Results tagged ‘ Cal Ripken Jr. ’

Rays Photo Homage to Past Celebrity and Musical Guests

 
 
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It is one of those photo collages that takes your breathe away when you first see it. Basically the magnitude of the talent and faces that have crossed within the confines of Tropicana Field is amazing. Sure we might not have Kate Hudson in our stands every night, but she was here when the New York Yankees touched down within Tampa Bay for a few games. And people like John Cusack and author Stephen King have also been known to try and sneak in a Rays game without a lot of attention.

 
But the photo collage on the concourse wall right behind the Home Plate 102-104 sections of seating in Tropicana Field shows just how much music, motion picture stars and great moments we have endured over the last few seasons. From the moment the Rays concluded their November 2007 unveiling of their new logo and uniforms, to the upcoming Hess Express/Rays Saturday Night Concert Series featuring John Fogerty, the team has shown both talent on the field, as well as on the Concert stage. And the list of artists featured on the wall collage is impressive indeed.

 
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There are currently 28 photo cut and pasted upon this collage section featuring the artists and actors who have made the Rays part of their baseball family. And it all began in November 2007 with the free concert to Rays fans who attended the Rays logo and uniform fashion extravaganza as actor/musician Kevin Costner and his band Modern West brought their own special spin to the festivities. But he was only the beginning. Since that time fellow actors/comedian Paul Rieser ( Mad About You), Chris Rock, Former SNL star/ Impressionist Darrell Hammond, Barry Williams (Greg Brady) last but definitely not least, Bill Murray who we all loved as Carl the Groundskeeper in “Caddyshack” and is a minor league baseball part owner.
 

 
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But there are also local Florida athletes or players who have trained in St. Petersburg in the past who are immortalized on the concourse wall such as former Tampa Bay Buc running back Mike Alstott, Baseball Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr., Ozzie “The Wizard of Oz” Smith and another Oriole great Jim Palmer. The collage also includes NFL Hall of Famer and Tampa Bay Buc legend Lee Roy Selmon , WWE past Champion John Cena and Orlando Magic Center/Power Forward Dwight Howard. Broadcasting and announcing legends both National and Internationally also grace the collage with the addition of ESPN Basketball Guru and 2004 Inductee to the Pepsi Rays Fan Wall of Fame Dick Vitale and the immortal Boxing/Wrestling announcer Michael ” Let’s get ready to Rumble” Buffer.


But also several members of this new display in Tropicana Field either performed the National Anthem or “God Bless America” such as former American Idol David Archuletta, the Backstreet Boys, and Green Day. But most of the rest of the artists posted upon the wall have performed in the Rays popular Saturday Night Concert Series over the last few seasons. Groups such as 3-Doors Down, Pat Benatar, Daughtry, L L Cool J, Flo Rida, Ludacris, and legendary groups the B-52’s and M C Hammer. Who reminded us “When the Devil went out ( of the team name), the Wins came in!”.


 
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Country artists Big & Rich with Cowboy Troy and Trace Adkins also have provided hours of great entertainment to the crowds of Rays fans attending the game, plus who danced in the aisles and landing around Tropicana Field during their music sets. And do not forget there is still some space upon that wall collage that might include this year’s artists, John Fogerty (April 24th), ZZ Top (May 1st), Nelly (May 15th), Hall & Oates (May 29th), the Go-Go’s /Farewell Tour (July 10th), Train (August 14th), Adam Lambert and Orianthi (Sept. 18th), Country Star Dierks Bentley (Sept. 25th) and two other concerts artists not yet announced on June 12th and June 26th.

 
Talent galore has graced both the field and the stages of Tropicana Field in the past, and the future looks even brighter as the Rays thrust again towards the top of the American League East. This photo collage is just a small sampling of the stars and the people within the entertainment field who have either sat within the main bowl of Tropicana Field, or in the Suites and attended Rays games in the past.

 
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The collage is just a great way for the Rays fans to gather and remember and relive these great acts and people as they became members of the Rays lore. So sometimes in the future be sure to wander up the main concourse just to the east of the Rays main elevator system and have your own great flashbacks into these performances or sightings of the great people who also have adorn Rays jerseys and attended games. Some times it is great to look at the past so that we can see just how far we really have traveled since the ultimate changes made in 2007 to the Rays legend, and the way we will remember our moments within Tropicana Field.

 
 
 

Rickey Sprints into Baseball Hall of Fame

 

 
 

 

For the next few days people from all over the country, and maybe the world, including a bevy of sportswriters will be writing about their favorite Rickey Henderson moments either in stories or in his wild collection of memorable quotes.  Henderson along with former Red Sox Jim Rice will be offically inducted today into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Now I will not be there, but you can bet I will as close to a television set as possible during the 2009 Induction Ceremonies to hear the speech that might either shock or amuse baseball for the rest of the year.

 

 

Everyone with in and outside of baseball are curious on how Rickey Henderson will refer to himself in his speech, and if he is going to introduce himself. Well, I actually do not think he will introduce himself, but will he pick a opponent like a catcher, or maybe another famous basestealer to do the honors for him today?

 

 

But even with the selection of Henderson earlier this year, there are a few things that have me still scratching my head about his selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The biggest surprise to me is the fact that he did not garner more than 94.8 percent of the vote. Now I did not think he was going to challenge Tom Seavers 98.8 percent, but thought he might hit the 96 plateau without a hitch. Could my idea of how well recieved he was in the MLB be a bit inflated, or do some of the baseball purist maybe see this as a time to punish him for his ‘third person” theatrics.
 

 
So why did some people not put him on their ballot? Didn’t this guy change the way we look at slap hitters and guys who put the ball down the line for drag bunts and infield hits and didn’t he usher in a new generation of basestealers in the MLB? Come on people, the guy who is the MLB career leader in runs scored and stolen bases by a huge margin is nothing more than a scrub to some BBWAA voters.

 

 

Maybe some of the voices are right, maybe we need to tweak this system a bit and weed out some of the naysayers who look more at off the field actions than on the highlights accomplished on the field. There is a difference in being a purist in your columns and heart, and maybe displaying a flaw like voting against a guy who deserves a spot based on your opinions of his career.

 



 

 
Is there any argument that Henderson  because of his power and  uncany ability to get on base ,could change a games complexity with a  single hit or a walk? Do you think that he might be the model for the induction of speed demons in the lead-off spot and not buried down in the 7,8, or 9 slots in a lineup? And do you think that Henderson might have viewed himself like a cartoon character to actually not be bothered by the critics and naysayers who thought he was a destroyer of the game? People use defensive mechanisms for many things, maybe he was before his time in not letting drama and strife destroy himself or his career.
 

The answer to all three questions is  a huge YES.


Henderson did change a pitchering staff’s mind when he was on base. It brought  into the pitchers’ mind that he could steal a base on any pitch, even a pitch-out. It did not matter if it was a 100 mph Fastball, change-up, curve, it made no difference to Henderson, any pitch was a good pitch to steal a base.  His power made you respect his plate discipline enough to not try and finesse a pitch up there, or you would be getting a fresh ball from the umpire. Henderson went to the plate 10,961 times in his career.

 

 

 


During his career from 1979 to 2003, Henderson had 3,055 hits, which in its own right should be a good consideration for the Hall of Fame. He hit 510 doubles and  66 triples. I think those numbers might have been a lot higher if he did not get more of a thrill in running and stealing bases on any pitcher that took the mound. I could see him pull up at first or second base just so he could play that cat and mouse game with a pitcher then steal the base on him and give him that grin from the bag. He might be one of the first base runners to actually try to use mind games to disturb a pitcher on the mound.

 
In his career he had 4,588 total bases.  He stole a grand total of 1,406 bases, and only got caught 335 times during his career. That seems like a low mark to be caught stealing, but Henderson made the act of stealing a base into an art form during his career. Think of the totals he would have left with if he had been active in the MLB, even at his advanced age. 
 

 

 

 


From 2000 on, he only appeared in over 100 games with one club. While he was with the San Diego Padres in 2000, he appeared in 123 and still stole 25 bases. But during his last year in the MLB, Henderson was mostly a bench player for the Los Angeles Dodgers and only made it into the game 30 times during the season. He did however steal 3 bases that year in his limited role.  But have to remember, not just did he have a few gray hairs by then, but defenses were setting up for him knowing he was in the game to get into scoring position and maybe score the winning run for his team.

 


 

 

I truly feel that the arrogance of stealing a base, along with is knack for sliding around the tags is the reason players like current Tampa Bay Rays speed demons Carl Crawford owe their basestealing careers to Henderson. Before Henderson made it an offensive weapon to truly steal a base with gusto, Lou Brock was the only other base stealer to command as much attention when on base.  But Henderson did something none of the other base stealers ever did, he tried to bait pitchers into balks and mis-throws to the plate based on his ability to steal and to take an edge off the team’s pitching game.

 

Henderson changed the lead-off position. Here was a guy who had 2,190 base on balls during his career, and could bring a new dimension to the game with four pitched balls. Every walk he was ever issued looked more like a doubler to him because he could steal a base and get into scoring position at any moment. Henderson also could hit the long ball. Lost in a lot of the translation into his base stealing is the fact he did hit 297 home runs in his career, mostly from the lead-off position. So as you can see, New York Met’s shortstop, Jose Reyes also owes a big round of applause to Henderson in making it fashionable to get dirty stealing bases in the MLB.




 

 

Now for why Henderson always talked about himself in the third-person. Some people have commented that it was a defense mechanism devised by someone for Henderson because it made his character on the field different than the man in the clubhouse after the game. It left him into a secondary world to rant, rave and just be “Rickey” while he wore the team’s colors. This might or might not be true, but if you really think about the image of being able to put your work suit on and take the punishments and the abuse while you are working, then shed those insults, opinions and wild lies when you toss them in the clothes hamper to be washed, it make a bit of sense.
 


Who among us would not relish a secondary personality or a persona that we could use at work and toss aside and forget the troubles and strife in a moments notice. This might not be the true reason for his third-person antics, but it does make good conversation for the next few months. But the antics and the stories concerning Henderson are many and both base in legend and in folly. 
 


But one of the best ones I ever heard was from a Oakland area sports story that told the story about the Oakland A’s front office finding a financial mistake in their bookkeeping. It was  showing that the team had a million dollars more than it was suppose to have in it’s coffers. After a series of check and double checks, it was concluded that they had only one conclusion to this error. A member of the Athletics management went down into the locker room and found Henderson and asked what he did with the $ 1 million dollar check the team had issued to him. Henderson remarked that he put the check under glass. Never cashed it, never even thought of the down the road consequences of the actions, just did what “Rickey” would do. 

 


 

 

I have a story of my own about Henderson based in 1984. I was a newly drafted snot nosed kid who came out to see a friend, Scott Hemond who was catching for the Oakland A’s at the time. I was in the locker room after a game and saw Henderson right before he left for the night. He was dressed to the nines, and I strolled up and introduced myself as a friend of Hemond’s and just wanted to tell him what a joy it was to watch him play baseball. 
 


He remarked how ” Rickey was happy he liked his personal style of play, but that Rickey did not like  to associate with friends of catchers’.”  It took me a second before I started to laugh and then remarked that was why I like “Ricky”, he was wihtout a doubt not predictable or even in the same league as the rest of us.   I saw him a few hours later when we went out to dinner, and Henderson came over and finally shook my hand and sat for a few moments talking to Hemond and some other players’ at the table. 
 


He finally got up and remarked to me, ” I hear you are fast?” I told him I could hold my own between the hash marks and on a  440 yard track. And then Henderson remarked,  ” Guess you never tried to push the bases around.” I only remarked that I played baseball from about 6 years old to college, but was never a demon on the base paths like him. Henderson in perfect “Rickey” form just muttered, ” There is only one Rickey, and he is leaving the building.”  I let out a huge belly laugh and pointed to him acknowledging his comment.

 


 


He was right, there is only one “Rickey.” No matter if you loved the way he played, or hated him for the flamboyant personality. The ability of this guy to get into a team’s head mentally made for a really exclusive career.  Thank goodness he is not the only one getting inducted on that Summer day. After his speech we will all need time to collect ourselves and get serious again. I do not know who will introduce him at the podium, but maybe he should research his stolen bases and find the pitcher he stole the most bases off of in his career.
 


The moment that guy steps to the mic, I will be glued to the television set watching him. Not since Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken Jr gave their speeches when inducted have I waited for such a moment to happen. Those two men gave memorable speeches for different reasons. But you know that the world, and the entire baseball community are awaiting the final appearance of “Rickey” in all his glory and gruff. It will be an historical event that you do not want to miss.  Got to remember to TIVO that introduction.


Ken Griffey Junior Adds a New Role to his Career……. Diplomat

 

 

 


If there is one player I wish we could have found space and money for him in Tampa Bay for 2009, it has to be the guy who will go into the Hall of Fame having played for my second favorite MLB squad. With the  Tampa Bay Rays recent signing of  former Phillie Pat Burrell, it ends that secret hidden deep in my heart to see Ken Griffey Junior play and succeed in a Rays uniform. If you really consider what this guy has done in such a long and productive carrer, he is a one of those guys who I believe will be a  sure thing first ballot Hall of Famer, without a question.  I was justing looking forward to watching that swing 81 games a year at the Trop., but I will just have to buy the MLB Package and watch him play maybe in my second city, Seattle again in 2009.

 


From the days at Moeller High School in Cincinnati, where he was a twice voted the best baseball player of the year, to at 19, being the youngest player in the major leagues. The guy has always been at the top of his profession. And to even imagine that he had the chance to do it side by side with his dad is beyond words. Now that is something that I find truly amazing to me. I know I would have loved to play baseball or even box against my dad, or his uncle as a kid growing up, and  would have really learned how it was to play the Philly type of street/ parking lot football and baseball. But Griffey Jr. got to do it along side an All Star dad, while playing for the team that made his dad a star, the Cincinnati Reds is truly amazing to me.

 

 


He is one of the first player to ever be on a major league roster at the same time as his father and playing in the MLB. And if that was not a huge event, he also got to finally play along side his dad after his trade from the Mariners to the Cincinnati Reds. Both Father and son did appear in several lineups that season. And his  outward enjoyment of the game of baseball is clear to see by anyone watching him before, during and after the games. For the art of baseball with all of it’s simple parts and complicated segments never seemed to get him down or stress him out at all. He has always been that care free and smiling figure on the sidelines signing autographs or posing for photos with the fans. He respects the game and pay homage to those before him for letting him have the honor of playing this great game.

 


He is the essence of what you want your teams’ professional baseball player to be, and what you might want you own kids to become someday. He might go out with the boys’ to nightclubs and dinner while on road trips, but he also has been clean and clear to others that he is happily married and loves his lifestyle. The Daily pressures and expectations might take a toll on him, but  doesn’t show the effects or even the worry because when he hits that field for Batting Practice, he tries to convey a sense  of fun and pranks, almost child-like play, and  does not take anything serious around the ball field before the first pitch of the game.  How can you not like a guy with that kind of idealistic joy.  And how can he not be on your list of people in baseball to admire and respect.

 


And people tend to forget he was the youngest player to ever hit the 350 home run mark. He also still hold one of the best  career batting average marks ever in All Star play by hitting over .571 in the mid summer classic. And if that was not enough, the guy also won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves as a center fielder in the American League. He also hit a homer in 8 straight games once during his career, and  has hit a home run in every ball park in the American League, and still will be in uniform to maybe hit one in 2009 in the new Yankee Stadium. Depending on what team finally signs him in 2009, he might still also have a chance to hit a home run in the New York Mets new dig, Citi Park this coming season. If he does sign with the Mariners, he will not get a chance in Inter-league play to go beyond the Mississippi River in 2009. But if he did resign with the Chicago White Sox, he as an option of going back to Cincy during the Inter-league series form June 19-21, 2009.

 


But Griffey Jr. is entering a new phase in his playing career. Ever since 1995, when he broke his wrist while with the Mariners, small injuries and mishaps have taken him down a road he hates to admit might have derailed a lot of his career. Simple injuries have cost this guy a chance at maybe beating Barry Bond’s home run record. He was for years the heir apparent to the crown before his string of injuries cost him at bats and chances at homers over the years. In 2008, an errant foot locker left out in the area near his locker caused him to suffer a knee injury that plagued him the entire season. This off season he has taken measures to correct the injury and should be ready by the Feb. reporting date to again pratice and regain strength in the knee.

 


He is about to enter a second career of sorts for a few months in 2009, maybe setting himself up a bit with a life after baseball motivation.  I could see him maybe in a political role somewhere down the line, but did not think it would go hand in hand with his baseball career. Well seriously folks, for a few years there he could have ran for mayor of Tacoma or Seattle and won by a landslide vote. But recently, United States Secretary of the State Condoleeza Rice named Griffey as a Public Diplomacy Envoy. In accepting the honor, Griffey Jr. is challenged with a new goals and set of parameters. He is entrusted with the act of spreading the values of the United States by helping to spark interest  in America and  in our culture. Griifey also will share this honor with former figure skater Michelle Kwan and  former television star, Fran Drescher, better known for her role and voice as ” The Nanny.”



Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., who was appointed in 2007 to the same post will accompany the newly appointed envoys when they begin their adventures in January with a trip to Panama Since Griffey Jr. has played both on the U S Olympic and World Baseball Classic teams for the United States, he seemed like the logical and most visual player to ever be considered for the post.  ” Public diplomacy must be a dialogue” Rice said recently after a meeting with Griffey Jr.  “This dialogue must extend to every citizen in every country, especially to the young people.”  Because of his still boy-ish looks Griffey Jr. will convey a sense of All American values and be a great example of the type of person an American youth should use as an example for life. Griffey Jr. is excited about the position and is looking forward to his missions for his country.

 


Well-known athletes and celebrities, who exemplify the best in their sports and professions, and as a individual citizens, are appointed by the Secretary of the State to be American Public Diplomacy Envoys.  This special envoy not only reaches out to youth though sports and communications, but promotes the best aspects of American culture and democratic principles. So our latest diplomatic weapon to show people the values and great traits of our country has 611 home runs and has just reached 39 years of age. Griffey Jr is only the 3rd athlete to ever hold this position with the U S government.

 


He also got an honor a lot of people never knew about unless you lived on the west coast of America. In 1989, Ken Griffey Junior got to taste a chocolate candy bar named after him, and it sold over 1 million bars before they ceased production of the bar. Just another great fact about this very like-able baseball player. He has had countless  video games produced and released with his likeness and name upon the packaging. Who can forget the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 games with his name on them that we all played for hours in our family room around the country.


 

 


So what does the future hold for the great Griffey Jr in 2009?  You would think that during the World Baseball classic he would be doing the tours along the sites to promote and entertain the ideals of this great country, while maybe serving in some role for the United States team. But nothing is guaranteed for him in 2009 with the W.B.C. But what might be of concern now is where will he be reporting to after the classic is over in 2009? In a recent article online, it was stated that Tiger’s center fielder Curtis Granderson called Griffey Jr about his time in the 2006 WBC and asked his advice if he should play for the team.  It is not known what Griffey said to Granderson, but the player accepted a invitation to play for the U S team today, and he might be one of  the heir apparents to Griffey’s center field spot on the squad.

 


Now that the Tampa Bay Rays have signed Burrell, it seems that he will not be near home in 2009, unless the Rays can find a way to bring him on board at a reduced price, or maybe shave off some payroll in other areas of the team. Now personally, I would have been honored if the guy had chosen my Rays as his team for 2009. I think the guy is all class, and I got to meet him briefly before the ALDS becuase of an old friend who is playing for the Chicago White Sox. I found him refreshing and totally accessible, and he signed a ball for me without me even asking him for an autograph. We chatted a few minutes before he had to get into the locker room, but it  will remain as one of my best baseball moments. It will sit right along side of photo memory of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris  both holding me for a picture at Al Lang Field when I was young ( 1961 ).



No, the likely destination for Griffey Jr. might, and should be the place where it all began for him. He should be allowed to return to Seattle and help the Mariners during their rebuilding years and to finally play his last game in the stadium that he helped get built in the Emerald City. He has had that town in his mind ever since they drafted him in the First Round in 1987. He finally made it to the big leagues in 1989, and has not looked back since then. He was a part of the Mariners first post season berth, and still has a soft spot for the team’s ownership and the town in general.

 

 

I know I would love it if he was still playing in 2015 ( doubtfully, but I can dream) when I retire to Seattle to see this great player stride to the plate in his last at bat, in that last home game. I know it will be an end of a era of sorts not only in Seattle, but also in baseball. We might never see another player like Ken Griffey Jr. in our lifetime. There are a lot of ballplayers I grew up with that I see at Legends games and charity events throughout Florida during Spring Training, but the games I alsways have looked forward to were the contests against the Reds and the Rays to watch Griffey Jr. just hit the ball during B P . His troke is so pure and seems without effort at times. It is a wonder to just stare at the bat and watch it go through the zone to make contact with the ball.


 

 


Just as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig mesmerized and produced a baseball love affair  for my dad and millions of other fans who never even saw them play some 80 years ago, Griffey Jr. will be one of the true baseball icons we remember when we are sitting on the porch remembering the greatness about baseball in our old age. And you know the one thing I will remember most about this great guy…………..that boyish smile that starts at BP, and grows until the last out of the game. I have never, ever seen him get angry or even get ejected from a ball game, even though it  might have happened a few times in his career. 



Griffey Jr. deserves to be a first ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame after his career.  I think the guy has a few more productive years in him before he might even think about hanging up his Nike spikes and spending the rest of his life in Orlando, Florida with his wife and kids. But, you never know with baseball. In all probability he will be signed before Spring Training and report as usual to begin another great year on the diamond. And to see him having fun in the sport that has given him and us so much to always remember.


 

 

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