suddenly go blood-less and turn a odd shade of off-white for a moment until I had that look of a man suddenly saved by the grace of god, or maybe by a errant throw by the shortstop to first. I had finally got it. I finally understood what was going on, and it all made total sense to me now.

 

Still there was a missing overall theme to the barstool prognosis. There was a missing piece of the final aliment puzzle that made me feel mildly empty inside at that moment. What was the final cure, or was there even a known cure? Could this be treated with kindness, or did I have to go through a rapid decompression of emotions and thoughts to again function like a normal human being? Or did I just have a fever for some extreme Cowbell? She sat there with a sly smile and a simple look on her face that told me I had already seen the answer.


“Think about it this way. Last season the tide and the final result of a possible playoff push and result was decided early on in last month of the 2009 season. The stress and the emotional attachment could be stretched out over the course of the season with no sudden pushes and floods of emotional attachment until the final conclusion and resolution in October. The symptoms could be masked with ease. What you need to do now is get up out of your seat, turn around three times and do three cheers for pizza, then do a rowdy rendition of the “Chicken Dance” for me.”


I sat there for a moment before rising from my seat and slowly remembering the moves of that classic dance and began to perform for a few moments. And you want to know something, it suddenly felt better.


“For the last few months you have been sitting a bit more idle in your seat, not celebrating like the rest of the Rays Republic. You have internalize the stress for some reason. You have taken your outer fandom and turned it within yourself forgetting your love for celebrating aloud and with vigor by showing your pride with this team. But last, but not least, you have to again not hinge every emotion and thought on the outcome of these next 48 hours. Life goes on without the Rays sweetie, and so should you!”


And with that prolific oratory, we both began to have one of those deep belly-busting laughs that you can only have with great friends. She saw that the color was again rising within me, coming back into my tanned skin and that my face was slowly ebbing towards its usual peach-color. Maybe I just needed to hear it from someone else. Maybe I needed a reassurance that others were going through this same mode of illness. Maybe I did just need more cowbell in a sense. I then asked what we should call this odd aliment that had taken over my life and my entire thought process for so long.

I wanted to attach some kind of astronomical name or even a cause and effect process for this illness that had caused so much sleep-less nights and sloth-like days. I needed to somehow throw a symbolic verbiage up in my mind to get a solid label on it all, and then finally move forward. The words out of her mouth seemed to come out in slow motion and my eyes and ear hung on every syllable and vowel until it finally wrestled in my eardrums.


“It’s very simple what you got………..You got Playoff Fever and you will not be the first to show these symptoms…or the last It is an illness of the Fall Classic. Everyone gets some form of it, you just look it to an extreme level. So let’s get off this barstool, the Trop’s gates are about to open!”

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