Simply “Johnny on the Spot”
I imagine if I trolled the Internet
this morning and typed in the phrase “Johnny on the spot”, his
smiling dimpled mug would grace the page. Ever since the first Press
Conference when the Tampa Bay Rays announced their signing of the
long-in-the-tooth veteran Johnny Damon, this guy has been committed,
immediately impressive and down right nasty to opposing
pitchers…… just the way I like it.
It is not rare for a veteran to stand
up and lead by example on a young team like the Rays, it is an
imperative. It is a mission he has accepted with grace, honor and
even a slice of humble pie. Maybe his contract with attendance based
additive might seem a bit cocky, but in his years within Major League
Baseball his foresight and wisdom has served him well in the past.
I still wonder why it took so long for
the Rays to settle on Damon. Sure he ” came home” possibly for
less money to a team in furious transition, but he also came into a
situation where he could pass on knowledge, help build a strong base
and show that a few extra rings in the bat can sometimes bring
Sure there are not many on this Rays squad with him who might have seen him in an old photo in the Royals
baby blue, but they all know the stories, the success and now the
baseball mind that is their Rays teammate. Damon always seemed to be
that guy in the right place, with the right offensive weapon in the
past. No matter if he wore pinstripes, a “B” on his cap or the
fine stencil of the Tigers, the guy has always given his 110 percent
to gather up a win.
Little known fact, Damon actually spent
a few moments at the Rays 2011 Fan Fest greeting young kids who ran
the bases and doing a few interviews before having to leave…..he
was moving his Damon crew to his new city. That is the level of
commitment this guy gives to his team. Sure he has earned the time to
mail in the commitment card, but he doesn’t.
He can rest on a few offensive lifetime
laurels and take a moment off every once in a while, but he doesn’t.
Right now it seems that Damon is the perfect veteran fit since Cliff
Floyd to mold and shape this young team again into the new “Beasts
of the East”. And he is doing it all recently by being…”Johnny
on the spot”.
It is almost unimaginable that a MLB
player can produce 5 straight game-winning RBI in his last 5
contests, but Johnny has stepped to the plate with the eyes of the
dugout and stadium upon him and become clutch, dependable and down
right almost automatic in the late innings.
Friday night Damon produced a 2-run RBI
single in the 6th inning, which has been early for a
“Damon moment” in 2011, but his act pulsated from the Rays dugout
to the Bullpen and the team held on to a 5-2 win. Damon’s hitting
explosion has also been simultaneous with the Rays own 5-game winning
” Sometimes you need someone to
shine the flashlight first for all of us to find it our ways of the
darkness“. – former University of Florida Football Coach Charlie
Damon has done just that during this 5
game streak. He has used his bat as a symbol of enlightenment,
produced a lightning bolt from its shaft to help push his young squad
out of the impending darkness back into the warm rays of the Sun.
With his game winner on Saturday afternoon in front of a nationally
televised audience, Damon moved into a tie at 80th place
(2,583 hits) with the great Cubbie and Baseball Hall of Fame member
Damon has hit 3 Home Runs so far in
2011, last season in Detroit, he hit a total of 8 for the entire
season. This week he became the first MLB player to hit a walk-off
Homer with 5 different teams (Royals,Red Sox, Yankees,Tigers,Rays).
It was his 6th walk-off homer of his career, and his third
against the Minnesota Twins.
Possibly the youth and eagerness in the
Rays clubhouse has re-energized and focused Damon in a new direction.
He has hit safely in his last 8 games (.305 11 for 36) after going 1
for 15 during the Rays 0-6 first homestand.
On April 8th at US Cellular
Field, Damon homered off of White Sox starter John Danks, his first
Home Run off a southpaw since his August 28, 2009 blast off Dank’s
teammate Mark Buerhle at Yankee Stadium. The end result, the Rays
first victory of 2011 after 8 straight defeats.
This team is not going to totally sit
on the back of Damon all season long to provide moments to inspire,
thrust themselves forward or depend solely on his current well timed
offensive moments. But isn’t it great that when you need a hit, a run
producing moment, this veteran has just been “Johnny on the spot”