February 2011

“If You Don’t Have Charity in Your Heart…”

 

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MiracleLeague/Fl

I once heard famous comedian and philanthropist Bob Hope speak this line at a USO Show so many moons ago, “If you haven’t got charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”

Charity and giving back to my community whether I was living in the Tampa Bay community or in Seattle has always been at the core of my personality. I am that guy who actually rolls down the window and gives my last dollar out of my wallet to someone in need. You want to say it was the way you were brought up, or those Sunday School verses and stories finally clicked within your subconscious.

The reality is that all my life I have been extremely lucky and not had to worry for much. Even as I am now entering my third year of full-time unemployment, with my retire fund raided and bare like Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, I still give of myself whenever possible. Some call it “paying it forward”, other just know it as treating my fellow man as I want to be treated.

I have decided that over the course of the next week, I am going to try and relay a few stories of inspiration and charity between the Tampa Bay community and people who hail from this region. Some are great stories that you might never hear if not for this small voice of mine. While others have been broadcasted in their regions and might have slipped your ears.

Charity to me is not a “hand out” or even a “hand up”, it is the sign that we respect humanity and want to show our compassion or unity for a cause or ideal. In a span of 14 days I will have volunteered for two different Major League Baseball player’s charity golf tournaments, plus another local human interest fundraiser.

Maybe a bit of my parents did rub off on me to want to give of myself like this, but the reality is that I am only a sliver away from some of this same charity being thrust upon me. Possibly it is that stark reality that I have been to the top of the mountain in my field and also been tossed into the pits of despair that the sheer act of charity resonates with me so loud and clear.

Once I was in the same position as so many MLB players that I was able to give generously and without regard, but now my services are all that I have to volunteer. Heck, I know a few people with the Tampa Bay Rays who I have pestered and annoyed over the years letting them know I am available 24/7/365 right now to help in any venture, event or even just lend a hand when needed.

Some of those responses have been “Thank you, but we have it handled“, while others have opened their arms and let me do what I do best…work up a sweat and give until I am tired. But like I said in a Tweet this week, “I am tired, but it is a good tired”.

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The reason for this post today is that the NFL’s championship game, the Super Bowl, is always a visually reminder that Spring and baseball are just beyond the horizon. Pitchers and Catchers will take the field in less than 10 days and our thoughts will pull towards the game and not those less fortunate. That is why I hope and wish that all of us can take a moment out in the next 10 days to provide an inspiration, a great smile or even some hard work towards helping someone else.

As I have grown older the art of charity and giving has become more focused in my life. Called it the wisdom and sage advice of an advancing human, or simple just the ramblings of a closet hopeless romantic, but I do not have to “go Green” to give back to this Earth. I just have to cherish those who also walk along with us on this journey. So let me get back off this soapbox, park myself back in front of this laptop and begin to think of ways to make all of you want to travel the path I will over the next 10 days.

Bob Hope was wise man. There has to be a balance within ourselves of charity and humility for us to grow, mature and even have the respect and admiration of the masses MLB players can give a percentage of their yearly salaries, but those who are not working, or even homeless can only give of themselves. Since I began with a quote, maybe I should end with another quote that resonates through me daily:

The life of a man consists not in seeing visions and in dreaming dreams, but in active charity and in willing service. ” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

 

Even You Can Mask a Positive MLB Drug Test

Did you know that some every day medications we as fans can personally purchase ourselves over-the-counter with or without a doctor’s script can mask a potential MLB positive drug result. With so many knock-offs of well-known medications, or off-brands on store shelves and register countertops, you could purchase a single medicine that could trigger a positive test without ever knowing the basic “banded” substance or masking agent was included in the product.

There are so many over-the counter drugs that can mask the elements of a player’s attempted level of drug deceit. The reality is that most of us, on a daily basis, would or could fail a MLB mandated test if we submitted our samples. But the high paced culture of life today doesn’t mandate an abstinence from these types of products, or warns us of their extra ordinary properties.

How many of us have really read through any of those medicine pamphlets the pharmacy gives us when you get a new medication? I know I usually only read the dosage and the possible side effects section then chuck it into the trash can. A majority of the drugs mentioned today can be obtained via a doctor’s script at any pharmacies throughout the world, or even online.

If these drugs were prescribed to you personally and you discovered their innate athletic performance advantages, would you still use them?

I am not implying here that you would use a scientific loophole provided by an over-the-counter medication to get an advantage, but if it can help give you an extra zip or punch without causing a bevy of red flags in a possible urine or blood tests, would you use it? Let’s dive right into this hidden OTC medicine cabinet.

The first one up is the literally hair raising drug known as Finasteride or known better as its brand name Propecia. Testosterone has a vital part in helping the body produce muscle mass, and this pill actually helps the body produce an enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

The pill is commonly used as a treatment for prostate cancer but has a hidden medical kicker of helping eliminate hair loss and start new hair growth. But Propecia also contains a chemical that can be used to mask the use and effects of anabolic steroids in the body because of the overproduction of DHT.

For some reason, this medication was removed from the World Doping Agency list in 2009 and is not considered a banned substance anymore. Curious?

The second medicine under the heat lamp is Sidenafil Citrate or better known as Viagra. Most men might use this mentioned medicine to help the ill effects of certain body function which helps dilate the body’s blood vessels to expand and take in more oxygen and rid the muscles of dangerous toxins.

Viagra is really helpful in participating in games at higher elevations as it will dilate the blood vessels for the duration of the drug and make it easier for the body to adjust to the higher altitudes and the decrease oxygen intake associated with these altitudes. It can give a short term advantage to athletes playing games in the Mountain time zone, then resort back to their normal breathing habits after the pill is gone from their system.

The third drug introduced today was developed to help the aging male population find relief from the ill effects of male pattern baldness. This drug also has been known to hide traces of steroids by masking the symptoms within it’s own chemical molecular bonds. Minoxidil or better known as Rogaine, is one of those drugs that is available right on our grocer’s shelf, and can be purchased with total anonymity.

Rogaine was first developed as a potential cure for hypertension, but its side advantages came to light when suffers began to see renewed growth in their hair follicles. It is important here to note that a common side effect of steroid use is hypertension, or a renewed state of anxiousness.

Rogaine can be used as a chemical mask to offset the hypertension as well as keep the hair follicles intact on the user during the duration of using the medication. This is also a drug that can be used in plain sight within the Clubhouse and most people around you will not give it a second thought.

Now onto a medication that was initially developed to help combat weight loss without throwing your body into a severe crash diet scenario. This Drug is Liothronine also known as Cytomel. The medication is a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone needed by the body to controls our metabolism. Cytomel can be used by a sly trainer/user to get fast results via a six-week cycle to help get body fat down quicker.

It also helps its regain muscle mass so they can effectively hide any transformation by not gaining excess or bulky weight distinguished by an adverse gain in size and weight. This drug has also been known to be mixed with HGH as a cocktail to help induce massive changes within a small period of time. This medication can also be taken before a game to bring about a instant rush of energy without the side effects of a positive drug test.

And last, but not least today will be the medication Dutasteride or known better as Avodart. This is a true masking agent because it is highly effective in hiding some of the side effects of using anabolic steroids like the unsightly bacne. This medication can be taken in a cocktail also with Propecia which helps regulate the production of DHT, which is the main contributor to the formation of bacne.

Avodart acts as a masking agent to dilute the DHT enzyme and creates a buffer to eliminate this tell-tale sign of steroid usage or coming off a steroid cycle. But this is also two-fold as the medication also has a nice side effect of making certain body parts, well shrink in transition to its usage. And because of that, it can give a secondary sight recognition to the possible steroid usage.

But there are also other medicines that are used by drug/steroid users to mask intent like Methylphenidate or Ritalin, which gives the user more focus and puts them “in-the-zone” quicker. It was amazing the when MLB banned the stimulant in 2006, the MLB’s drug exemption paperwork for usage therapeutically skyrocketed among players.

I did not post this to have people second guess or even try and investigate an MLB player’s medicine cabinet, then announce its content to the World. I wanted to show that even a person outside the game of baseball can produce or even hide a positive MLB drug test without actively knowing it. But they do not ban us from the ballpark…..yet.

 

 

Andrew Friedman: Reloading the Rays, Not Rebuilding.

 

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I really do not know how Tampa Bay Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman keeps doing it. For a long span of this off season it was almost as if the Rays entire front office staff closed their doors until almost January.

It was if the Rays staff wanted to sit there lurking as the MLB Free Agent market set its ceilings and cellars for positional and pitching. Then like a top of the food chain predator, Friedman awoke from his Rip Van Winkle slumber and proceeded to hand pick his replacement fruit from the still bountiful MLB player trees.

Evan as other free agents started getting plucked with vigor from the tree by other teams in haste, Friedman acted more like a customer in the produce aisle thumping the exterior of players like a ripe melon. His first move of the off season Friedman went out and signed promising ex-Nationals right-hand reliever Joel Peralta on December 17,2010 to help fill the first piece of the Rays Bullpen overhaul.

In his now classic under a cloak of secrecy Rays style, Friedman was also concluding one trade deal with the San Diego Padres to ship one of his big ticket arbitration eligible Jason Bartlett on the same day as the Peralta singing. Still lurking in the darkness was a thunderous trade of Rays starter Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs on January 8, 2011. Friedman made out like a bandit on both trades bringing back a bountiful treasure trove of both MLB quality players, plus some high caliber prospects that will help reload the Rays farm system for the next Rays reload.

The trades of his two highest dollar arbitration eligible players helped Friedman free up just over $ 10 million to pursue some big fish for other Rays glaring holes in their Bullpen, plus a big bat to protect Evan Longoria in the Rays line-up. But the Tampa Bay sun was shining bright on Friedman as two of his other arbitration eligible players Centerfielder B J Upton and reliever Andy Sonnanstine both signed one year contracts freeing up Friedman from any possible arbitration hearing duty this Spring.

Just as you thought Friedman might take a deep breath and relax for a brief moment, Friedman went out and got his intimidating back-end of the Bullpen reliever in RHP Kyle Farnsworth on January 15. Friedman then possibly made a few decoy moves in signing complimentary pieces RHP Dirk Hayhurst and 2B Daniel Mayora to minor league deals with a Spring Training Invites.

Then in Friedman style, just when you thought that the MLB cupboard was starting to become mighty bare, Friedman signs Tampa Bay native and defensive First Baseman Casey Kotchman to a minor league deal. The Kotchman deal might have been another Friedman diversion as his next deal had some around the MLB wondering if the Rays were in fact rebuilding or just simply reloading.

One day after Kotchman signed, the Rays announce their biggest off season signing of the season, a duo signing of Lf/DH Manny Ramirez and LF/DH Johnny Damon to one year contracts that are very team friendly. Ramirez and Damon’s combined salaries will cost the Rays around $ 7.25 million (not including Damon’s attendance incentives), which still is only $ 1.75 million LESS than the Rays paid Pat Burrell for his services through mid-May 2010.

If you even include Farnsworth’s $ 3 million base salary (not including games finished incentives), the three signings will sneak just under the projected off season arbitration figures of traded players Bartlett and Garza ( $ 10.5 million). Only Friedman could trade away two important cogs of the Rays roster and get so much back in return, plus prospects who will help keep the Rays payroll in check for a long time.

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But that is the magic of Friedman. Somehow he can come into a do-or-die cost-cutting scenario with only a bale of wheat or hay and come out in the end spinning a strand of thin gold into a tight ball. You have to seriously wonder just how savvy and creative Friedman was as an investment banker if he can do all of this with a significantly reduced Rays payroll (proposed ceiling between $40-50 million).

Pull up the Rays 40-man roster going into Spring Training, including their under the radar Spring Training Invites. On February 15, 2011 when Rays pitchers and catchers begin their first 2011 workouts, it will be just over 60 days since Friedman’s first signing of Peralta. Just think about the level of talent already assembled, and we still have over 10 days for Friedman to still daze and confuse us before that first workout.

Not since that first Rays blunder under Friedman’s watch when the Rays tried to sneak Josh Hamilton through the Rule 5 Draft, has Friedman toughened up and taken a firm stand that he will never be surprised like that again. Deal for deal, salary for salary, I truly think Friedman might have gotten the most money back on his entire player investments since taking the Rays reins.

Besides the tarnish of the Burrell debacle, there is nothing but shine to Friedman’s trade and Free Agent moves. Since his emergence on the MLB scene, Friedman has been simply golden. Gifted with a crack Scouting Department, piles and piles of correlated data and visuals, plus an eye for talent, Friedman has made the Rays a role model for team competing on a shoestring budget.

But do not be surprised if in the next 10 days, before February 15th if Friedman doesn’t pull another off-the-cuff deal that seemed to come out of nowhere. But then again, that is okay, Friedman is not rebuilding the Rays, he is just helping them reload

Evan, Is There Something We Should Know?

 

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Getty Images

When Tampa Bay Rays Third Baseman Evan Longoria first came up to the Major Leagues, every time he ventured into Yankee Stadium or even Fenway Park you could hear very audible in the background throughout the assembled crowd the eerie chants of “Eva” coming from the stands.

Even when the Rays were on the wrong side of the scoreboard the chants and giggles just seemed to just keep come from all around him positioning him ever so closer with the always beautiful actress Eva Longoria. It was the ironic price of fame that Longoria had to endure every away game that first season. In time, the cackles and chants died down a bit as Longoria (Evan) showed his wares and talents and possibly gained a little respect from the baseball World outside of Tampa Bay.

 

Reps Confirm Evan Longoria and Tony Parker’s Divorce Official

 

The pure fact their neither of the “Longoria’s” are even remotely related to each other, and might have even now never met one-on-one even in a sidewalk encounter simply makes the above headline taken from The CelebrityCafe.com even more….well simply hilarious.

The simple fact that Longoria (Evan) has been accused of procuring more than a few avid female’s cell phone numbers for future use makes the Tony Parker rumor more valid. Why would Parker want to even spend a moment bird-dogging with Longoria (Evan) as he is trying to cut ties with another Longoria (Eva) in the state of Texas?

But you can see Parker’s want to be with Longoria (Evan) after his small social experience mishap in Boston in the not so recent past, where Longo “was accused of calling or texting one of the objects of his late night affection while in Beantown to see if she might want to….maybe take in a late night I-Hop visit much to the chagrin of the female’s Boston boyfriend. So you could see the possibility of a Longoria switch-a-roo, but again I digress.

But Longo is beginning to learn how to use his smile and charm to his advantage. Everyone has seen Longo’s New Era cap commercial by now, and the young blond on the Tampa cable car in that commercial shot definitely looked a bit shy and taken back when Longoria introduced himself to her.

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Raysbaseball.com

Still even a website like The CelebrityCafe.com can somehow get him confused with a “Desperate Housewife” even if he is taller and more masculine. But Longoria (Evan) has been taken a few fashion pointers from former Rays GQ aficionado Carlos Pena, and his wardrobe thanks Pena for it.Considering Longo has also been a long time supporter and participant of the Rays Wives annual Fashion Show held yearly at the trendy Nordstrom’s at the International Plaza in Tampa, possibly the two Longoria might soon indeed have more than just a name in common. But I am not sure if I would ever consider Longoria (Evan) a fashion icon, but people can change.

Even in all of this fun that is being poked here towards Longoria (Eva) about this headline mishap, the fact remains that forever in his Rays career (and beyond), Longoria (Evan) will always be just one letter away from being referred to as “Eva”. Heck, I was curious why someone at the recent 2011 Bob Hope Celebrity Golf Classic did not ask the golf attired Longoria (Evan) what he thought of his upcoming divorce decree?

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TBO.com

Even in 2010, late in a game against the Red Sox in Fenway Park the crowd hushed down a bit and a lone “Eva” came down from the crowd. The Longoria’s will possibly always be linked in a small way for the rest of their careers. Evan for his lack of Eva’s fashion sense or Eva for not being able to turn a nifty 6-4-3 Double Play.Maybe TheCelebrityCafe.com missed the boat in that encounter. It would have made for an interesting sound byte for sure. I can see more than a few Rays teammates in the coming weeks strolling up to Longoria on the Rays Spring practice fields only to ask Longoria (Evan) once,….”How is Tony?”

 

Link to TheCelebrityCafe.com article

 

 

McGee Needs to be a Viable Rays Relief Option

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Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jake McGee is one of the Rays young pitchers I worry about as the Rays Pitchers and Catchers report date (2/15) ticks closer. I’m not concerned about his past painful journey, or even his pitching arsenal. I am worried that McGee might get pushed into the same multi-functional category as New York Yankees starter/reliever Joba Chamberlain by possibly wear too many MLB caps instead of being focused in one finite direction.

On the surface the aspect of a MLB rookie to possessing such flexibility might not seem dangerous. It might be seen as ultimately valuable to the Major League squad to have a pitcher who can perform the multiple duties of both starter or a reliever in their bag of tricks. But that transformation comes with its own set of perils and dangers.

Some have speculated that Chamberlain has been flip flopped once too often in his short Yankee career swapping his role from starter to relief, and that his overall pitching has been effected by the juggling. There is a distinctive different make-up for a pitcher who performs every five days as opposed to a pitcher who has to ready at the beck and call of your Manager on a daily basis.

Not only are there many different mental aspects to take into consideration between the two options, but the modus operandi of each individual facet of pitching both in preparing and game day prep take on a completely different feel and clarity withg both spots in the roster. I would hate to see the Rays make the same Chamberlain type mistakes with McGee.

This is a southpaw who as recently as 2008 was considered by Baseball America to be the 5th best prospect in all of minor league baseball. Suddenly the mid-2008 Tommy John’s surgery to repair a left elbow unlar collateral tear instantly halted McGee’s meteoric rise through the Rays farm system.

When MLB.com issued their 2011 Top 50 Major League Baseball prospects list recently, McGee’s name was not anywhere to be seen on that list. That is why I am worried about McGee. Not that his confidence could ebb or that his talent has peaked, but with a fall from grace sometimes you get thought of in a different light by your organization. Possibly changing your whole future dynamic with the franchise.

You only have to look into the Rays Centerfield to see a perfect example of changing a player’s direction in their MLB career. B J Upton was considered to be the “Rays shortstop of the future”. Suddenly when a few clouds of doubt or concerns reared their ugly heads, Upton was on a carousel of positional stops from Third Base, to Second Base to finally landing in Centerfield. Ultimately the “Rays shortstop of the future” got to look in to see his supposed pre-destined position from a completely different angle.

I bring this up because there are whispers that McGee might not be brought into the Rays 2011 Spring Training as a relief candidate. He might again be stretched out as a starting candidate, possibly for Triple-A. Most would think this flexibility in McGee’s game is commendable, but I see it as a variation of the same familiar path that the Yankees took with Chamberlain early on in his development. I personally feel that New York ruined a talented ballplayer and made him mediocre by the year-to-year flipping of his job description.

Even during the 2010 Rays minor league season there are indications that the team might be flip flopping on McGee’s potential MLB abilities. When the Rays promoted McGee on September 14,2010  he had previously been appearing mostly as a reliever for the Triple-A Durham Bulls since his August 7,2010 promotion from Double-A Montgomery.

Here is where a huge Rays red flag begins to fly really high for me with possible Chamberlain type comparisons. McGee appeared in only 11 Bulls games, all in relief except for a solo start before his Major League promotion. McGee posted an overall Bulls  0.52 ERA in 17.1 innings with 27 strikeouts and a .148 opponents batting average. All stellar relief credentials that should show a talent for that relief side of the game.

The interesting side twist is that McGee started the 2010 season with Montgomery where he started 19 games, going 3-7 over 88 innings with 100 strikeouts. If you start a guy early on in the minor league season as a starter in the higher levels of your farm system, then why did he suddenly transform into a relief candidate upon promotion to Triple-A?

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Surely the Rays, who have a lack of quality left-handers in their relief corps would realistically have McGee come into Spring Training camp as a bona fide relief candidate. But there are more than a few whispers that McGee will be extended out again this Spring to become a starter, possibly for the Triple-A Bulls.

This flabbergasts me totally. Here is a player who demonstrated, even on a short term MLB relief test, that he can perform at a higher level and instead he might be considered to start games instead of hone his craft as a reliever in either the MLB or at Triple-A?

I really hope this is just one of those erroneous rumors that pop up about this time of the year just to test the waters, then proves to be totally false. McGee could be a great left-handed option for the Rays out of the Bullpen for a long, long time.

The idea of pushing McGee starting again with Rays left-handed farm system talent like leftie starter Alex Torres waiting in the wings is simply bananas. McGee could fill a huge need gap in the Rays system by learning the craft of relief while also gaining a boatload of confidence and possibly transform into a future closer option for the Rays.

The Rays have never been known to grow in-house relief talent at the back of the Bullpen, McGee could eventually be the key to breaking that farm system cycle.

Even if McGee didn’t make the Rays final 25-man roster out of Spring Training and went down for some intensive late inning work with Durham, it would benefit McGee and the Rays tremendously. Putting McGee into a rotation spot, even on the short term, could push McGee closer towards a possible Chamberlain burnout situation where McGee is being pulled in two distinctive different pitching directions.

I am not discounting McGee’s worth as a starter here, but his overall value as a reliever, even at the Triple-A level, fully trumps his consideration again for a starting nod. McGee is too good of a pitching talent to have to ultimately re-invent his pitching style on a monthly basis. His value right now to the Rays is as a key southpaw reliever, possibly even fulfilling the spot as the Rays designated left-handed specialist.

But McGee will need to work on his relief craft to push down his 2010 short term 3.87 ERA against left-handers. The talent is there, it just has to be tweaked and plucked and possibly pulled out from within McGee to flourish as a member of the Rays relief corps.  With the talent potential and possible chance for McGee to find some roster security, I truly feel the relief corps is his best possible position for the McGee and the Rays.

Because McGee has shown in his brief Durham stint that he has the kind of pitching to punish hitters in the late innings, it is all up to the Rays now With Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s constant juggling of pitchers and hitters to force favorable match-ups during the late innings of Rays contests, McGee is a valuable tool the Rays really need to succeed in 2011, but all that could be tarnished, or possibly dismissed if the Rays rumor is true that McGee will again be a starter. That would be a crying shame. 

 

 

Dynamic Duo Make Their Rays Debut

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RaysRenegade

Got to admit to all of the Rays Republic, in the beginning I had a few doubts and even reservations about a Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez duo signing. Maybe it was the aspect that they have been associated with the 2004 Red Sox “Cast of Idiots“, or maybe I was afraid they might not be able to “Cowboy Up!” one last time.

After witnessing the magic and pure adrenaline rush permeating through that Tampa Bay Rays Press Conference media room, my doubts and worry suddenly melted off like Ramirez’s pounds during his workouts in Arizona. From the moment their agent Scott Boras led them into the room until Rays Vice President of Communications Rick Vaughn yelled “Is that all?” This was a glorious ride to see in person.

I was not suppose to be in this room nestled near the darkness with my little camera, but the entire Rays office was poised at noon today to see the next chapter unfold and I tagged along for the ride. From the media buzz to the clicking of camera’s and live video feed both locally and from MLB, this quickly became a love fest, not just for Tampa Bay, but for the two men seated in the middle of the large table.

Instantly you knew both guys were on the same page, had the same intentions and wanted to the guys to help usher in a repeat American League East title. Like Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein so eloquently said recently, “The demise of the Rays is greatly exaggerated.” I am not climbing the flagpole just yet, or marching fully to that beat of triumph again, but this duo instantly make me hunger for that chance.

Both said the right things too. Ramirez flexed his right arm to show his muscle when asked if he was “fit” ,and Damon said insistently this was not the “last chapter” of his baseball career. Instantly the void that grew immense when former clubhouse guru Carlos Pena vacated for Chi-town became smaller. Suddenly I could see the Rays clubhouse leader ship not come from one speaker, but act in stereo with their actions and observations going to make this team competitive every game.

Suddenly I remembered why I hated these two so much. Their competitive nature just seems to ooze from their confidence levels, and that used to scare the death out of me. But there were comments from both that instantly brought me back to why they were signed, Damon called the Rays his “Dream Team” or Ramirez saying while putting on his number 24 Rays jersey that he ” looks good in white“.

Integrity, confidence and ability all joined hands in that room today. Manny was his usual joking self, but did not shy away from questions on if “Manny might be Manny” in Tampa Bay, but a guy who has hit almost .300 lifetime in this dome knows what is expected of him. Possibly Manny even threw out a nugget for the Rays to consider in 2011 that he thinks he can play “five more years”. Not making any predictions, but if Manny is right he has already made his money….maybe a Tampa Bay discount knowing this team can compete might be in the future.

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 The love fest we saw between these two today was incredible. You can tell they are more than happy to be playing with each other again, and the respect level is very high between them. Several times during the Press Conference I expected both to rise and do an Ari Gold (Entourage) “hug out“. Not since Baseball Hall of Fame member Wade Boggs and HOF hopeful Fred McGriff put on a Rays uniform have I been excited about such a veteran duo. Some in the assembled crowd made predictions of a possible 70 Home Runs between the pair while other were optimistic of a great meshing of the duo with the young Rays corps.I left that room running for my laptop in the car wanting to write this. Eager to let this feeling flow from me today of this incredible moment. Some say defining moments in a franchise’s history never reveal themselves until later, but today the moment just felt perfectly right for a half hour. So the signings are official, the jerseys have pressed their backs for the first time and the media got to shake their verbal hands with Damon and Ramirez. For some reason the comment from Ramirez to Damon of “You play 100 games, I’ll play 62” (referring to LF) is still ringing in my ears…in a good way. 

I snuck in to see this magical moment mush like a kid who sneaks under the canvas at the circus. I expected to see a sideshow event. Once that propped both of them up in a definite light. What I got was two men who had extreme confidence and respect for each other pass compliment after compliment not just to themselves, but to the young team they will embrace in 2011.

I really do hope that Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce and the rest of the Rays budding hitter pick the brains of these two baseball icons. I hope the competitive nature and confidence level showed by Damon and Ramirez today fills that Rays Spring Training clubhouse. But most of all I am just glad I got to see the magic happen….firsthand.

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