2010 Was Definitely a Rays “Kumba” Moment

 

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Common.Wikepedia.com Photo files 

 

It has been my custom over the last few years to attach a word, phrase, or commonplace item as a keynote to what the ending year has envisioned to me. This year I am again incorporating my yearly ride with the Tampa Bay Rays by my side into this year end resolution. 2010 was a spectacular 365 day odyssey that somehow closely resembles the Kumba multi-inversion rollercoaster located just 25 miles from my front door within the oddly placed fauna of Busch Gardens in the urban jungle of Tampa Florida.

It really has been that kind of wham, bam thank you Ma’am year for Tampa Bay. One that has taken all of us, including the Rays, on moments of Mt Kilimanjaro-type highs, to the unexpected desolate lows of Death Valley, California while we all scream incisively through the zero G rolls and inverted loops to bear witness of the year’s gut wrenching end result. Hearing the collective loud thumping cadence of our heartbeats within this 32-passenger rail car as the rollercoaster finally finishes off as an unfocused blur.

The 2010 ride started out so serene and calm as we welcomed back 1B/3B Dan Johnson after a short Japanese baseball trek and saw the Rays signed their first European prospect LHP Stepan Havlicek (no relation to the Celtic legend). The impending illusion of a smooth and possibly uneventful ride seemed ease our minds as our car first left the ride station.

We became entranced and hypnotized by the soothing clicking sound of the car as another tremendous Rays Fan Fest came and went where we sadly got to see local Rays resident and Baseball Hall of Famer Robin Roberts for one last time. We all marveled at the Rays Jumbotron at Fan Fest watching the antics of Rays Radioman Rich Herrera and legendary eater Joey Chestnut boast about their hotdog eating skills while systematically standing in line to pursue the autographs of our Rays heroes.

All the while the clicking of track kept us somehow distracted, and played into the final menagerie of peril that was to soon take our breath away. The March signing of RP Joaquin Benoit to a minor league deal made us all giddy with anticipation and hopes of new found glory for Benoit. Suddenly our car took an unexpected 90 degree left turn out of our comfort zone when this Spring we saw LHP J P Howell suffer a bout of shoulder soreness that would start him on his own unanticipated rollercoaster ride during 2010.

With Howell’s injury only thought to keep him out until May, we began our 143-foot lift hill that would eventually send us rapidly screaming at full G force through the highs and lows of the 2010 season. After an incredible Grapefruit season where the Rays finally saw the emerging stars of SS Reid Brignac and 2B/utility man Sean Rodriguez shine bright, our car quickly headed into the Kumba’s signature pre-drop element.

Quickly the Rays season began to take a few twists and turns brought on by a sudden 135-foot drop to our left with the early season struggles of Designated Hitter Pat Burrell and escalated into a 114-foot vertical loop that intensely thrilled us as the team got out to a late April record of 17-5 before the Rays encountered their first diving loop and subsequent first extreme low point of the season.

It all started as the ride entered its initial diving loop segment with the team firmly clutching their pink bats and uniform ribbons when on Mother’s Day (May 9,2010) their coaster ride entered its first Zero-G roll brought on by the Perfect Game thrown by Oakland A’s LHP Dallas Braden that put lumps in our throats and stole our breath from us. But this was only the Rays first venture into a systematic tail spin as more unexpected plots twists were creeping our the horizon for the Rays.

The team then seemed to hit a rough patch as they spent a short spell on a smooth stretch of track before finally entering a much feared Cobra roll on June 25,2010 that saw former Rays RHP Edwin Jackson toss a No-Hitter against the Rays in the comfy confines of Tropicana Field. The result sent us again flipping upside down for the second time this season before we were able to enter a mid-course brake run at the All Star break . It was then that we saw Rays starter David Price become the first Rays pitcher to ever start an All Star game. At the midway point of our coaster ride the Rays end the first half with the Major League’s second best record (54-34) trailing only our division rivals, the New York Yankees.


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Just as the ride was beginning to obtain some sort of normalcy, the Rays and the coaster again began a accelerating fall off the brake run through a series of interlocking corkscrew twists that heightened with a renewed Rays excitement by a No-Hitter tossed at Tropicana Field by Rays starter Matt Garza, and accented by the Grand Slam of another Matt (Joyce) to put the game finally out of reach and into the Rays record books.

Gut twisting and wrenching wins then somehow became the norm as the Rays unexpectedly ran into a 5-game losing streak (their only losing streak above 3 games in ’10) at the entry point of their first corkscrew twist. During this negative twist of misfortune during back-to-back Rays versus Blue Jays games from August 7-8th that saw normally secure starter James Shields surrender 6 Home Runs one day, then saw the Rays have to rely on Evan Longoria hitting a dying quail single through the 1B-2B hole with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning to stave the Rays from becoming the first team to have 3 No-hitter thrown against them within a years’ time.

As Rays Kumba car entered the darkened tunnel after their latest close encounter in Toronto, the Rays again got back on the winning track and eventually approached the end of the season with a playoff berth in their grasp, and a possible American League East title just beyond their fingertips. As the ride entered its final braking run, the Rays faced a 1 game ultimate gut check presented to them to possibly secure another AL East banner for the rafters of Tropicana Field.

In classic rollercoaster form, the Rays took their final game of 2010 against the Kansas City Royals in extra innings and added to the climax and crescendo of that last right hand turn by being greeted by multitudes of Fans at St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport upon their arrival again in Tampa Bay before the ride began is last motions towards a ultimate disembark at the rail station.

Their quick exit in the ALDS just showed how accelerated their post season ride in 2010 could be extinguished. Lost in the final equation were a few special Rays moments that only further illustrated just how exciting and thrilling 2010 was for the Rays.

The 2010 Rays team ended up with 96 wins that season, only one “W” away from eclipsing their club win mark set in 2008. It was amazing for a Rays team that many baseball prognosticators did not even envision even a playoff berth for the squad back in April. We saw the maturation and confident emergence of a Rays starting 5 rotation that missed a team goal of 1,000+ inning season by its 5 starters by less than 46-odd innings. Then saw Longoria pick up his second consecutive Gold Glove while Carl Crawford finally got the Golden Glove that has eluded him.

Even with all the eventual ups and down, in and outs of their 2010 season, the Rays sent all of us on a cascading water flume ride of unexpected emotions and thrills as the team finally exit the railcars for the last time in 2010. We then had to say goodbye to 9 Free Agents, almost as many non-tender arbitration eligible Rays as the team began their foundational framework for another future glorious coaster ride.

Not knowing if it was a bead of cooling sweat from the fearsome ride, or a trickle of an unexpected tear set in motion by the thoughts of losing Rays stalwarts like Carlos Pena, Crawford, Benoit, Randy Choate, Dan Wheeler, Rafael Soriano and Grant Balfour. I am stricken with a unforeseen bout of silence as I might have been witness to the last ride of a 4-year journey that started in 2007, and will end at the stroke of midnight tonight. I had been an up-close and personal participant in the formulation of a winning culture by the Rays in our short existence. I want to stand in line again for another chance at having my breath taken away on another future glorious trip.

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 At midnight the clicking of Kumba will be heard in the background as I wander towards another Rays odyssey. The rise and fall of this franchise definitely mimics the twists and turns of a well maintained rollercoaster that is always pushing the limits of both gravity and the breaking points of humanity before tumbling down towards a sense of reality.

Thank you Rays for this years journey. Thank you for the “firsts”, the “lasts” and the 81 straight tickets to ride as I took my seat in Tropicana Field this year and each time It left me simply breathless and aching for more. Some call this season the end of a Rays era, I think it is the beginning of a tradition of celebrating the “Rays Way” and buckling every New Years Eve for another ride of our collective Rays lives. Now where is that SheiKra coaster located again?

 

 

16 Comments

I think the 2010 season – and the year in general – was a Kumba ride for all of us! Here’s to a healthy, happy and prosperous 2011. Have fun tonight!

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Jane,
I can have fun in a room with just a lousy baseball. As ,ong as I have wall to throw it against…I am in easy picking’s heaven.
I will be (slightly) good tonight and try and behave myself, but this end of the decade I do not have to worry about a Y2K virus popping up and ruining my online time.
Still think “Empire State of Mind” should be on your NYE Karaoke playlist…..See you in the ‘1…1.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Kumba! Sounds like a fantastic mixed drink! Nice recap and metaphor for the year. I always look forward to checkin’ in on the Renegade… let’s keep ‘er goin’ in 2011!
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

That was a great reference :O)

Have a Happy New Year, Cliff!

Jenn
http://philliesphollowers.mlblogs.com/

Love the gas tank, I’m assuming the ‘hog’ is a Harley?

Reading the journey of the Kumba, it’s almost like spring is here….

Have a safe and Happy New Year Cliff, :-)

-peter
Phillies Outside
http://devilabrit.mlblogs.com

Jeff,
I never thought of that. Maybe I will tests my mixologist friends tonight to concoct a “Kumba” cocktail just before midnight. Hopefully it will not be so full of alcoholic goodness I can not dial the cab tonight.
That is right, I let the cab drivers get the tickets, accidents and worry about the other drivers……Better safe than sorry…and also cheaper in the morning,

Rays Renegade

httpo://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Jenn,
Thanks.
Wanted to do something different than the normal 1-10 countdown of great moments.
Was thinking tomorrow after the hangover remedy and the Outback Bowl I might do a photo blog of my favorite non-concert photos I took in 2010.
I am not a professional photog by any measure of the word, but I am learning a bit more with every game and every live action shot. Maybe by 2014 I will be good enough to have a photocredit some day…maybe.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Nice post, but honestly I think you forgot to mention one of the bigger stories as a Rays fan for me: The emergence of John Jaso.
I really hope he can build off this rookie experience and doesn’t end up like Dioner Navarro.

Peter,
The gas tank is actually showcasing the great brush design on the Harley Bavidson motorcycle given to Matt Garza in SEptember to symbolize his No-Hitter. It was an incredible cycle that also had every member of the Rays game day staff and roster autographed in silver sharpie along the fender, tank and oil tank cover.
It was a really remarkable job, and will be showcased somewhere in Graza’s off season home in California.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Anytime you love a team you wear you emotions on your sleeve. I’m glad to hear people get so passionate about teams.

Reading your first comments, hopefully you had fun with more than just a baseball and a wall last night. No New Year’s Eve celebrations in the cooler, LOL. What an apt and enjoyable way to sum up the Ray’s season. At the end of it all, even though the Rays didn’t have the post season you wanted them to have, I imagine you still exited your rollercoaster thinking that it was one heck of a good ride.
Happy New Year! Wishing you all the best in 2011!
– Kristen
http://blithescribe.mlblogs.com/

Charm,
I actually think John Jaso is going to have a better year in 2011, but Jaso showed the potential the Rays always saw from his bat tranform him inot an everyday catcher with in his play behind the plate.
He is one of my bright star picks for 2011. I have a firm supporter of Jaso. From the Math brilliance to the old school rock roots, the guy is a lunchpail type of ballplayer who jst wants to leave it all out on that turf for every single game.
Look for Nevin Ashley to possibly make noise this Spring and be a possible ket element after July 31st in 2011.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Hot Tub,
I can tell you that anyone within the range of mky voice, or who has read my stuff for a period of time knows my teams in each sport, and who I consider great or horrendous.
Passion is one of the tools sports taught me early on, and my passion for sports and especially baseball has only grown larger since that first combustive moment.
A fan without passion is a fan who has not put his arms around the sport and embraced it for all its worth.
My arms do not totally encompass baseball yet, but the fingertips get closer every season.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Kristen,
I actually had too good of a time this New Years Eve. I went to a place I have gone for the last 25 years to celebrate with some people I think know me better than my family.
This post really was fun constructing. And the year really did seem to develop into a interesting ans thrilling coaster ride. But as always, when the ride is over you want more, and unfortunately we ran into a developing squad that just had Lady Luck on it side.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cabbin’ it is the only way to go… I believe that… I mean, it’s hard to drive when you can’t even stand up.
–Jeff

Jeff,
Toronto pitcher Jesse Litsch was talking about Yellow Cab did not get him for an hour and a half on New Years night.
That is why I pick bars near places like Hess Express or 7-11 where they gave away FREE coffee…Cabbie were there all night long. I got home 10 minutes after I left the tavern….Priceless!

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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