My Final At Bat

I remember when I was playing football some 25-odd years ago, I could definitely feel when my time was coming to a conclusion and the door to my career was closing swiftly upon me. It takes a lot for an athlete and writer to acknowledge their time is over and the end is not only in sight, but upon you. Competition has always been in my blood, fighting to be on the top, putting in the grunt work that I was proud of, because it showed my love for the game, and my passion for wanting to be one of the best.

As Major League Baseball rosters expand today with anxious and thrilled young prospects and wily veterans again breathe MLB air in clubhouses from sea to shining sea, I pack my laptop, Tampa Bay Rays Media Guide and head nonchalantly for the nearest exit. But I do not intent to go quietly as I need to voice a few things, spill a bit more of myself onto these pages for a final thrust. Some of these passages will be eagerly anticipated, and one will be a rant that has lived on inside for awhile, finally seeing the light of day.

I’m not sad my MLBlogs.com experience is over. Sure I wanted more, but more did not present itself to me in a timely fashion. I have taken that odd-shaped ball of clay known as Rays Renegade and molded it as much as possible into my own artistic interpretation, and some of you have marveled as others have scoffed at my mire existence within this blogging realm. I rose from the MLBlogs.com farm system to the top level with sweat, blood and maybe a little slight of hand at times, but I do not regret anything I have done since November 2007 when I first clicked to post my initial post about Kevin Costner and the Rays.

1,311 posts later, it is time to say farewell to my baseball blogging life as I expand towards other avenues and ventures both in writing and in life. I no longer feel compelled to eagerly posted daily with comments, opinions or my personal insight into my Rays world, or at least my corner of it. That was the first sign the end was approaching. It is not for lack of wanting to post, but time and life’s other surprises have presented limited moments to click the mouse or put words to laptop screen, so instead of converting to one of those who posts only marginally, I will cease to post entirely. Today is a day I always pushed away back into the recesses of my mind and soul because I wanted to write until my last dying breathe, and even then possibly have a few hidden gems upon my laptop files, but the time has come to walk away while I’m still on top level of the blogging community.

I have met and read so many fantastic blogs along the way, and I hope I have shown encouragement and drive for some to continue knowing I was once outside the Top 50 looking in and found my voice, reason and ability to walk up that steep climb to the top and was able to stay there for such a long tenure. There are too many blogging friends to list here, but you know who you are, and I thank you for your past support, your encouraging words and even your comments that meant the world to me. I will cruise back into this blogging community from time to time commenting and visiting you, but my days of writing as Rays Renegade will cease with this posting.

I was not alone as a few other Rays bloggers also shared the path with me, and for that I’m grateful. I have been able to express my love, passion and dreams for this game as a Rays blogger, and also shown you more of myself than anyone in my life has ever seen, or even will see. I felt this day coming as friends within the Rays organization (BK and Aaron) went into different sports adventures and my Rays connection felt severed and damaged forever. But I do owe a huge bit of gratitude to the Rays Department of Communication with a special head tilt to Andrew Heydt for letting me pass into and out of their sacred MLB world with media access from time to time that would make any true baseball fan giggle with joy. I hope my posts have repaid that generosity and brought the organization pride with my writing.

Now it is time for my to let go of the one dark cloud that has been haunting me even since Jane Heller left MLBlogs. I have kept this within me deep, but the pain can finally find another home and leave me forever. I was appalled when MLBlogs.com moved the “Baseball Collector” from their MLB Pro blog listing to the “Fan Blog” list. I am not going to sling mud or anything else here, it is just one of the biggest things that has been hidden from sight for so long, and I felt an instant betrayal by the website with this move. I am not going to dip vinegar into this wound, for it finally rising to the surface has made me feel great and relieved at the same time.

This was not an easy decision, or one that was conceived and devised in one swift motion like a meat clever to sever this connection. Since I sat in the stands after the Texas Rangers eliminated the Rays from the 2010 post season, my baseball journey has taken a different path. In 2010 I attended 81 Rays regular season games and 4 post season contests, but that streak ended the moment Texas began celebrating on our home turf. Not sure why, or the reasoning for my own Rays attendance decline, it just unfolded that way.

But I do know I owe a chunk of my life to this blog. For when I was unemployed for that long span, it kept me sane, alert and wanting to again find success outside if it’s realm. I do not walk away today now with any regrets. I have done my best, produced some funny, entertaining and even insightful looks into this game I adore with all my heart, with a emphasis on a team born upon my hometown soil. Thank you again for all who have passed by my oasis in the MLB desert.

This has been a labor of true passion and love that has met it final moments with no tears but a flood of great memories and thoughts of continued success for each and every one of you. I leave for this last time with my head held high, proud of the accomplishments and journey knowing there is another venture out there just beyond my dimming eyesight awaiting my arrival. I promised myself when I made my final post to include the symbol I learned so long ago as a staffer of the Rebel Rouser to signify the end, the conclusion of the thought process and writer’s final notation of completion:

                                                    -30-

25 Comments

I wanted to acknowledge so many of you in the post for your inspirations, comments or friendship over my tenure at MLBlogs.com, but it would of had to been a post all by itself. Instead I’m including you in a comment that hopefully lives on forever (or as long as the Internet lets it).

Thank you again to Confessions of a She Fan (Jane), Rockpile Rant (D),CruzBlue’s Dodger Blue World (Emma), Wrigley Regular, I’m Not A Headline Guy (Scott), This Is a Very Simple Game, The Rays Rant, Fish Fry, Phillies Phollowers (Jenn), Red State Blue State and people like Tom my favorite Rockies interviewer who have made a differnece in my MLBlogs.com experience.

I know I have missed a few hundred other blogs that over the past 5 years have been influential, and for that I’m deeply sorry. But know deep down all of you have a special place in my heart that deserves a lifetime of thanks and friendship.

Aloha!

I am sorry to see the Rays Regegade retire but I do understand that our needs and priorities change with time. As you’ve done for so many others, you were the first blogger to seek out my then fledgling blog and comment and were easily the blogger who was most generous with helpful advice and encouragement – it meant the world to me. I’ve always thought of you as our Clubhouse Captain here at MLBlogs. :) Best wishes in all you do Cliff! You will be missed.
– Kristen

You were among the first to leave a comment on my blog, and for that I am forever thankful. Congratulations on all the years you put your love of the Rays out there for all to see. Good luck in all your future endeavors.

Sorry to see you go man, but I wish you luck on your future endeavors.

I was honored to leave a comment on your blog. Your committment from the old Washington Senators to your present day Rangers dynasty shows your passion for the sport.
I hope you rise up the ranks and hope you have continued success and joy watching and supporting your Rangers. You are also one of the many blogs that did not come to my mind when I posted my first comment, but deserve and warrant that honor.
I will pass by your blog again and leave a few words from time to time.

Red Stripe,
Thank you for that, it means a lot to me. I will be surfacing again doing something more ” wisdom and old age induced” that will curtail and categorize my Southern roots and life.

But it will never have the readership or devotion this blogging community has shown towards me these last 5 MLB seasons. It will not hit me between the eyes until Pitchers and Catchers report and I am on the other side of the fencing in Port Charlotte, Fl for the first time in 4 years.

Thank you again for your support, and I hope you enjoy many long years of writing and showing your support for your Phillies.

Renegade…
Best wishes on your new life & work paths. I’m sorry to see you go, as I’ve been linking to your blog for insider info for years, thinking of you as “my guy at the Trop.” Thanks for bringing the team to life for me here on Florida’s east coast — I love your candid shots of the guys (and you). Oh, and you’re always welcome to comment or post over at my blogspot Baseball for Girls.
Go Rays! 9=8

Cliff,
I came here to congratulate you and the Rays win over the Yankees. My brother Victor and I were watching the game after we got home from the Dodger game. Sorry to see you leave. Not going to be the same without seeing Rays Renegade at the Top of the MLB Blogs Latest Leaders and seeing your insighful posts and comments. Good luck my friend wherever you go. Sorry I did not get to meet you in person when you were passing my way. Perhaps another time I will pass your way. Stay in touch! -Emma
-E

Renee,

It was just time for a change. All my inside voices at the Rays have moved on, and a new crop of front office people did not seem to want to embrace what I had to offer. Pity, I had years of PR work, transforming events and worked within Tropicana Field for almost 6 years as one of their vendors.
I’m just got a lot of my plate, and felt I did not want to short my baqseball family.
Who knows, if the right things come together, I might be back some day…Never say never.

Emma,

You never know, the Rays do play in the Ravine next year during Inter-League. Have been known to go to far away places on a whim….Maybe L A fits that bill.
I can tell you honestly it was a hard decision, but one I made for the good of the group than as a personal move. Felt as a top blogger it would not be right to just jot down a few comments, post a few odd blogs and still warrant top tier position.
I will let some of the hungry mob go at it for a while and maybe by 2013 Spring Training my world will settle and I might be back in some capacity. But for now……I’m just a fan …..watching a game…and having fun doing it.

I feel you on this. Adding the Baseball Collector to the fan mlblogs was a kick in the face to all of us who have been chugging along all these years. Hample has three books published. Zack is a good guy but he’s shouldn’t be part of the Fan blogs. Mark, was that your idea? Did Zack piss you off and you adding him to the fans blogs was some sort of punishment? The only ones getting punished by that move are the bloggers trying to build up a following. Zack was added to the fan blogs and he comes with an instant group of followers. Extremely bad move Mark. Props to the Rays Renegade for making a stand with the best “In your face” possible. Good luck my friend…Follow your heart Cliff…”D”
http://www.RockpileRant.com

Thanks for all of the dedication you gave to your blog and for your leadership in growing this MLB.com Blogs community over those five years! Will definitely miss your presence here and how you took the lead in commenting on other blogs to keep it a friendly place and set an example for others. It has been much appreciated and I wish you all the best in any future endeavors!

Mark/MLB.com
http://mlblogs.mlblogs.com

Thank you for that Mark.
I stayed here because I believe it is the best MLB site on the web, and can boast over 1.2 million page views since my inception in November 2007.
I take this personally, the art of blogging and felt some get caught up in the rankings or feel a bit alone so I would post comments, try and be creative and positive becuase it is what I woiuld want someone to do for me if I hit the wall ( so to speak).
As I have said before, it might not be the end, but there is definitely going to be a bit of a vacation for a bit as I get all my little duckies in a row and coming back is not out of my mind possibly in 2013.

D,

Mark actually wrote me an email about the comment I made about Zack, and it all made sense and I see the reasoning and stand behind it now. Maybe if I had asked at the time it would of been made public and we would all greet the Baseball Collector coming over to our side as a positive move. I apologized to Mark, and I hope Zack also can see I was in darkness and should of sought the day light.

D,
I will miss people like you and so many others who I can call close baseball friends because of this adventure. My photo gigs have become a bit hectic along with a 60 hr work week and something had to give, and this community deserves a 100% out of me, not 25-75 %. When time allows and things get into neat rows, I might step back into the batter’s box and reclaim my spot.

Until then, I’ll sit in my chair, continue to read some of all your muses with good food, feisty company and a few adult libations while chuckling and re-living the adventures with all of you.

When something drastic happens in the MLBlogosphere like moving bloggers from pro blog to a fan blog it always helps to keep folks in the loop. MLBlogs.com Lack of keeping us informed leads to people getting upset. Just keep us in the loop Mark. I have a feeling there is a bit more to this story than Mark is letting on but whatever. Just keep us informed as we are a community right?

Kristen,
One of the biggest lessons I have learned in life is to give back in some way. If a comment, suggestion or even a nudge can make someone realize a dream, their potential or rise to the occasion, it is a mgical thing.
Someone hinted to me the other day I should take this time as a sabattical with an eye towards Spring 2013.
I an honored to hear someone think of me as a “clubhouse captain”, because as a former professional athlete, those guys were my idols and mentors. I was a hard decision to step away, but one I feel more confident about as the days pass. We shall see if the Renegade might channel a bit of the fabled Phoenix.
But then again, it gives all of you one obstacle out of the way to seek your own Top 10 moment, or beyond.

So get going on the journey!

I just now saw this and had to leave you a message. As many others have said, you were one of the first to leave a comment on my blog, when I started up a couple of years ago, and that support was invaluable. I have always enjoyed reading your thoughts and seeing your photographs, so I am sad to see you go. I’m sure you’ll find new adventures, though, so I wish you all the best moving forward :)

To my buddy The Rays’ Renegade,

I fondly remember that you were one of the first ones to welcome me as a writer in the MLB blogs blogosphere. You really encourage an inspired me to write with the same passion and dedication about my team as he always did. When I had trouble signing in and I had to reinvent myself, again you’re one of the first ones to welcome me back. I will always appreciate that and I look forward to your comments from time to time. But who knows, never say never, if the rays suddenly win three or four championships in a row, I will be looking forward to your perspective. I look forward to crossing paths with you in the future and they wish you luck in your future endeavors.

Your friend always,
Isaac a.k.a. ICE “The Angels’ Ace”
http://angels.mlblogs.com/

DiamondGirl,
I will let you in on a small but great secret.
When I was playing football with one of the major college programs in the SouthEast, our Coach was very high and stolic that we give back to the fans and the community on a regular basis. He promoted civic and community pride in us, and made us face the fans before and after games to build us up inside not with confidence, but to show the great influence and image we project towards them, and they return to us. I decided to do the same when I wrote, seek out some of the newbies, just extend the hand and hope it makes them feel a bit of pride that people do read their posts and see both the same and alternative views on their subjects.
If I did help anyone along the way, that is just an awesome plus to the fun I have had writing these passages over the last 5 years. More and more I am leaning to return, but it is not in stone, or in my mind as a constant at this moment. R&R is the main priority, possibly to recharge the battery then cruise back into the mainstream again.

ACES,

I saw you fell off the grid for a bit, and was glad to see you re-surface. As I have said so many times before, extending the hand and helping our fellow bloggers is important to me. I’m honored to do it, and blessed when people travel back to my corner of the web and write some to me. Not sure about those multiple Championships, the window of opportunity is closing faster than even our own fans realize, but as long as there is a buzz and a hint of excitement in the Tampa Bay community, the Rays will be the darlings of the Spring and Summer months. I will still come back and comment around MLBlogs, it just might not be to write, but I will still encourage and hope to build the confidence of a potential rising star in tis blogging community as they reach for their highest level.

Just wanted to thank you for providing me with a great source of insight and knowledge (not to mention genuine passion) about one of the Yankees fiercest rivals. I certainly hope that when you’ve decided in what direction your future writing will follow, you will take the time to let us all know so that we can continue to enjoy your impressive skills.

Pinstripe,

As of this moment, I’m leaning towards possibly writing again on this site in November after the 2012 dust settles. That will give me the time I need, plus get the World Series out of the way. Amazing how this season has played out with those pesky birds flying high, and the Red Sox looking up searching for the bus that hit them squarely in the jaw this season.
Just goes to show you passion, committment and driving hard until the last out can bring a team like Baltimore into the top realm and cause all kinds of mischief in the American League East race.

I too remember you being one of the first bloggers to comment on my blog. I can still remember it like it was just yesterday. I wrote an entry asking an invisible audience what they thought I was doing right or wrong, and a Pepsi e-mail address was the first to comment on it. Although my blog has taken a dramatic change since that day, I thank you for not only your support of myself, but of the community in its entirety. Good luck to you on whenever your ventures may take you. Also, I’m mad I didn’t get to catch up with you at Tropicana Field when I made my way there last season. It would have been nee to meet the man behind the blog. Oh well; maybe some other time. Regardless, this community is something you should really take pride in, since it really is yours more than any other blogger’s at the moment. Thank you. I really do appreciate the words you left that day:
“I have used thr style of writing what I enjoy Give some insight, personal opinion or thoughts, plus be sure to not demean the sport or your team, but try and look at the “glass half full” when bad thing happen to good players.
But most of all, just be true to yourself and write what you think people would love to learn, hear or read about the game.
You will work on it, tweak the blog a bit,then one day it will all fall into place like a well timed swing before the ball heads to the cheap seats for a walk-off Home Run.
Look forward to your ideas, posts and you finding your own style.”
-Mateo
http://mateofischer

Just saw this entry for the first time. (I’ve been in my own world lately.) I’ve been contemplating quitting my own blog, mainly because it takes up SO much time and pulls me away from other major/life endeavors (such as pursuing the type relationship that would make me happiest). In any case, I don’t know what was sent to you privately via email, so I’ll say it here publicly: it was most certainly a punishment.

Zack,
I can truly say I loved competing with you on a monthly basis. The past is now the past, and I feel a bit energized and back at it again. Sometimes you got to step back a bit and either the hunger returns, or you know it is time for other ventures.
I have lived vacariously through your special ballhawking adventures and even though I’m just a small time hawker, I understand the passion, want and the thrill of every ball as it nestles in your glove, or you give it to a young fan beaming from ear-to ear with a Cheshire Cat grin.
Whatever you decide, know I got your back. You might not remember, but we met at CBP during the 2008 World Series as I was donning a Rays cap and had 2 former work mates from Philadelphia PD with me.
I hope you find the zeal and thrill again, would be lonely competing on here without you.

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