I learned earlier today that former Rays batboy and Toronto Blue Jay hurler Litsch had officially announced his retirement during an interview with Jeff Sammut on Sportsnet 590 The Fan.
I’m a bit sad right now.
It truly sucks to learn that one of my baseball friends has decided to hang up his spikes for good because I know the game will miss his energy, determination, comedic antics and well as his steadfast perseverance.
But I’m also extremely glad because those same traits makeup a firm foundation for a great teacher of the game’s nuances and skills. So it’s going to sting a bit knowing Litsch has thrown his final pitch as an MLB player, but I’m excited as he embarks on another journey possibly having the thrill of coaching another player towards their goal of pulling on a MLB jersey.
I respect and admire Jesse for his want to give back to the game that has given him so much. Not just in money, but in lasting friendships, great connections and a boatload of memories that will spill out forever when conversing with his baseball and non-baseball friends and future students.
He might never have known this, but I used to be one of the first people into the Trop back when Jesse was a batboy for the Tampa Bay Rays. Sometimes I would just sit there in my usual seat at the bottom of Section 138 and watched silently as Jesse took side tosses and suggestions from former Rays Pitching Coach Bill Fischer.
You could see in Jesse’s concentration he had that special form of girt and want to become a success. I have to tell you, even back then while still a young hurler at Dixie Hollins, he had a nice drop on his curve ball and seemed to be toying with a cutter.
So it was no surprise to me Jesse would be drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2004 MLB Draft. Then a little over 3 years later, on July 31, 2007, Jesse got to walk out to the Tropicana Field pitchers mound in his home town as his name bounced and echoed throughout the stadium.
I was there in the right field stands that night and remember well Litsch strolling to the mound in the bottom of the 1st inning and was on my feet to the dismay of some cheering for him as he made his exit after 6.2 innings of work.
I’m also glad to have gotten to know Litsch off the field as I attended his last 4 Jesse Litsch and Bechtel Financial Celebrity Golf Tournaments and got to witness another side of him that will only help him in his future endeavors.
Godspeed my friend.
I was especially proud and honored this past weekend to hear that Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon decided to honor the “American Legion” brand of baseball spirit.
American Legion unique style of baseball was first proposed during a speech by Major John L. Griffith (then collegiate commissioner of the Western Conference or called the Big Ten today) during a state convention in Milbank, South Dakota back in 1925. Griffith centered his comments towards the role athletics can play in the development of youth.
Griffith stated to the assembled American Legion members: “Athletic competition teaches courage and respect for others, fostering their growth into active citizens.”
The South Dakota convention agreed and passed a resolution urging the Legion to create an organized summer baseball league that started each June and ended with a World Championship series. American Legion’s 1925 National Commander James A Drain backed the resolution and was easily passed during that year’s National Convention in Omaha, Nebraska.
The American Legion held its first World Series in 1926 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where a team from Yonkers Post 321 defeated a squad from Pocatello, Idaho. A World Series was not held in 1927 due to the rising costs of attending the American Legion’s National Convention in Paris, France, but soon the Legion found a common ground benefactor to help nurture the development and funding of its young baseball program.
Early in 1928 the Legion’s Americanism Director Dan Sower had a plan to help keep the Legion baseball league solvent. Sowers attended an executive meeting of Major League Baseball hoping to catch a sympathetic ear of then Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The M L B Commissioner pledged a $50,000 annual donation and within 2 years’ time the Legion baseball program expanded to include teams from every state plus the District of Columbia.
During the lean years of the Great Depression, MLB had to rescind their $50,000 a year endowment, but as the economy rebounded so did their contribution that started again at $25,000 in 1935 and gradually worked its way back to the original donation amount. M L B now contributes about 3 % of the total budget.
Since its inception in 1925, the American Legion baseball program has grown tremendously to now sporting over 5,400 teams from all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Almost 100,000 young players ages 15-19 pull on American Legion jerseys annually. Nearly 60 % of all current college players are graduates of the Legion baseball program.
M L B has help fund American Legion baseball almost since its inception and Legion baseball has produced a huge bevy of M L B prospects. The amount of former Legion ballplayer who go onto the professional ranks increases with every season and it is estimated more than half of all current major leaguers have Legion roots.
From fresh-faced M L B rookies playing short season summer baseball to current M L B players and Baseball Hall of Fame members, many got their true starts towards a professional career by playing Legion ball.
Hall of Famer Yogi Berra played for the Fred W. Stockholm Post 245 in St. Louis, Mo and was once heard saying American Legion ball was” the most fun he ever had.” Ted Williams pulled on a Legion jersey for a post back in San Diego, California.
Frank Robinson helped lead his Oakland, Calif. Squad to the only back-to-back World Series win in Legion ball history.
Babe Ruth however never got a chance to play Legion baseball as he was too old to participate during its younger years but spent the final years of his life promoting the Legion program as its director of operations.
Even though Maddon chose Post 14 as his local Post, it is not one of the most prolific American Legion baseball programs in Tampa Bay. That honor goes to Post 248 in Tampa, Florida which produced such future M L B players as Luis Gonzalez, Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield.
American Legion baseball even has another great ambassador who played on the gridiron in Bob Griese who played for the Evansville, Indiana post who were the American Legion champs in 1964.
Here is just a small list of some of the current M L B players who have their baseball roots firmly planted within the American Legion program: Cliff Lee (Benton,Ark), Justin Verlander (Post 201), Drew Stubbs and Will Middlebrook (Texarkana), Craig Kimbrel (Post 15), Jason Motte (Post 152), Chad Billingsley (Post 300), Jackie Bradley Jr. (Post 146), Brian Wilson (Post 27), Madison Bumgarner (Post 29) and many, many more…..
American Legion baseball is something truly special and I was thrilled to be a part of it back in the late 70’s playing for Post 14. And even though Post 14 never advanced to the World Series while I was playing Third Base, it solidified my personal growth and life foundation through competition, unity of team and created experiences I have used throughout my life.
Playing Post ball helped mold me tighter and wiser as a person while also embracing the spirit of the organization and embracing as well as respecting and honoring for those who fought bravely for our freedoms.
Some people see the High Schools and college systems as the feeder systems towards a M L B career. I hope this post shows that the American Legion program has deep roots within the American game of baseball and its presence is only going to increase.
I am glad Maddon decided to embrace this past weekend as an American Legion weekend and that he rewarded those in attendance Friday night in Post 14 by picking up that night’s bar tab of over $550.
I wasn’t there that night but if I was, I would have raised my glass high and saluted Major Griffith for having the foresight to embrace a Legion baseball program and giving so many of us great Legion memories.
I mean as the banner said that was displayed in the Rays Clubhouse, Post 14 is “The Fun Post”.
(Jenn McKenney/Photo Credit)
The Trop pre-game fan rituals, they will be a-changing…..and not by our choice.
So if you are one of those eager young or old autograph hounds, or want a photo with your favorite Rays player, it just got a bit harder to accomplish this feat within an hour of game time.
Seems last night just after the conclusion of the New York Yankees BP, the Sentry security team which protects the field regions around Tropicana Field were informed pre-game to begin informing the amassed crowds of Rays fans who seem to migrate and linger within the Lower Bowl seating area that they will no longer have access to this area 1 hour before game time.
That means that this once prime autograph and photo real estate will be off-limits.
No longer will you be permitted to stand or await a Rays player on the rail or in the first row of seating after B P unless you possess a Rays ticket for a seat adjacent to that area. If you seem to be loitering or waiting in this area, no matter if you are young or old, you will be instructed to leave the area.
Gone will be that last ditch effort some have used to get a signed ball from a player before they head into the Clubhouse or stand for the National Anthem.
Now if you want to possibly get that “must have” autograph or have a conversation with your favorite player, you might have to be there as the gates open and hope and pray the player has not participated in the early rounds of BP and have head into the Clubhouse to get “game ready”.
The Rays will not change their usual gate opening times so during the week (Mon-Thurs) the gates will open 1 hour before First Pitch while on the weekends they will still open 2 hours before First Pitch.
With this rule hitting the fan base at the Trop., you can surely bet there will be a bigger grouping of fans over the Rays or visiting dugout during their Batting Practice sessions as this area might be the only viable way now to get a last second signature.
It is not only going to make the task of getting an wanted autograph harder for the fan who planned a weekend or unexpected trip to the ballpark to get that script, but he will be fighting a larger contingent of Rays fans now who know with an hour to go the Lower Bowl area will be off limits to them.
I truly think the pure test of if this rule can be truly effective will be on the Sunday games when fans are let into the Trop 2 hours before game time and usually there is no BP by either team on that day.
Some of the Rays Field players might wander out to toss a few on the turf before Sunday matinee games, but the largest contingency will be the Rays pitching staff who come out and do long-toss and possibly a side Bullpen session.
With Sunday also being the day we celebrate Family Fun Fest, larger numbers of small children will be on hand hoping to get a glimpse or noticed by a ballplayer, possibly ending with a genuine baseball or an autograph.
What is really going to suck is seeing a small child who used to be able to come down and get an autograph all the way up to the National Anthem be turned away because they do not have a ticket in that section of seating.
I understand totally that the Rays fan base has been spoiled by the great interaction between the Rays very out-going and personable players who have graced our roster. And a huge majority of the Rays fan base has respected the set boundaries between the players and fans, but who knows what happened to set this rule into motion.
Did someone make a wrong gesture or comment? Could someone have taken a liberty that offended someone on the Rays roster or staff? Might there have been a swift hand involved that took someone’s item as they signed? Or could the worst have happened, someone took a player’s glove, cap or something else?
I have tried to get some glimpse for the quick policy change from more than a few members of the Rays staff and the Sentry security staff, but we truly might never know if this rule change might not be just a security precaution or happened because of an event that transpired between a player and fan at the Trop.
This is a blow to that Rays unique sense of small degree of separation that the Rays fans had become accustom to since 1998. This team truly since its inception has been one of the most fan-friendly teams in sports…bar none, but now a slice of that acceptable pre-game ambiance that set the Rays apart has been eliminated.
Times they are a-changing within the Trop.
If you want that much anticipated autograph or photo you will have to get to the game sooner, post up in a valued spot along the rail or dugout and hope to garner both eye contact and voice recognition with your target before engaging towards fulfilling your goal.
Editor’s Note : I want to give Jen McKinney a shout out for awakening me to this new rule and for the 1st Photo……Thank You.
Anytime a young, potentially great athletic person like Tampa Bay Rays prospect Josh Sale takes the dark path it pisses me off to no end. The life expectancy of an athletic career is so short-termed that any and all of life’s hiccups can rob you of the precious opportunity to live out your sports dream.
You had hoped that Sale took it upon himself in his downtime via suspension to eradicate a few demons, found other positive outlets to alleviate the stresses of his career/ lifestyle choices and had found a positive path towards reviving his baseball career.
But little did we know that smile and external optimistic nuance was more fiction that factual as he again took a wrong turn towards darkness and this time had a 100-game penalty accessed against him for his deplorable drug usage.
Others will be adamant to point out that Sale did not take a life or impose harm on others, but I truly feel you are only half right here. The reality is that Sale basically injured himself, doing self-inflicted damage by sustaining another vital blow to his dream of being a professional baseball player by again falling prey to his weakness.
But what really gets me deep and stirs my editorial pot is when an athletic steps once again in the same vapid hole that devoured them the first time and find themselves once again at rock bottom and do not show shame or admonish their dark ways.
Right now in all honesty the Rays have to fix Sales the young man before any movement can be made to possible re-create Josh Sale, the baseball player.
Even as our world disposes of our less desirable things in life, throwing them instantly into the trash to be forgotten and disposed of, resurrecting another human being, bringing about a positive outcome as a heralded human reclamation project.
Sale has been suspended twice now for drug offenses. Tack on the fact the Rays organization in May 2013 suspended Sale indefinitely for “conduct detrimental to the organization” which resulted because of a bizarre incident in a strip club between some hurled quarters and a dancer.
Not only did Sale act immature in the club and in public, but he took to social media (Facebook) and bragged on the event further bringing shame and humiliation to others.
Worst yet, this action came 1 day after Sale was added to the Rays Single-A Port Charlotte Stone Crabs
Sometimes you just got to eradicate the cancerous evolution or degeneration of morality perpetrated by a person as they take another fall from grace as they blindly blow through the obligatory Stop signs of morality or ignore or heed the substance danger signals around them.
Certainly this second smack has to be the moment Sale is shocked back into a real reality and brevity of his actions. I sincerely hope that Sale heeds this last chance at any possible career or life redemption and takes to it with the same grit and determination he did his early baseball career.
Sale must now abide. He must admit and address the severity of what has happened to his personal and professional life and begin to again format a battle plan to combat his weaknesses or the only way Sale will ever get into a M L B stadium will be if he buys a ticket.
If for nothing else, the Summer of 2014 is going to be known for ice cold buckets sloshing all over the heads, upper bodies and shoes of people from all walks of life. What’s a little H2O when it can be done for a great cause, and to also call out for friends, family, co-workers and maybe that one person you always wanted to get a little revenge on…..now is your chance.
The challenge is actually quite easy in thought: you get a full bucket of icy cold water, dump it over your head, record the action, post the video out and about on any or all of your social media outlets and then loudly call out or challenge anyone and everyone to also take the plunge and make a donation to the ALS Association.
I mean tons of famous and also non-famous people have already gotten their cold shiver on with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I mean athletes and celebrities like pro golfer Greg Norman, actress Elisha Cuthbert, Toronto Maple Leaf Dion Phaneuf, Household goddess Martha Stewart and even the Tampa Bay Rays mascot Raymond have completed and sent out their own challenges to other to also compete and complete the icy adventure.
I am simply flabbergasted that the watery “Tag..Your it!” endeavor has risen to such high standards with hundreds and thousands of people through their social media pages and messages calling for the friends, followers and even family to take a cold one for ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Amazingly enough, the event has raised over $150,000. Already this year and before the first leaf falls could surpass a quarter of a million dollars just by people all over the social map calling out others to douse themselves and to extend the challenge to their select intended targets to also partake and donate, then keep the cycle going…possibly all summer long.
And this awesome fund raising challenge actually has a bit of a baseball foundation. Seems that this whole icy situation began back in 2012 in the Boston, Mass area and quickly began to gain a more wet footing as friends, relatives and former teammates of former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates who was diagnosed with ALS.
Pete’s close knit group of friends, family and others decided used the cool idea as a visual physical challenge to raise awareness about ALS. Frates, 29, has been living with ALS since 2012 and has worked for The ALS Association’s Massachusetts Chapter. Frates is a former Divion1 college baseball player for Boston College and is a tireless champion for the foundation and its awareness.
Recently Pete’s own parents, John and Nancy along with 200 assembled dry souls doused themselves in Copley Square. His parents state that the ice bucket challenge has done more to increase the understanding about ALS than anything else they have imagined over the past 2 years.
How much has this event helped the ALS Association?
ALS Association National President Barbara Newhouse said donations to the national office have surged during the last 10-day period that ended this past Thursday to about $160,000. From $14,480 during the same period a year ago. And you have to believe that local and community chapter offices have not been able to give their donation yet, so a figure of $250,000. Seems within reach just for a few moments of uncomfortable chills for a tremendous cause.
I have been the subject of a ALS Ice Bucket Challenge twice now (8/10/14 & 08/17/14) and have been honored to take that heavily laced bucket of ice chips and some water and dumped it over my Rays capped noggin. I completed my first challenge after being called out by a former Colts teammate on August 10th and completed my second tour of icy goodness on Sunday, August 17th after a challenge was issued to former Baylor football players. I also donated $100 each time with the second donation being presented in the name of my daughter Alex Hougham.
All I can tell you is thank goodness it is 90+ degree in St. Petersburg, Fl right now so the water not only cooled me down, but kept my feet and shorts cool for an hour or two afterwards as I did not bring spare clothes (Hint: remember spare clothes, at least flip flops).
I mean I have heard of some wild challenges already like the one completed by Boston Bruins stars Brad Marchand and Torey Krug who willingly dropped frozen ice (not from Boston Garden) on themselves and then promptly issued their own set of challenges to their intended water-logged friends.
So friends, family and old arch-enemies be aware, for soon I might be calling you out to also partake in the chilling but totally satisfying adventure of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Now if only my Nike’s would dry out…
We all knew this moment was coming. When the Tampa Bay Rays would begin a process of removing David Price themed items. It is sad, but unfortunately a way of life that people come and go sometimes in our baseball lives and the Rays have begun auctioning off some Price memorabilia with a larger more tuned-in auction process beginning on August 11,2014 at 1:30 pm EST and running until August 18,2014 at 1:00 pm EST.
Funny side note, as of the time I am producing this post, the Rays somehow decided to use the abbreviation EDT to designate Eastern Daylight Time instead of the traditional EST that symbolizes the more known Eastern Standard Time we older folks all learned in school. Both are correct, it is just odd to see it posted in that manner (I suspect it might be changed by Monday).
Several premier items will be featured in the almost 7-day Price auction including a unworn one–of-a-kind David Price away retro 80’s jersey. This is the same mostly yellow-hued style uniform top the Rays will sport this weekend during the Chicago Cub series. This item is a must have for the Price collectors out there and will begin the bidding at $300. on August 11th.
Another one-of-a-kind and historically unique auction offerings is the game-used home jersey from Price’s last start as a Ray that also features the “ZIM” patch on the right sleeve. Bidding for this one-of-a-kind prize will begin at $400.
The team will also be offering such items as Price’s old Rays Clubhouse locker chair back. Bidding for this personal Price heirloom will begin at $40.
The Rays will also be auctioning off 1 each of the over-sized Price and Astro head cutouts that became iconic collection pieces that became the mainstays of the now defunct District K-9 outings that always corresponded with Price’s game day starts.
I mean who in their right mind would not want an oversized Price face and Astro’s adorable mug both complete with an MLB authentication. Bidding will begin for the cutouts at $10 and each will have their own separate auction listing featuring these special close-out of Price themed memorabilia items.
Also on the auction block of Price eradication items will be the awesome 27 foot by 2 foot “Welcome to Tropicana Field” featuring Price on the left corner and Evan Longoria on the right side of the huge banner. Bidding for this grand item will start at $20. I suspect someone with a sports bar or possibly an over-sized great/trophy room might jump all over this item.
Price’s 6 foot by 8 foot Player Profile Banner will begin its bidding at $100. Or possibly you would enjoy having Price’s team-issued blue Rays batting helmet which will begin this items bidding frenzy at $150.
Also on the auction block will be Game-Used baseballs hit by the likes of Brewer Ryan Braun (reached on an error) or possibly baseballs hit against Price by Red Sox teammates Dustin Pedroia (single) or David Ortiz (single) during a home contest in 2014. Bidding for these baseball will be in separate auction listings and begin at $40.
Possibly you are just one of those many statistic driven Rays souls who would love to possess the game day line-up card from Price’s last start as a Ray. The bidding for this special item will begin at $100.
There are also current auctions going on the Rays auction site providing “BUY NOW” options.
Also being offered are 2 different Price jersey swatch plague for $15 each. One is a Price game day jersey swatch framed plague (auction runs until bought or November 1, 2014) while the other commemorates Price’s 2012 Cy Young Award with a specially themed jersey swatch plague (auction runs until bought or Dec 31, 2014).
All items in this auction will benefit the Rays Baseball Foundation, the official charity of the Tampa Bay Rays. The organization focuses primarily on youth and educational programs within the Tampa Bay region that make a measurable difference in the community.
Please use this link to visit the Rays Auction site and bid on these great pieces of Price memorabilia today.
I know it is sometimes hard to close the book on players as they move from one team to another. Price leaving the Rays did produce a bit of pain for fans of this franchise. But you have to let him go, and quite possibly win some of this great Price memorabilia that you can look at and remember him forever. I know I will be nodding on more than a few of these Price items.
Native Americans believe that nine different spirit animals or totems are connected to us throughout our lives acting as guides to steer us towards events or occurrences that will define our lives. They believe these nine animals are with us for life and even as they all have their purpose, one is the lead animal that will show the way and provide moments of clarity and awareness. We now know that the opossum has to be one of the Oakland Athletic’s nine focal spirit animals. And possibly with this white-faced creature showing itself to the assembled masses last night in the bottom of the 10th inning of a tied contest between the Tampa Bay Rays and the home town A’s, his presence had to be the deciding element to sway the energies last night and provide a victory. It’s the only logical reasoning for the way the bottom of the 10th inning played out for the Tampa Rays last night. For the Opossum spirit animal is a deceiver, a strategist and an animal that uses deception to his advantage now both on and off the baseball diamond. Whatever else could have caused such a rapid and defining chain of events that led to the A’s snapping the Rays road winning streak with this very peculiar stage of events? I mean the Rays had the fiery ex-Athletic, current Rays reliever Grant Balfour growling on the hill, but somehow the elements did not favor the Aussie one tonight as he saw not one, but 2 consecutive hitters get out of the 0-2 hole and find solace upon the base paths. The first Oakland hitter Alberto Callaspo saw 4 pitches before lining out to left for the first out of the inning. The inning started to look a bit uneventful for the A’s. Then all bets seemed to be off as our opossum made his appearance strutting down the outfield wall in left field to his favorite cubbyhole just after Balfour’s first pitch to someone the O-town locals call “Super Sam” ( wonder where they got that name) Fuld. Possibly the opossum occurrence inspired Fuld who was down 0-2 at the moment on 2 straight called strikes. Fuld then found his pitch and deposited it into center field to become the A’s first base runner of the inning. Opossum 1, Rays 0. Then another former Rays, this time a chap named John Jaso swung mightily at 2 straight Balfour offerings as Balfour again had another A’s batter down 0-2 before Jaso, possibly through the vision of the opossum, gained a bit of serenity and somehow secured himself a free pass to First base via a walk. Opossum 2, Rays 0. The during the at bat by Oakland 3B Josh Donaldson we witnessed the usually steady defensive duo of Sean Rodriguez and Kevin Kiermaier somehow let a white sphere drop not in their gloves, but to the green turf down the left field line missing a golden opportunity to garner a much needed out from this A’s and keep them from victory. Wonder if S-Rod or the Outlaw saw a opossum out of the corner of their eye, or possibly seated in the stands? Donaldson’s at bat also produced a double whammy of not only reaching base by another walk by Balfour, but also via a deceived fourth ball that got Rays Manager Joe Maddon all ballistic and led to his eventual ejection from the contest by Home Plate Umpire Quinn Wolcott. Opossum 3, Rays 0. That set up a bases loaded situation with one out for the A’s next batter, Brandon Moss. Unfortunately Moss ended up striking out setting up the possible walk-off scenario for the next hitter, Derek Norris. Balfour quickly got Norris behind in the count 0-2 before Norris followed Fuld’s lead and hit a game-winning single into center field breaking the Rays road winning streak and sending the Aussie muttering to himself about lost opportunities. Sure the victory went to the A’s that night, but somewhere, under the stands I can just see Mr O. Possum doing the “Dougie” knowing he might have helped by diverting just enough attention to deceive a win.
I have to admit, when I first heard some of the Spring comment from then Tampa Bay Rays prospect David Price’s mouth back in 2008 I wonder if he arrogant or just knew something we all somehow could not see at that moment in time.
How wrong was my thought process on that day because Price did not only deliver on his statement way back in 2008, he has backed it up every contest since up until his eventual trade today not a half hour short of the Trade Deadline finish line.
Going to be weird thinking of Price as a Detroit Tiger. He always seemed at ease in the Rays Carolina Blue unis, never seeming to delight in donning the darker Rays home or away jerseys, just bathing as much as possible in the team’s blues and whites.
Price was even on the turf of the old Tilted Cap that is Tropicana Field today throwing on his off-day with fellow Rays hurler Jeremy Hellickson just 200 yards away from the Rays War Room that eventually cast a different end of his 2014 tale.
But so not fret Rays Republic for Price will be back sooner than you think.
Because the Rays and Tigers still have to play a mid-week, 3-game series under the Teflon dome from Tuesday, August 19 to Thursday, August 21. It could be the last chance for any of us in 2014 to see see Price on the AstroTurf, and I think we can almost guarantee Price will be out working the sidelines chatting with old and new friends.
But there could be an additional huge cherry on the top of this series if the Tigers arrange their pitching matchups in a way that Price could take the hill during that 3-game stint and get a righteous standing ovation from the fans he has thrilled ever since his promotion to the “Show” back in September 2008.
From Astro to Zorilla Price has truly been a class act showing leadership, relieved team stress through humor and has ( to myself personally) exceeded every expectation, every social engagement, and certainly been a prime example of the true essence that makes up the “Rays Way” of baseball.
I even shagged a baseball during that day with the old Yankee Stadium logo attached and Price signed it for me without pausing for a second. I still cherish that ball sandwiched between the signed MLB debut balls of Evan Longoria and James Shields
I was also lucky enough to see his hands go skyward after finishing off the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series and sip some of that sweet nectar as he and the team paraded down the First Base line post game.
Was even lucky enough in 2011 as Price wearing that Carolina Blue tartan-themed post season shirt took a swig of bubbly supplied by one of my Bullpen friends.
I was also lucky enough to get to know Price on many occasions on and off the turf at charity events, Season Ticket holder events and just chilling by the Bullpen seats after a bullpen session. Taken numerous images and videos of the daily defacing of his bobble head cartoon image on the Right field wall, and seen him become a well respected and admired figure among his adopted community.
I know there is a lot of “I’s” here, but truly what Price brought to not only me, but the entire Rays Republic is knowing hard work, believing in yourself and your teammates brought historic memories to this franchise and their fan base.
Was simply a pleasure knowing this guy who might have irked me for a moment, but rose to the occasion so many times I lost count. Even though he only pitched once every 5 days, he always took this team on his back doing whatever needed to be done.
He was the Rays biggest cheerleader, their clubhouse voice of reason and a guy who grew into a leadership role for the pitching staff and accepted it with grace, confidence and a hint of calculated indifference.
If there was an All-Star designation for value to his team, Price would have been a 7 time All-Star.
I’m personally looking forward to that mid-August mid-week series with the Tigers. Because I want to find Price on the sidelines, catch his eye and shake his hand and truly thank him for not only the memories, but the role model and man he became while a Ray.
Thank you David…..Truly THANK YOU.
How would you decide if it was your task to determine if your Major League Baseball squad was in “Buyer” or a “Seller” mode?
Would you compile a list of Pros and Cons onto an over-sized white board constantly striking out the illogical and mundane ideas while encircling the plausible and rational and in the end combining them neatly into a realistic orderly outline hoping they have the explosive measures to strike down any additional counterpoints.
Would you air on the surreal side of whimsy and instead flips a coin hoping that this twirling silver-plated marvel can secure you a viable answer, or take you down a long road of regretful actions. Taking the gamblers’ way and letting the bone decide you, your team and your continued careers path.
Or would you rely on the perception of scientific reasoning and radical decision management by resigning to the feasible factions of conducive tinkering of statistics and numerical normality’s to hedge the risks and rewards of anyone or everyone on your roster, including some of your previously off-limits top tier prospects.
Could you conclude without a shadow of a doubt orchestrate the perfect transaction scenario, isolate a primary trade package down to the last detail and complete the action before the last tick of the Trade Deadline clock without regret or second-guessing?
But that is the reality of the next couple of days until the sounding of that last tick of the clock on Thursday, August 31, 2014.
All 30 G.M.’s, Vice-Presidents and even Team ownership groups will have to make public via their voices or their players’ their final decree of being “Buyers” or “Sellers” as we approach the last few months of the season.
This is a time when a team can possibly regain their winning ways, forge into uncharted playoff glory or resort to the reality they do not have the horses to realistically make a final charge for any of the Wild Card or Division title slots.
For this brief moment in time so many will evoke the ever-changing thought processes of a Vegas gambler who decide within moments with instinct, a brush of Lady Luck or blind odds that the direction their team, and quite possibly their selected careers paths will be deemed failure or success by a unhuman 6-sided entity.
Every year some team rolls them bones and gets pieces that accumulate into a winning moments of glory accented by a joyous parade, while others over-pay, over-evaluate and commit career Hari-Kari as their selected seasonal saviors, needed for that last push towards a postseason dream come crumbling down upon themselves when an injury or unprovoked slump finally derails the most honest of intentions.
Some of these soles will have to decide the personnel value of a player or what number of bodies or wealth will be needed to secure their services, even if only for the short-term. The same players these franchise leaders shake hands with, joke with and see on a daily basis will be assigned a monetary stamp that other suitors will see affixed to them as that team’s negotiable first bartering price.
In that instant contact moment each M L B G.M. will have visions of future yearly salaries, arbitration raises and years of control numbers dancing in their heads.
Medical charts will be viewed with fine toothed combs, decision made on-the-fly concerning their compatibility to their present team’s chemistry and if the move has merits beyond just the 2014 final postseason push.
Yep, this is the time of year I’m glad I do not work in one of the 30 M L B offices as daily the pendulum can swing from “buyer” to “seller” with each sway of the arm over the final push of the Trade Deadline.
But then again, there is ample time between now and this Thursday for mistakes to be made, triumphs to be planned and careers to see set aflame.
Who knows what disasters and blockbusters await us over the next few days. How many bottle of the pink stuff and Tum’s will be consumed, and if someone’s cell phone provider’s minutes will be exceeded for the common good of their team.
Only on Friday morning after the final smoke clears will there be prognosticator assessments as to if there are clear winners or losers and if the “Buyers” this year should have really been aware.
Somewhere in the Far East there is a Tampa Bay Rays fan, or at least he is a super fan of the funky and classic dances moves of Rays Mascot coordinator Willis Harris.
Most Rays fans have seen Harris performing during the break when the Rays Grounds crew drag the clay surface and replace the orange-spotted bases during the bottom of the 4th inning during Rays home contests.
You knew the Rays dancing and highly flexible moving and grooving crew member had a following because of the many videos posted to Youtube or mentions in new articles or blog posts over his tenure with the team. But now his side-splits and gyrations have taken to the International stage as his persona has been jacked and become an instant hit or miss depending on your political views or geographic locale.
It seems someone has positioned the mighty mug of North Korean leader Kim Jong- Un upon the shoulder of Harris who dominates the first 38 seconds of the newly released dance track featuring the North Korean leader.
If you were wondering, the musical soundtrack is set to a Chinese pop hit by the Chopstick Brothers, which is pretty toe-tapping. The Korean online new source Chosun Ilbo says the video was the brainchild of a Chinese man surnamed Zhang from Suzhou who reportedly studied at Kyonggi University in South Korea.”
Here’s to hoping that Jung-Un has some sort of comedic bone in his body and can appreciate for a second that someone gave him righteous dance moves and even a great finishing move….but I have a feeling Jung Un is out for almighty revenge against anyone featured in the video, even if they did not send it or let their image be used in such a fashion.
Hopefully Harris will not come back to his Rays 4th floor office any time soon and find a ton of well fermented Kimchi stacked from the carpet to the ceiling tiles and a terse letter from the depot leader stuck to his door with a ceremonial Liaoning bronze dagger.
Whoever did post the video most certainly will be popped into the crosshairs of the infamous North Korean State Security Department in the near future. We know by the translated message on the video it was not sent or made within Tropicana Field, or by any member current or past within the Rays, but Harris will probably be guilty by association since someone brandished his trademark dance moves for all the World to enjoy.
Surely the video will play on every television news program for at least the next 24 hours…or more and Harris will get a bit more great free publicity on his antics during Rays games and hopefully will return to an office free of fermented veggies, Korean symbols and a bronze dagger.
Still, you got to love that the Rays also got some free publicity, few bytes of video antics as to the fun and entertainment you can be assured of at a Rays game.
So for now….Dance Willis, dance like the World is watching, because it is.
A Rays Groundskeeper video Encore featuring Korea’s Psy “Gangnam Style” :