Archive for the ‘ Rays ’ Category

My First Encounter With a Humble Legend

 

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Renegade Note: Everyone has their own Don Zimmer moments within or outside the game. The following is my first encounter with the beloved baseball soul who held the game close to his heart and embraced it until the end. We will miss you Zim.

It was late January of ’72 when I met Zimmer as he and his wife Soot for the first time as they were out and about the town from their then home situated on the finger-shaped islands of Treasure Island.

I didn’t know the first time he drove into the station he was even a ballplayer. People in that time either dressed up or wore cotton shirts and pants more than the T’s and jeans fashionable today. And M L B merchandised clothing seemed more reserved for the diamond than plastered across your body as every day clothes when you traveled.

I was around 11 years old when I first met Don Zimmer. I always idolized my Dad and worked a lot of after school times and weekends at our Union 76 gas station (Wittig’s Motor Pool) on a popular crossroads towards the beaches here in St. Petersburg, Fl.

Back then every 6 pump demanded Full Service attention. That meant as a young kid I would wash windshields, check air pressure in tires and put the regular or premium gasoline nozzle into that car’s tank. I loved doing my duties in a scaled down shirt emblazoned with AAA patches, the orange Union 76 globe patch and the name “Cliff” sewn in above my breast pocket.

As I was under the hood checking the brake fluid, wiping down the oil dipstick and checking for corrosion buildup on the battery cables. I noticed Zimmer’s eyes peering at me through the small space between the hood and the windshield section of the car.  He was laughing and seemed to get a kick out of this young kid going gangbusters servicing his beautiful automobile.

After I heard the click of the gas nozzle and finished filling the car’s gas tank. I then approached and told Zimmer the amount and awaited the payment for the gas.

He asked me if we, (the station) every got large used tire tubes he could use as an inexpensive but fun float for when his family headed out to the Gulf of Mexico. I assured him I could help him for honest price. I saw that most of them were not very large in size and remembered I had a huge truck tube outside by the alignment rack I used as a baseball aid.

Zimmer watched as I went through the moves of making sure the tube was filled, had no leaks then pronounced without hesitation, “I can sell this fine tube to you for .75 cents”. Now do not forget, a gallon of regular gas at that time cost between 39-45 cents by itself, so for the price of about 2 gallons of fine gas, he could have hours of enjoyment stretched out on that huge truck tube. 

I finished the exchange and Zimmer presented the money to my Dad for the gas and the tube and Zimmer asked why there were white lines on the inside circle of the tube. My Dad explained it was my “throwing tube” to practice my aim and accuracy as I played Third Base and sometimes Shortstop for my Little League team.

Zimmer just looked at me and asked if I was good. He looked at my Dad then me and I told him I wanted to be the next Brooks Robinson and Zimmer smiled telling me that “Brooks was a great ballplayer to watch and copy parts of his defensive style”.

As we opened the trunk to put in the tube I saw a few gloves, a stack of bats and a bag of worn and clay stained baseballs.  Zimmer quickly said he also loved the game of baseball and worked out with his young son when he had the time. At no time did he pump out his chest or proclaim he was an ex-MLB player.

At that moment he seemed to me to be just an average guy who also loved baseball and seemed to be passing on his love for the game to his own son. After Zimmer had left the station headed back west towards Treasure Island, my Dad told me who he was, and that he was a former M L B player who had played for teams like Brooklyn, Chicago, New York and the Senators.

I was upset I had wasted an opportunity to chat or get a few pointers from a big league infielder, but knew he was also a loyal customer and would be back.

He even came in for fuel before he headed off to San Diego that spring to begin his Managerial career with the San Diego Padres that spring.

I always felt at ease around Zimmer, never got the “better than me” vibe or saw any irritation from him when I asked questions or wanted advice. That is what initially got me to follow his career and take every moment possible to talk with him when I became the Rays Pepsi rep and had a little extra access around Tropicana Field or the Rays Spring complex.

Every time I have met Zimmer since that day in 1972 I start off with asking him if he wanted “Regular or Premium today”. It always takes a moment, but he always chuckles and asked how I was doing while extending his hand for a firm shake.

I will miss Zimmer as much for his humanity as his storytelling and bits of wisdom bestowed upon another generation.

There has never been anyone like him around the game of baseball before, and there truly will not be another beloved soul like Zim to ever grace the game again.

With the Loss of Zim, A True Cornerstone of the Game is Gone

 

 

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I always hoped that if someone could live forever, it would be baseball icon Don Zimmer.

zinmmmmmmmmmmmmmSo as I was advised that the Rays Senior Advisor had passed away in his sleep tonight at only 83, I feel a bit empty inside right now.  Baseball has lost a true legend tonight. I truly believe that if I pulled a dictionary off my shelf and looked up the word “Legend” What do you get the guy who has witnessed over 66 years of baseball in his 83 years upon this great planet?

I can truly say without hesitation that when I have in past talked or shaken hands with Zimmer I was in the company of  baseball royalty. And to think of how many thousands of fans, generations of ball players, celebrities and political dignitaries have also gotten that honor boggles the mind.

This past January 17th, Zim celebrated his 83rd birthday and even as that evil viper age had begun to take some of his physical tools, his mind was always an awaiting steel trap. I mean who else in M L B history has had a bear made of his likeness…and been a Rays cherished keepsake twice!

sdfghjkl,mWe all know Zimmer made the Pinellas county area his home for most of his baseball life and was a citizen of the beach community of Treasure Island as far back as when they had a drawbridge and toll booths,  back when the old Jolly Roger figurine stood mighty along the hotels/motels on Gulf Blvd., and the streetcars made their route reversals at Park Street and Central Avenue before cruising on back down Central towards the then Million Dollar Pier. 

Zimmer  in his lifetime got to see the color barrier not only broken, but smashed to bit and witnessed firsthand the rugged path of teammate Jackie Robinson. From that historic moment Zimmer also got an upfront seat to a players strike, seeing Hank Aaron pass another legend and see not one but many expansion club be awarded and begin play within the game.  

Zimmer was as much a Florida “native” and local institution to the Rays Republic as the Don Cesar Hotel, or even the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Of all the people who have been associated with this Rays franchise since its infancy, he reigns supreme with the highest obtainable levels of respect, dignity and honor from not only players, umpires and visiting teams, but the legions of baseball fans from sea to shining sea. 

'I’ve lite a candle tonight for Zim on a on-deck circle in front of my baseball collection to show my sincere want to honor a man who’s love of the game transcended uniforms, rivalries and whose lifetime love and devotion to this fine game shall never be forgotten.

If there truly is a “Field of Dreams” in heaven for I know Zim will be the first to take the field and start the chatter.  And I hope if such a place truly exists Zimmer gets a standing ovation by the players, fans and anyone within eyesight of the angelic field for if anyone ever deserved to play and witness the game for eternity, it is Popeye.

Personally, I want to thank you Zim. For the short moments, interesting chats and just being you…. a true gentleman of the clay and grass. 

 

Foley Displays the Ultimate Sign of Respect

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I have had a mountain of respect for Tampa Bay Rays Third Base Coach Tom Foley over the years. He is a funny guy who loves his craft, is eager to teach and mentor young players and swings a mean golf club.

Evan+Longoria+Boston+Red+Sox+v+Tampa+Bay+Rays+znZ91QS5QxXlBut when he recent came out to his usual spot manning an extra “6″ on his jersey ( Foley normally wear just a lone “6″ ) and emblazoned with the name “Zimmer” on his shoulders, that sealed him permanently among my all-time favorite list of M L B personalities.  

The moment I realized it was emotional for me with my memories of Zim, and amplified this team’s love, admiration and want for the Rays Senior Advisor to recouporate and return to his usual spot on the field during the Rays Batting Practice sessions before games .  

“I’m going to wear it until they (M L B ) tell me, ‘Don’t wear it,’ ” Foley said Saturday. “We are 1-0 9 (now 3-0, all Walk-off wins ) with it.”  Personally I’m hoping M L B let’s Foley wear it as long as Zimmer is recovering and away from the field.

With Foley being “Zimmer for a day”, the action personally pushed the level of admiration and respect I had for him to an astronomical level. It was the ultimate homage by one of the senior members of the Rays franchise displaying his own kinship and affection for the Rays iconic Senior Advisor.  The Zen that is Zim is such a vital piece of this team’s chemistry and spirit. 

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay RaysFoley’s want to pay homage in this way also provides an exclamation point to just how important he also is to the overall fabric of this Rays franchise.

He is the longest tenured Coach in Rays history. Foley first stepped into the Rays Third Base Coaching box back on October 25, 2001 and has survived the turmoil and change of 3 different Rays Managers from Hal McRae, Lou Pinella and Joe Maddon.

That a magical 13 years giving signals and signs to hundreds of Rays players who have passed him during that time. Only St Louis Cardinals Third Base Coach Jose Oquendo, who has manned the same spot for 14 years has patrolled the box longer.

dt.common.streams.StreamServerHow important is Foley to the Rays game plan?  Former Rays Coaches’ Greg Riddoch (1998-1999), Billy Hatcher (2000-2001) and current NY Mets Manager Terry Collins (2001). All have manned that same strategic spot for the Rays, but only Foley has stood there since.

Only 3 other members of the Rays organization’s uniformed corps have pulled on a Rays tunic longer. Field Coordinator and Durham Bulls iconic Manager Bill Evers, current Bulls Manager Charlie Montoyo and long-time Hitting Coordinator Steve Livesey.

Coming into the 2014 season Foley had done his patterned windmill signal and watched 76% of the Rays franchise’s runs cross Home Plate. I do not think there are many if any other Coaches’ in the entire history of M L B baseball besides possibly Oquendo who could boast such an achievement.

I was proud and exhilarated watching Foley’s game day homage to Zimmer. It is not often we see one Rays icon pay homage to another eternal Rays icon.  My one hope is that sometime in the future, whoever takes over that sacred Rays Third Base spot after Foley puts away his spikes will someday display the same honor and be “Foley for a day”..

Remembrance of the Rays Sail Stadium…5 Years Later

 

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Has it really been 5 years?

My how the time and seasons have flown by since the final nail was driven into the coffin that was supposed to be the Tampa Bay Rays Waterfront stadium.  It was May 22, 2009 when the Rays wishes of bay side baseball took its last breathes on Beach Drive in St. Petersburg, Florida

lang1The stadium was supposed to be the new glistening gem on the ‘Burg side of the estuary known as Tampa Bay. Where crisp and salty afternoon sea breezes and occasional showers were to bring outdoor baseball back to the region M L B style. The prototypical sail was to bellow high above the playing field as a new regional Tampa Bay iconic symbol where no balls would ever hide again, and those bloody catwalks would be forever confined to the Rays Wives annual fashion show.

May 23, 2009 was the date the dream officially died. On that date Progress Energy Field or better known as Al Lang won a reprieve from demolition and becoming a baseball footnote in the area. Most people attribute the stadium’s quick death to a lack of sufficient life support from local community groups who bantered and threatened lawsuits, public outcries and general chaos even before the stadium was more than a pipe dream.

SP_278770_BORC_rays_20Most transient residents or non-Florida natives who did not grown up in this region would not know that the city of St. Petersburg in the 1970’s went to great lengths and expense to clean up and beautify this same waterfront corridor between Beach Drive & First Street and the bay. The land not already occupied by buildings such as the Vinoy, St. Petersburg Yacht Club, Al Lang and the former Bayfront Center were victims of the renewal wrecking ball.

5 years ago a group called P.O.W.W. (Protect Our Wallets & Waterfront) did a bit of an Irish jig as they took their victor’s strut around the stadium’s grave. The small but politically tight group basically put a line in the white silky sand and no one from the city or the Rays dared pop a big toe across it.

The Rays also did their own dance by stating that maybe the downtown stadium site might have been a huge oversight or more of a fantasy wish than a real reality for the team. Back then former Rays Sr. VP Michael Kalt stated in a St Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) article: “It’s pretty clear people did not want a ballpark down there. From what we’re seeing, we’re probably in that camp, too”. 

SailStadiumSpin doctors were not only playing on the radio, they were doing damage control on this Rays PR gaping wound.  The club did a 180 degree turn in their prospective in a 6 month period and to this day has not gone past initial conversations on another potential site either in Pinellas County or beyond.  

Sure well placed volleys and comments have crossed both the Rays and St Pete municipal bows, but no movement beyond the political picture-taking and handshake on another potential Rays stadium. As the days tick away cities like Charlotte, N C, Portland Oregon, Nashville, Tenn., and even a city within the Rays own TV and Radio 100-mile radius market, Orlando grow more confident in their own possible M L B  dream scenario.

sp_288140_ho_raysdesigBut even as 5 years has now passed since the last physical plans have been shown for a potential Rays new home, you know there are a set of plans somewhere within the offices at One Tropicana Drive that fully explores and provides all the nuts, bolts and screw locations for a modern and sleek Florida baseball nirvana aka the  Rays stadium. Problem is the plans might be 5 years old and the Florida humidity or moths might have gotten to it and it will be gone forever.

Oh, and did you know the original design for the Rays current home was suppose to have a sail style design with an open air  vista down left field to center field?

Boxberger Threw 9 Immaculate BB’s

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It was the Immaculate Inning.

I loved this quote. Not that it brought a great illustration to the unique and almost unheard of task of producing 3 strikeouts on 9 pitches, but that the above comment came from Tampa Bay Rays rehabbing starter Alex Cobb, who himself had his own grand moment in his 3-inning simulated game earlier in the day.

How rare was this pitching moment?

download (3)Elias Sports Bureau shows only 1 other occurrence of this same feat ever in the game’s recorded history. The first time happened to another American League East team back on April 16, 2008 when then Toronto reliever Jesse Carlson came to the hill in the 11th inning of that contest with the bases loaded with Texas Rangers in the 11th inning.

Elias has limited historical access to pitch count records from the past, but you can see not only the unique nature of the feat, but that it’s occurrence is as rare as a M L B starter producing a No-No or perfect game. The element just have to be right and the magic seems to unfold.

In a season that has seen Cobb plus fellow hurlers Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson get chomped on by the injury bug, maybe this was a sign from the Baseball Gods all is not lost for the squad. Sometimes that solitary enlightened moment on the field can transcend to the dugout, to the stands and bring faith again to a team who might be pondering their prospects or questioning themselves personally.

If there was one aspect of the Rays game that needed this moment most, it was the Rays reliever corps. This band of brothers down the Rays right field line needed something tremendous to happen. This crew has been through the ringer lately as the Rays starters and offense have sputtered and occasionally gone limp taxing the Bullpen’s arms with sometimes back-to-back-to-back slow walks to the mound in the middle, late or extra innings.

I witnessed more than a few smiles, pumps of a fist and an almost instantaneous uplifting of the bench’s overall spirit when their fellow combatant Boxberger provided his quick and decisive elimination of Baltimore’s 6th inning scoring threat.

download (2)Boxberger, who has not allowed a run during his 9 innings of work during his 3 stints with the Rays this season showed why he sports a 0.00 ERA and has hitters hitting a combined 2 for 28 going into Saturday’s game. Boxberger has only been back up with the Rays since Tuesday might have done more good for the team as a whole with those 9 pitches than any of us truly imagine.

His effort will definitely be a unique Rays trivia question, but its true magic might have meant more to the assembled Rays crew as it brought a bright spot to a squad that not only needing a shining moment, but a occasion of emotional and triumphant clarity among the assembled chaos that has been the Rays current home stand.

Maybe Boxberger had the right initials for the night because it definitely seemed like his pitches were the size of BB’s as he shot down the Orioles hitters Steve Pearce, Jonathan Schoop and Caleb Joseph 1-2-3 and into the record books.

 

 

 

Bell Unfortunately Clanged as a Ray

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On paper the December 2013 trade that brought Heath Bell from the desert to the Gulf coast seemed like a nice addition of Tampa Bay Rays Bullpen depth and a nice sprinkling of leadership. It seemed like a nice added relief corps bonus to insert perfectly between Joel Peralta and Grant Balfour…that is on paper.

download (5)Today the Rays did something that could cost them mega bucks for their thrifty franchise, the designated Bell for assignment and if they cannot find another abode for Bell in 2014, the result could be a major blow to any late season help being brought onto the Rays roster.

Bell had a predetermined salary for 2014 of $ 9 million before even pulling on a Ray’s spring jersey, and even with the magical work of financial warlock aka Rays VP of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman, the team is still on the hook for around $5.5 million.

This move smell incredibly like a past Rays decision to shed a player who not only could not live up to his potential, but did not seem to have enough in the tank to provide a possible upside to keeping him on the 25-man roster. Oh, you mean you do not remember the mid-May slashing of offensively anemic Pat Burrell? How soon we forget a DH who hit only .202 with 2 HR and 13 RBIs over his first 24 games back in 2010.

Bell’s Designation  For Assignment today unfortunately has the same odor to it. A guy who was counted on for stability and consistency somehow fell into the “Pat the Bat” funk-a-delic whirling dervish and found himself sucked out of a promising M L B clubhouse while on a road trip….double whammy.

downloadBell appeared in a now unlucky 13 games for the Rays amassing a 1-1 record and a highly elevated 7.27 ERA for the team. In a completely ironic twist, Bell had been used in both games of the Rays current series with the New York Yankees and was rewarded with his first win since August 27, 2013 when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  

Want to know just how much the Rays were counting on Bell this season for consistency and long relief appearances? 4 times already in 2014 Bell had thrown 40 or more pitches in an appearance and with Cesar Ramos doing some short-term starting assignments, the team was counting heavily on Bell to take the long reliever role and stress off the Rays Bullpen until Ramos could return to his familiar role.

Bell just didn’t seem to provide the needed stability even though he was on  a roll to surpass his previous long-relief record of 7 appearances with 40 or more pitches set back in 2006 when he was with the San Diego Padres. Maybe another vital nail in the coffin of Bell was the pure fact he had allowed at least a run in 7 of his last 9 trips to the mound with an exclamation point last night surrendering 3 runs on 28 pitches in his late inning of work.

Sure Bell did not provide the Yankees initial runs scored that sunk the Rays chances on Saturday night, but his 3 runs given up during his last Rays appearance definitely added enough weight to tip the Rays scales of not seeing him as a viable option for the rest of the season.

images (3)Maybe Bell’s April 24th gig when he gave up at least 5 runs during an outing sent warning bells chiming for the Rays. Possibly the 3-run shot given up to the Twins unknown Aaron Hicks in that appearance might have shown a pure weak spot in Bell’s arsenal that he could again give up double digit HR in consecutive seasons ( he gave up 12 in 2013). Even though during that same game Bell experienced for only the second time in his career entering a contest in the 5th inning.

I think the final ring tolled for Bell in the fact entering Saturday’s game he was tied for second among American League relievers with 21 hits allowed and had right-handers hitting .375 against him compared to his .244 mark set in 2013.  Bell ended up giving up 3 more hits on Saturday for an even 2 dozen (24 over 17.1 innings of work.  Over the last 7 days Bell has appeared 5 times, thrown for 5.1 innings and seem his WHIP explode upwards( 2.09) with a 3 walk/4 K split over that span.    

Some might see my display of Bell’s stats as a bit harsh, but this is a player who has been given the task of protecting leads, admonishing scoring chances and keep his team in a game with his pitching. Bell has not lived up to that task in my opinion for the Rays.

download (2)Ultimately in my eyes, and it seems the Rays, Bell has not only faltered, but slide a bit down the scale as a trusted reliever on this team.

Trust me, I know from talking to some of the Bullpen guys at times that being an M L B reliever is a thankless job at times that requires a Teflon shield and a mind healthy game-to-game case of amnesia, but Bell did not answer the call and so his designation was not unwarranted, but was still alarming until you look deeper into the abyss at his 2014 stats. The Rays will have 10 days to try and trade Bell, waive or release him outright.

Granderson Acted Angelic After Angel Fan’s Touch

 

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Everyone remembers the incident recently where New York Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson went into the corner for a ball and a fan in the stands reached out into the field of play and decided to pat him on the back physically.  

We have no idea what emotions or aggressive countermeasures popped into Granderson’s mind, but he did show some decorum considering he was deep into the corner where bad things can happen with an unplanned aggressive impromptu flick of a glove.

article-2603259-1D0EA07100000578-677_634x397Instantly the phrase “violation of his personal space” flashed through my mind and possibly the first aspects of fight of flight possibly came crashing instantly into Granderson’s subconscious thoughts, but he subdued them to the point of a bevy of unknown verbal punches and chatter instead of a physical confrontation or worse.

I personally feel that Granderson’s snap to the moment attitude and comments to the fans were warranted, and that the fan crossed that invisible boundary that should never be crossed during the course of game. No matter if it is your hometown hero or a visiting titan, promoting physical contact with a player without them first initiating an action has to be a taboo.

Personally, I would never during the course of a game initiate any form of physical contact with a player on the field unless that player showed a first inclination towards seeking such an action. If the player feels that respect and comfort level to “tap gloves with you” or even throw you a baseball, take it as a thoughtful gesture and not an invite to initiate any further reactions unless it seems mutual.

article-2603259-1D0E9C3500000578-976_634x425Even if the player is someone you might have chatted with during batting practice or at team events, his adherence to feeling secure while out on the field is paramount and we as fans need to respect that without recourse or damaging said security. If not, we can be sure another aspect of “security” will intervene possibly to have use leave the ballpark.

We sometimes forget that within a player’s focus within the scope of the game comes a natural aggression, and touching them when it is not warranted can spark an instant emotional as well as physical reaction.

Granderson definitely made the right choice in this interaction by choosing to verbally put the fan in his “place” instead of taking a more aggressive or costly physical action.  If the ball had ventured into the stands in foul territory and both Granderson and the fan were both seeking the ball, it might be a different conversation.

But the action happen well beyond the player’s side of the base lines and in that instant the fan initiating the bad judgment call needs to be reminded of his place in the game. If you truly look at the legal aspect of the action, the fan committed a major fan faux pas or could be classified as a simple assault even if it was meant as a congratulatory “pat on the back”.

Sure it was a spontaneous response by the fan, and a bad one at that, but Granderson kept his cool and his post-game comments were spot on as to the only time a player and fan should fight for a ball or come inarticle-2603259-1D0E9C8500000578-424_634x366to contact during a game.

“Hey, if the ball is coming into the stands, you’re more than welcome to go ahead and grab it and catch it and do whatever you want to,” Granderson said. “Once you come onto the field of play, whether it’s reaching over or actually stepping onto the field, obviously then the rule has been broken.”

Moral of this post: Know your boundaries, especially with regards to players and the field. 

Are You Ready for Some BaseBolly!

 

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It is going to be one colorful, extravagant and interesting game tonight under the tilted cap of Tropicana Field. For tonight the Tampa Bay Rays not only play host to the Minnesota Twins, but they also invite Bollywood as a salute to their own neighbor Tampa being selected as the sight for this year’s International India Film Academy (IIFA), which some affectionately anoint the “Bollywood Oscars”.

It will be a night of choreographed flamboyant dances, or as the television show “The Neighbors” call it, “screw in the light bulb, pet the dog” large scale ballpark participation sequences. Who knows, all game long during the mid-innings we could see sporadic mob style dancing segments pop up all over the ballpark from the Porch, to the TBT Deck, or maybe even the Papa John’s Bullpen Café.

SKI mean we have the dancing segment filled, and also have a real Bollywood leading man (Shahid Kapoor) throwing out the First Pitch and if my friend’s daughter is any judge, hearts will swoon.

I am sure we will witness Rays game day host Rusty Kath dressed festively possibly in a Gandi cap or ornate and fashionable Sherwani. Who knows maybe he will put his Gandi cap into the ring and do some impromptu dance moves (we know Raymond will try).

Hopefully Rusty will not chose to wear a Panache or Lungi because that would make hopping a wall a bit….exposing even for the unflappable Rays game host. Now Raymond could pull off the traditional men’s sarong with grace and ease (I hope).

bolly_300x169I know with the upcoming IIFA awards beginning today and running through April 26th in our neighboring city on the east side of Tampa Bay, it is a perfect time to bring Bollywood into a baseball stadium and the Rays Promo team jumped right into the fray with a ticket offer with a ceremonial one-of-a-kind T-shirt offer just for the special night with seating starting at $25 in the Press Level (maybe Marc Topkin will pass you a hot dog).

Million_Dollar_Arm_posterI am also hoping the Rays, who seem closely aligned with Florida neighbor Walt Disney Productions will also have a few trailer or spot videos of the upcoming Disney baseball film “The Million Dollar Arm” which opens May 16th Nationwide. The biological sports drama is a true story of the Indian pitching prospects Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel who began their M L B dream in another neighboring city, Bradenton, Fl. back in 2008.

Tonight should be a great festive night with colors splashes all over the Trop., great dancing and who knows maybe even a post-game dance on the field via walk-off (it’s been a while). No matter how you slice it, tonight will be a collision of the senses as colors, sounds fill the Trop celebrating Bollywood and who knows, maybe even Todd Kalas or Rays Manager Joe Maddon  will get into the moment do their own little post-game shimmy….I can’t wait to take it all in tonight.

ਪਲੇ ball!

 

I also included a trailer for “The Million Dollar Arm” for those interested in the film:

Parity has a Short-term M L B Shelf Life

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People keep humming in my ear about this obnoxious word “parity” and I personally do not believe in the term’s long-term Major League Baseball season long relevance. I want to not only believe but put a stake in the phrase’s longevity over a 162-game schedule, but for me personally, I feel the phrase “parity” has a short-term shelf life at best in regards to the M L B.

moneyball-1I already can embrace the realism that a budget-conscious teams like Tampa Bay Rays or Kansas City Royals can stand toe-to-toe with an M L B payroll giant and defeat them on a more consistent basis, and in late September deliver a seasonal death blow. I want to believe in a season-long aspect of parity, but right now I see it as a sprinting or short-term quick phrase to denote optimistic wants and feel the phrase within the M L B is currently not built for the seasonal endurance race.

Heck I truly believe at this point in the 2014 war even the Houston Astros can mount a few series wins and shake the cobwebs out of their fans minds to the team being better than their 2013 edition. But is parity really the right phrase to use to denote early season upheaval or divisional shifts when the paint is still not dry on their respective 2014 Opening Day field logos.

If your team is out to a fast start like Washington or Milwaukee there will be a buzz that it is “our year”, and fans will promote the heck out of any chance that the team will solidify and fight off the challenges even as the season only hits its 5-6% completion point.  

But just as quickly parity can change into overconfidence and soon both fans and a team can be swimming in infested waters seeking some sort of a life raft after a few well-placed defeats. There is a lot of ground to cover before champagne is spilled and White House selfies are committed to history.

Maybe it is more the fact that this comforting word called “parity” helps ease the pain of teams face-painting over their underlying rebuilding modes or those squads even at this early stage who are talent-wise just not up to snuff yet to fight off the advancing thundering M L B herd.

Parity actually is meant to subliminally ease our anxiety even at this early stage of the season by enhancing the notion that each of the 30 M L B squads are within a “state or condition of being equal, especially regarding status or pay”.  

jhgfBut the reality is the Dodgers and Yankees have invested northwards of $200 million in payroll for 2014. The truth here is this top-tier twosome handpicked their talents banking not only their wants but dollars that their hired guns and provide their monetary worth through production.

On the other end of the scale the thrifty bottom M L B foursome of Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Miami and Houston cannot feasibly crack the $80 million payroll mark.  Sure they have stockpiled talents in their farm systems but any deviation from their 2014 Mission Statement could result in disastrous countermoves or reversals of their master plans for their talent and franchise.

Seriously, some teams like Detroit have only played 8 games to this point (April 11th) in the season while the Rays, Toronto, L.A. and San Francisco have battled 11 times in this short time period.

So does that make the Rays and Jays early season favorites to blow out the American League East sporting their current identical 6-5 records, or is the reality that the division is still a crap shoot as Baltimore which is currently in last place in the A L East is only 2 games out at 4-6.

That very descriptive word parity has a way of staying in our thoughts and minds right up until the dog days of summer. Then our minds are emphatically snapped back in what is true and we suddenly see that the positive mirage involving our squads during the first few months have vaporized into dust and we are left wondering when the scales of fortune started dipping against us.

Sure we are only 8-11 games into the 2014 M L B campaign, but already some teams are showing unforeseen vulnerabilities and others seem solid as granite. The truth with parity is that it is relevant at this current stage of an M L B season, but as the season progresses and moves through its own changes the divide between the “haves and have not’s” become brutally apparent and suddenly you are faced with a choice…..stay positive, hope for a revival or face the brutal fact your team might be outmatched once again.

I personally feel the parity phase of an M L B season is more based within the April-to-June segment of a season than can be systematically played out currently throughout a 162-game format. Still, this is not a moment for any fan of the 10 teams currently sporting 4 or less victories at this stage in 2014 to sulk or visit the dark side.

imagesAll it takes is a few series win, a few walk-offs, an unexpected whirlwind of fortunate circumstances to again breathe life into the parity persona.

I know there is a better word to emulate than parity for this phase of the season.

Hopefully someone wiser than me can develop and articulate another optimistic phrase for this segment of the season and we can finally put the word parity out of its misery and embrace another word that we can all embrace with ultimate clarity and want.

Personally I think the phrase “parity” is so 2013.

Guest Blogger Haley Hits for the Cycle During an Interview with David Price

HSDP

I have never let someone else take the helm of my blog before, even on a one-time basis, but there is but one Haley Smilow.  So maybe it is time for me to do some “paying it forward” and provide a forum for a budding M L B beat reporter/ interview guru. I know Haley doesn’t need a lot of help as her accolades and accomplishments already at a young age simply blow my mind.

IMG_8561I always try and encourage writers both young and mature to find their own groove and take their time writing what they enjoy, or what might inform or entertain people. To paraphrase a old saying, “If you enjoy what you do, it will never be work”. I have a feeling Haley will never have to work a day in her life, only enjoy what she does with passion and joy.

So please welcome my first ever guest blogger the aspiring journalist Miss Haley as she gives us an inspiring and in-depth interview she did with Tampa Bay Rays  southpaw extraordinaire David Price in one of the that holiest place within Tropicana Field, the Rays dugout:

Do you have a favorite ballpark other than Tropicana and why?  And is there a ballpark where you feel you always play well in? 

DP: I like Target Field.  We usually stay close to the stadium, so we can walk there.  They have great food and I like the self-serve ice cream machine.  I feel like I play well at Fenway.  It is a good park for lefty pitching especially when facing a heavily stacked right handed team.

Do you have any nicknames that teammates call you? 

DP: The Latin guys call me “Precio” Spanish for Price, and Homeright.

Do you have any superstitions or rituals? 

DP: I would say more like routines.  I always wear the same green Tampa Bay shirt and cap to the stadium.  When we are on the road, I take guys out to eat and pay for lunch and cabs.  I feel like its good karma and that will come back to me.

Better Inning? 3 Pitches – 3 Outs or 9 Pitches – 3 Strike Outs? 

DP: Good question!!  I used to be really focused on getting the strike outs, but now I think 3 pitches/3 outs.  First pitch outs are the way to keep the pitch count down and to go deep in games.

Is there a batter you really don’t like to face? 

DP: Yes, Danny Valencia.  Lifetime he is 9 for 12 against me.  No matter what team he’s been on, he always hits me hard.  The last time we played the Orioles he went 2 for 3 with an RBI double, a single and a walk against me.

How did you prepare yourself for games and facing hitters? 

DP: I prepare by trying to execute my pitches.  I like to stick to my style of pitching and my strengths instead of trying to pitch to batter’s weaknesses.

First Round draft pick in 2007, starting pitcher for the 2010 All – Star game, winning the 2012 Cy Young and of course the cover of MLB 2K 13 what are some of your other accomplishments you are proud of? 

DP: I would have to say winning left handed pitcher of the year award in 2010 and Player’s Choice in 2012.  Player’s Choice in my opinion is more important than Cy Young because it is voted on by your peers.  It means a lot that my teammates and opponents think that highly of me and my pitching.

Where does your love of baseball come from? 

DP: My parents.  We always watched baseball together as a family.  I would come home from school, play baseball, eat dinner and then watch a game on TV.  It has been a part of my life always.

If you could go back in time who would you want to play baseball with? 

DP: Would have to say Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente.  I would also love to play with Dwight Gooden he was an incredible pitcher.  I think it would be fun to compete against them.

If I could change one thing about baseball it would be? 

DP: After a batter has two strikes, a foul should be strike three.  It would keep the game moving faster.

If you weren’t playing baseball what could you see yourself doing?  

DP: I would be a teacher and coach.  I love kids.

Favorite baseball movie?  

DP: “Sandlot”.  I have seen it so many times that if I just hear one line, I know its Sandlot.

 5 songs on your I pod that are on repeat?  

DP: Oh man, I just got asked that question the other day and it took me like 20 minutes to come up with three!!  I would have to say Young Jeezy “Hustler’s Ambition” and “Go Hard”, Lindsey Stirling and Coldplay.

What is your favorite thing to cook?

DP:  Spaghetti, it’s hard to mess up.  I don’t make my own sauce I just get the Prego.

Have you ever been Pranked? 

DP: Yes, Sean Rodriguez pranked James Shields and me on M L B Fan Cave.  Sean Rodriguez planned it and we had to do a couple “fake” promos.  For one segment I was supposed to scream in a high pitched voice and jump in Sean’s arms like a girl because of a shark.  They got me to do it like five times before they told me.  That was a good one.

One-thing fans don’t know about you?  

DP: I do not run my dog Astro’s twitter account.

What do you do for fun other then baseball?  

DP: Normal everyday things.  I play with my dog, hang out with my girlfriend Tiffany, and video games.  I like to do many things that kids like to do.  I don’t like to take extreme chances like skydiving or bungee jumping, just like to be as normal as possible.

What wouldn’t you leave your home without?  DP: My cell phone.  It’s how I keep in touch with friends and family.  I also run my twitter account through it.

Do you have any other favorite sports besides Baseball?

DP: I love basketball and golf.  I would like to play professional golf because you get to go to beautiful locals and the weather is always nice.  Not like pitching in 45 degrees in the rain.

What are some of your biggest challenges and how did you over come them?  

DP: Just staying focused and staying positive when you are struggling in a game.  I try to execute my pitches and keep my mentality positive.

What advice would you give to young players?  

DP: Have fun it’s a game.

 

Renegade: That was an awesome and insightful interview Haley! I know we all learned a bit more about the Rays premier southpaw.

I want to thank  Junior Baseball Magazine and Haley Smilow for this fantastic contribution.  If you wish you read more of Haley’s posts please click on this link and it will redirect you to her MLBlogs.com . If you want to be one of the army of Twitter followers, feel free to click here and it will take you to her Twitter feed. 

I truly look forward to Haley’s  future M L B adventures and her budding M L B beat reporter or columnist gig in the future.  Thank you again Haley!

 

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