Results tagged ‘ Chris Westmoreland ’
But it did also had a bit of an eerie feel to the moment as it seems like such a long period since we saw Baldelli roaming the outfields at Tropicana Field. But there he stood this morning just smiling away with great opportunities in front of him and a chance to get healthy and help his former team’s next generation..
But even with a..that smile on his face, and his constantly shaking hands with Rays players who also gathered under that awning to see him and wait out this rain shower, Baldelli seemed to have that energized look on his face where he is totally excited to again be with this franchise, and around the game of baseball this season. I shouted over to Baldelli and he waved and then I asked him what number he planned to wear during Spring Training?
Baldelli just smiled and nodded his head and told me “we will all see soon enough”. A bit bummed, but then again, he has only been here a few hours and maybe Rays Equipment Manager Chris Westmoreland did not have his jersey done yet. I am guessing Baldelli will sport number 55 this Spring, since no one else in Rays Major League camp has that number, and it is twice as lucky as his old number 5 currently sitting on Rays DH Pat Burrell’s back.
But Baldelli was not just standing there waiting for the rain to stop so he could compete again for an outfield slot with the team, or even a part-time Designated Hitter spot, Baldelli accepted a chance today to come back onto the Rays staff as a Special Assistant with the team, and will be assigned to the Rays minor league camp and serve as an instructor during the rest of this year’s Spring Training. He will concentrate his efforts as a roving instructor focusing on base running and outfield play with budding minor league players like Desmond Jennings and 2009 Draftee Todd Glaesmann.
Having someone of Baldelli’s caliber and skills in this year’s minor league camp will be great for a top tier prospect like Jennings so that he has a sounding board with a former top tier prospect who made that quick transition to the Major League level.And the Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman jumped at this great opportunity of having an MLB-caliber player like Baldelli to come into the start of the Rays minor league camp to advise and help mentor the next generation of Rays major league ready players. Plus the ” instructor” situation also helps Baldelli by supplying professional level baseball facilities and medical attention as he rehabs from a unspecified shoulder injury Baldelli endured during his 2009 season when he played sparingly with American League East rival, Boston.
And there were a few Rays fans out in the rain with me today wondering why the Rays were civil and open to bringing Baldelli back into the Rays fold after he played for our “arch enemy” last season. And the answer is really quite simple. This situation helps both parties involved, plus it gives Baldelli a chance to realistically see if he might also be open to taking the same Coaching path of former Rays slugger Jared Sandberg and move into the coaching profession after his playing career.
It also is a perfect “win-win” situation for Baldelli as able to provide certain nuances of the game to the Rays developing players, plus he will be able to rehabilitate his shoulder injury with a Rays medical staff that already knows his past injuries and medical history, and could be beneficial in providing top notch rehabilitation care and treatments while Baldelli also works with the Rays minor leaguers and eventually works out on his own to see if playing again is in his future. But this is also a way for Baldelli to keep his head in the game of baseball and stay mentally ready to play too.
Think about it for a second here, you are a Major League baseball player and you suffered through months of pain and anguish to find yourself unwanted by your 2009 team and a free agent seeking a shot to compete somewhere, but people know of your shoulder woes, and pass you by, or tell you to get healthy and then give them a call. Baldelli is in that middle “no-man’s land” zone right now between playing, or maybe having to make a difficult career choice in the near future to pursue coaching full-time and mentoring future ballplayers, or getting the chance to regain yourself and your baseball career. How could you not see this opportunity as a positive step to see what you could or maybe pursue after your playing days are over, but also still have your options open to continue with the game.
And the Rays have always been open to inviting former Rays players to work with their teams a ample chance to come back into the Rays organization and be a authority figure, or sports mentor to work with other Rays prospects to hone their craft and make them the best they can be in their baseball maturation process. Baldelli is not the first former Rays player to come back to his former club and provide instruction and mentor players. Ex-Ray and current Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs came back to the Rays in 2001 and served one season as their Hitting Coach before leaving the team.
Dave Martinez, who got the first hit in Rays history came back several years ago as an outfield instructor and is now sitting every game besides Rays Manager Joe Maddon as his Rays Bench Coach.And who can forget that 2009 Baseball Hall of Fame nominee Fred McGriff has spent several Rays Spring Trainings working as a Special Advisor to the Rays. Add on that scenario of the consistent growth within the Rays Coaching ranks of Sandberg through the Rays system from his first stint with short-season Princeton to his current post as Manager of the Hudson Valley Renegades for the2010 season.
And Sandberg might just be another budding former Rays player turned manager to some day patrol the benches at the Major League level within a few years. This Rays Front Office has always been open to hiring former players who understand the Rays system, and also adhere to their team’s mantra. And bringing back Baldelli right now just seems perfectly right to me.
Having Baldelli working out with the next generation of Upton’s, Crawford’s and maybe even another Baldelli just shows his passion and his drive for the little things about playing this game at it’s top level. And it is important to note here that Baldelli is not “retired”, but basically weighing his options and between jobs. Baldelli might have to take a step back like ex-Rays catcher Toby Hall did in 2009 when Hall was rehabbing a shoulder injury and get healthy before finally making some difficult decisions on his baseball future. But I personally would not bet against Baldelli not being wearing some team’s uniform at some point this season.
There is presently no talk of Baldelli wearing a Rays jersey besides his current Rays gear on his back while he does his job as a roving instructor. But the Rays and Baldelli both have left that door wide open for a future discussion about his plans. And that in itself is almost a mirror-image to the 2009 Spring Training situation where the Rays brought in rehabbing reliever Jason Isringhausen after his 2008 injuries into Spring Training with an eye to get him healthy, then make some personnel decisions.
Isringhausen eventually got healthy and appeared in a Rays uniform in 2009, but Isringhausen went down with a torn elbow ligament and had to undergo Tommy John’s surgery . Could Baldelli be this season’s “Izzy” and be able to again get back to the Major League level?
Would Baldelli even be open to taking another limited role situation with the Rays similar to his 2008 status with the team, or could there be an eye towards him being a possible in-house alternative/replacement if Rays Designated Hitter Pat Burrell gets injured or off to a weak start in 2009?. All these questions are streaming through my mind, and I know some of you also have those thoughts coursing through your cerebral cortex. But for now, Baldelli is here to heal and help guide and be a source of inspiration and motivation for the next generation of Rays. But that also doesn’t rule out the possibilities of Baldelli not being able to don a MLB jersey at some point in 2010.
And there is no guarantee it would even be the Rays classic blue and white, or even a Rays Blue jersey. B ut having Baldelli here is motivation enough for me to feel better about the future of this team. Some web sites have called him the “Prodigal Son”. To some of us, Baldelli never went away, he just was on “vacation” away from the Rays. But in the end, is this the kind of guy you want on your team? Is this the type of former player you want teaching your young players “The Rays Way”?
And can the Rays prospects learn and mature hearing of Baldelli’s past and develop their own pattern to enrich their game before hitting the Major League level? To all three of these questions, I sound a loud and resounding “Yes”. Hopefully in the near future, Rays fans will see Baldelli standing on the side of the field again both his glove and a black bat in each hand, or maybe it will be Baldelli’s arms swaying and pointing a shift to one of the Rays minor leaguers to put him into a better fielding position based on the hitter tendencies, either way, it is great to see Baldelli again in a Rays uniform. Blue just seems to be his color!
Dr. Devilrays and Mr. RayThe beginning to the 2009 season began another chapter last night as the Tampa Bay Rays evened their road record in 2009 to 5-5 with a wild shootout in O-town. Now in the past, a game like this would not be possible with the dominance the last few years of the Oakland A’s pitching staffs. But this is not the same pitching staff your older brother was salivating over in his Fantasy Draft. It has come on a few seasons of wheeling and dealing as the A’s are going through a self-imposed rebuilding of their staff. But in this game, even the Barry Zito’s or even the Dan Haren’s might have been hard pressed to keep this Rays team under their thumbs.
In their usual Dr. D-Ray and Mr Ray fashion the Rays took control of the game from the onset and did not let up the entire contest. This is the type of game we hoped and prayed for during their 2-5 home stand last week. They did have a few minor base running mishaps, but the overall ability of the offense to take control of a struggling pitcher was a thing to be seen with your eyes. The team did what you are suppose to do when a pitcher is having control and command issues. they sat waiting on their prized pitch and drove it endlessly into the California skies to post their seventh victory of the year.
The fact that Mother Nature was also working in the Rays favor to begin the game was not lost on just the players. Rays Television Commentator Todd Kalas was quick to alert the fans at home to the 31-40 mph winds that were swirling in and around the stadium at game time. This just added to the Rays offense as they went on in the contest. But considering they were facing Oakland rookie Trevor Cahill today, the 21-year old, who was drafted by the A’s in the 2006 Player Draft, got his first look at Tampa Bay in his career. In his fourth start of the year, Cahill might have wished he had missed it after the Rays took an early 1-0 lead after B J Upton scored on a Carl Crawford RBI-double to start the game.
To put the Rays offense emergence into perspective, they put their lead-off man on base in five of the nine innings tonight, and in three of those innings, the lead-off man scored for the Rays. Gabe Gross and Carlos Pena lead-off two of those innings with solo home runs to pace the Rays offense tonight. In all, the Rays hit 4 doubles and 3 homers against the A’s, and only Upton and Pat Burrell did not have hits in the Rays 13-hit explosion. This is the type of Rays confidence that was so familiar with them in 2008. The Rays were hitting the long balls, but also concentrating on extending rallies tonight.
In their first inning, they strung together three straight base runners to put early pressure on Cahill. Then in their 5-run third inning, they got two early base runners before Pena hit a 3-run shot over 388 feet for his first homer of the night. After Burrell hit a fly ball to Mark Ellis for an easy out at second base, they again strung together 5 straight base runners before Crawford hit a sharp fly to Matt holliday in left field for the final out. But by that time they had exposed the young right-hander and paced to a 7-0 lead. In the fifth, the Rays again tired to mount an extended rally, with Akinora Iwamura getting a lead-off single into the gap in right-center field, then Jason Bartlett hitting a ball to Eric Chavez at third base that he beat for an infield single. But Upton hit into a 6-4-3 double play to prematurely take the Rally down.
From that inning on, the Rays only extended one inning to multipule base runners. In the eighth inning, both Burrell and Gabe Gross got walked by A’s reliever Maichael Wuertz, but were stranded on base after a Dioner Navarro fly out to center field ended the inning. At that point it was 8-0, with the Rays in control of the contest. For the night, the Rays got 13 hits, 8 of them off the Oakland starter and also gathered 8 total walks on the night. The Rays did leave 7 runners in scoring position, which is still the Achillie’s heel of this team. If not for the A’s starter getting into early trouble tonight, the Rays only sustained two rallies all night long after Cahill left the game, and both of those were off of reliever Dan Giese, who Oakland got on waivers after the New york Yankees released him.
Ben Margot/ AP
El Presidente Issues a Statement Carlos Pena has been the vocal leader of this Rays team now for several years. He is one of the first people to speak up for the Players Only meeting the other day in Seattle, that lead to a Rays victory, and tonight he let his lumber do the talking. It is great to see a Raya slugger let his bat do the talking in this contest. But Pena has always been someone who will “walk the walk, and talk the talk.” It is one of the reason the Rays took a chance on him several years ago and signed him to a Minor League contract. He did nothing more than surprise and rise this team by hitting the daylights out of the ball and make his love for this young team know.
The Rays made their committment to him by signing him to a multi-year contract, and since that day, he done more and more to take and portray a leadership role on and off the turf for the Rays. Tonight he took two pitches and made his statement in this game. In the third inning, he took a letter high ball and deposited it deep into center field to send the Rays in front 5-0 at the time. Then in the the sixth inning off Giese, he took a 3-1 pitch and drilled it into the first row into right field, about 333 feet from home to provide the last run of the game for the Rays. His two homers tonight puts him into the American League HR catbird seat with one more than Carlos Quentin of the Chicago White Sox.
His 4 RBI’s tonight also puts him at 21 for the year, which also puts him currently 2 RBI’s ahead of Nick Markakis of the Orioles for the American League lead. Pena went 2 for 5 in the game, and moved his average up to .254 tonight. For the Rays to be successful in 2009, they need their big hitter to remain consistent and producing. In their 1
0 loses this season, Pena is a combined 7 for 36, or a .194 average with 13 strikeouts. He has a total of 21 strikeouts so far in 2009, which is good enough for second in the American League. But the Rays seem to feed off his energy, and his success has been key to the team rebounding and rebuilding their oen confidence this season. El Presidente is a leader, and the young Rays seem to play better and with more consitent nature when their leader is setting the example on the field and at the plate.
Ben Margot / AP Kazmir Adjusts Mid-game for Great Start Rays starter Scott Kazmir did not start the game in great fashion he again seemed to be a bit off the mark, but adjusted correctly and posted one of the most impressive night of the year for him. He did not use his fastball to set-up hitters, but used a greatly improving slider and change-up to keep them guessing at the plate. When the game first started, you would not have thought he was going to go 6 innings and thrown only 96 pitches in the game. But coming into this game, he has always been extremely good against the A’s. He was a combined 6-2 against them with a 2.70 ERa in 11 starts.
During tonight’s first two innings, you did not see the dominating Kazmir stuff, but it was showing itself throughout those innings and gaining momentum. Kazmir did not start out the night in impressive fashion as he walked lead-off man Ryan Sweeney with four pitches. He neded up throwing 22 pitches just in that first inning. In the second inning, he surrendered a quick single to Jack cust to lead-off the inning and then walked Kurt Suzuki before taking control of the inning and sending the next 3 hitters down in order to strand both men on base. In that inning he threw 26 pitches. It looked like another early night for Kazmir.
Then in the third inning he again gave up a lead-off walk to Sweeney, his second of the night. At this point, Kazmir has given the lead-off hitter a chance in all three innings. But then he ended up getting Orlando Caberra to hit into a double play to erase Sweeney after a difficult 10-pitch at bat. At this point it seemed that Kazmir regained his command and ended up striking out Nomar Garciaparra to end the inning after 21 pitches. Up to this point, Kazmir had thrown 72 pitches in the contest and was heading for another early night.
But between the innings he discovered his small mechanical error and then took the mound in the fourth inning and went right after the A’s hitters. He only threw 7 pitches in that inning, getting Matt Holliday, Cust and Suzuki in order for his first 1-2-3 inning. In the fifth inning, he again took control and sent the A’s down 1-2-3 for the second inning, but this time threw only 15 pitches. He was beginnig to take full control of the game. In his last inning, the sixth, he again got the A’s down in order 1-2-3 to put an exclamation point on his night. In that inning, he had retired 11 straight hitters and did his last inning on 6 total pitches. For the night he had given up only two hits, and had held the A’s hitless from the second inning on tonight.
Ben Margot / AP
Gross Doesn’t Waste Opportunity Gabe Gross did not get an opportunity in the last few games to contribute anything to the Rays. He had not been in the field since the Rays 4-2 loss to open the series in Seattle at on Tuesday night. and in that contest, he only came on to pinch-hit for Gabe Kapler in the ninth inning and popped out in that appearance. His .130 average was cause for concern among the Rays faithful. People had been calling for Ben Zobrist to get more time since the left-handed Gross was struggling at the plate. But tonight he got a start against the A’s right-hander and did not waste his chances. He not only made a mark at the plate, but made sure the Rays did not forget what he brings to the table as a defensive expert.
In the bottom of the first inning when Holliday hit a hard ball to right field and Sweeney tagged up at third base to try the arm of Gross, he quickly got his feet set before the ball reached him and threw a missile to Dioner Navarro in front of the plate for an easy tag-out and to end the A’s rally and inning. But he did not let the momentum end there. He then was the lad-off hitter in the top of the second inning and blasted a 0-2 pitch into deep center field for his first home run of the year. Gross rode the energy to again in the third innig when he hit a double to the left-center field wall to start another Rays rally after Pena’s three-run shot.
He ended up crossing the plate in that inning to then put the Rays up 6-0 at the time. He again got on base in the fourth inning on a 5-pitch walk to put two men on base for the Rays. He did not get an opportunity to put anymore runs up for the Rays in that inning, but his offensive struggles seemed to be behind him. After a hard hit ball to center field for an out in the sixth inning, he again got on base in the eighth inning after a 5-pitch walk by A’s reliever Michael Wuertz. That was his last time on base for the game, but his 2-3 performance had made his average take a positive turn to end up at .192 for the night.
Some people have commented it seems like I do not like Gross. It is not that at all here. It is the fact I know the team is struggling right now, and when you are in a hole, you go with your best horses. At that time Zobrist was the hot bat, and also deserves some playing time considering his early season successes at the plate and in the field. Both guys have a single outfield assist this year, but Gabe Kapler is leading the Rays with two so far in 2009. I like the way Gross played in 2008. Maybe I got spoiled by his banner year and he is showing his more stable hitting average. No matter what, I think the Rays should ride the hot bats this year in right field. If that means Zobrist and Gross get the bulk of the turns, then so be it.
The first will be held on Sunday, April 26th at the Tradewinds Resort on beautiful St. Petersburg Beach, Florida. The resort is a key spot on the Gulf of Mexico and fans are invited to come out early and enjoy the beach and the resort before the Rays afternoon contest against the Oakland A’s. Your usual Rays host,Rich Herrera will be broadcasting the pre- and post game shows live and on location starting at 3:30 p.m., with the first pitch at 4:05 p.m.
Before and during the game, be sure to stop by and register for your chance to win an autographed baseball, tickets to a future Rays game, TradeWinds merchandise, and much more! The Rays energetic Street Team will also be in attendance, passing out prizes and giveaways. So come on by the TradeWinds Island Resorts, soak up the sun, enjoy the beach, and watch your Rays on Sunday, April 26! The resort is located at: 5600 Gulf Boulevard, and you can get more directions on their website www.tradewindsresort.com.
The second Rays Watch Party will be held in a location that Upper Pinellas County fans know well for their outstanding food and open dining areas. The Rays will again be holding another event at the Clearwater location of Smokey Bones located at 2693 Gulf-toBay Blvd in Clearwater, located in the north section of the Clearwater Mall complex. So if you are a extreme Rays fan like the “Maddon’s Maniacs”, or just a casual Rays fan who loves great BBQ ribs, we invite you to come watch the Rays play the Twins in Minnesota on Monday, April 27, from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill in Clearwater!
Come out and watch the game with fellow Rays fans and enjoy great drink specials. Rays Radio pre game and post game guru Rich Herrera will again be live as the Rays play in the Metrodome. We hope to see you there, and GO RAYS!Saturday Scattered Thoughts **** Former Rays reliever Jason Hammel, who was traded just prior to the beginning of the 2009 season has been moved into the Colorado Rockies rotation. So far in 2009, Hammel has appeared in 3 games for a total of 6.2 innings with an 2.70 ERA and 5 strikeouts on the season.
The Rockies obtained Hammel thinking he could be effective as a starter or a reliever. Starts haven’t been available, so he’s made three relief appearances. All Colorado knows is that if he pitches the way he has in his last two outings, there is a place for him — possibly a prominent one.
**** Rays Commentator Brian Anderson has been a trip so far in the broadcast booth for this west coast road trip. Anderson who also doubles as the Rays Assistant Pitching coach has been a breath of fresh air in the booth in relation to the finer pitching aspects of the game. He has shown awesome insight and also techniques that a pitcher might use that have been missing since former Rays commentator Joe Magrane left for the MLB Network in the off season.
Also a great aditon is the use of his own key phrase he like “cookie” to demonstrate a pitch that is just eaten up by the hitter. I was afraid the Rays commentary might be a bit dry and stale for the first season with Kevin Kennedy. But both Kennedy and Anderson have injected a different viewpoint into the every day workings of this team. Kennedy shows a perspective from the catching side of the game, while anderson is focusing on his expertise……..pitching. The Rays hit a blast with the occasional pairing of Anderson with award winning Dwayne Staats in the booth. I can hardly wait for Todd Kalas to get his turn in the booth and see what magic can happen.
**** I can imagine the grumbling and the grunts from the Rays as they entered the Visitor’s Clubhouse yesterday to no food choices in the clubhouse before the game. I could see Rays Clubhouse Manager Chris Westmoreland on the phone scrambling to get something, even a bag of pretzels into the clubhouse at that moment. But even more entertaining in my mind would be the sight of the Rays getting back on the busses and maybe going ala minor league style to a local restaurant and having Westy and maybe Traveling Secretary Jeff Ziegler tossing bags of food up through the windows to the hungry Rays.
Maybe that was the motivation of the team in last night’s contest. They were hungry in more ways than one prior to the game. But you know that they did finally get some neded calories in their stomaches, but that would have been a sight of them trolling into maybe In-and-Out Burger with 35 chicken sandwiches and healthy wrap meals, with a small prize in the sack for their kids. Ahhhhhhhh, that would have made them cherish their old minor league roots.
Just got the official word from the Rays that the 2009 Fan Fest will be held on Saturday, February 14th from 11 – 6 p.m. This is the same day that the pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Port Charlotte for Spring Training. I am getting the distinct feeling that the team will actually be reporting to Tropicana Field, then be bused or take their personal modes of transportation down to the new Spring Training site later that day.
So here we are within 17 days of seeing our boys of summer again on the signing stages within the field of Tropicana Field. It has been a long off season, but thank goodness it is getting shorter every day. Again we can mingle and chat with fellow Rays fans about the upcoming season, the team’s trades and signings since October 2007, and most of all bask in the glow of the 2008 American League champion Tampa Bay Rays.
As usual, there will be a Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame induction ceremony in which the 12th class of members will be presented their official team jerseys and trophies starting at 12 p.m. that day. I know first-hand the honor and the excitement that comes with getting a nod to be on the Wall of Fame. I was inducted in 2004 along with ESPN personality and Rays Season Ticket holder Dick Vitale. I still have the sign from his seat that day and I will be seeking you out in 2009 to sign it finally.
If you have never been to a Rays Fan Fest, it is a free event for all ages and will feature events and a live silent auction of Rays collectibles. Also, you will be able to take your picture in the Rays home dugout and go on a locker room tour to see how beautiful the Rays home locker rooms are, and get a glimpse into Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s office. Do not forget to look on the window of Rays Clubhouse Manager, Chris Westmoreland’s office for photos and great events featuring our Rays.
There will be events for the kids as usual, like the home run derby event and the batting cages. Also there will be a timed 90 foot run to see how you stack up with your friends running the base paths like the team. But the event that everyone comes out to, is the player signings. At select times, the Rays will gather in four clusters of signing area to meet and greet the fans for 2009. Among the most anticipated signers is former Phillie Pat Burrell, who the Rays signed in the off season. But as usual, you will have players and coaches from both the major and minor league squad here for sign items for you………the fans.
Every year the event seems to get better and better. Also on tap will be giveaways from the Florida Sports Network ( FSN) and local radio stations, including the Rays new flagship station for game broadcasts, 620 WDAE, the Sports Animal. Progress Energy and several other sponsors of the team will also be on hand to also provide information and exciting gifts for selected fans. Behind the baseball diamond will be baseball collections and also the second annual Metro PCS event where you can get an actual Rays player to chat on your phone to someone. There event was so popular last year that the line was so long some people did not get to partake in the event.
And as usual, the Rays Sales teams will out in force to help you with selection of Season Tickets, or oyher ticket packages at the event. If you are thinking of buying tickets, but are not sure, the Rays will again be offering the 20 game vouchers that can be used throughout the season for 20 selected games of your choice. This is a great option for the fan that doesn’t know when he might have time ti attend, but wants to support the team. Multi-colored sheets will be located on seats throughout the stadium for fans to have a gander at the full season or partial season prices for that section. Sales people will be happy to chat with you about any section of the stadium for the upcoming season.
Also on hand on the field will be the 2008 American League trophy won by the team after they defeated the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 to earn the right to play in the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. There has been word that people will be able to take pictures of the trophy, but no confirmation of personal photos or standing with the award.
But as usual, the event is to celebrate a new season and a renewed vigor about our hometown Tampa Bay Rays. I hope you can attend, and I look forward to meeting some of you there to celebrate and chat about the Rays.
In the past, major league teams have always had a third alternate jersey for special occasions or maybe a day game right after a late night contest. It makes the efforts of the clubhouse staff more efficient with the flow of a early game after a extended late night contest, and also provides a nice alternative for hot afternoon games. The Tampa Bay Rays are the third team in the American League East to announce this off season that they will go to the third optional uniform.
Like the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles, who announced earlier in the off season they they too will have a third option available for 2009. Some of the cynical folks around baseball think it is just a ruse to get the fan base to buy another jersey for around $ 229 dollars and further the team’s financial coffers. But as one woman told me when she saw the new dark blue Rays jersey, “It will just help bring out the accents in my eyes better than the white jersey.”
For whatever reason the team and the fans buy the new jersey, the fact still remains that the team did not go the option of including the name “Tampa Bay ” spread across the front of the jersey. Why is it that the team will not have an away or road jersey with the team’s location on it. Is their bond with getting back to baseball traditions extending all the way to not even showing their geographical pride in the area, or just another ploy to not have to change the jersey if a drastic measure comes about a few years down the road.
You hope it is not a ruse by the teams management to hide the fact that the attendance in the Trop. has not been up to snuff for them in their 3-year plan. I am not upset that the St. Petersburg area is not listed anywhere on the jersey, so do not start up that line of misguided comments. The new jersey will be highlighted by the usual Rays logo with its swashbuckling “R” flowing from the chest area of the uniform. A major change will be an enhanced sunburst on the jersey that will be more pronounced and brighter in color to go with the added baby blue piping on the jersey.
Now I like the jersey, and the one I saw also contained the “devilray” patch still on the left sleeve. Thoughts have been circulating over the past year that this old icon of the old teams name and uniforms might be returned to the sea in 2009. The option might still be there for that to happen by the first time the uniforms are used during a May 1st game against division rivals, the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field.
You would think that they team might of had an commemorative patch to be worn in 2009 to celebrate their first American League pennant, but none was on display that day. There is still time for the team to announce such a patch, probably near the end of spring training and closer to the team’s home opener on April 13th when the New York Yankees come to town for 3 games. It is also the night that the team will unveil their first banners in the rafters of Tropicana Field for their 2008 championships. Banners will be displayed for the team’s success in their American League East divisional crown, and in their 2008 American League Championship on that night.
I actually like the jersey because it reminds me of the old green third uniform the Rays had in 2008 before the Rays logo and basic uniform colors changed to a blue and white based home uniform. It is made of the same fabric as that years jerseys and will reflect heat and absorb moisture to help with dehydration and extreme hot weather outdoors during the season. It is also a great item for kids based on the dark color. We all know that kids have a tendency to eat half their food at games and wear the other half on their shirts and pants. But in the long run, it is an attempt by the team to keep up the extended excitement of the Rays success in 2009. The uniforms might not a victory magnet for the Rays, but with the community becoming more aware and more excited daily about the team, more options for team based wear is a fantastic way to show your spirit and pride in your hometown Rays.
Finally I got my picture from theTampa Bay Rays today from the day that I took my Team Photo with the 2008 American League Pennant winning Tampa Bay Rays.
All year long I had this weird feeling about this years team, but not until the Rays Radio Pre-game host Rich Hererra started calling it a “Miracle Summer” did it dawn on me how special it could become in 2008. It seemed different, but I could not place the vibe in the air at the time.
I have been wanting to work in the Rays clubhouse for about 3 years. I missed the fun and the charades that went along with being in a loose locker room. Some of my fondest moments happened in locker rooms on teams I played with in high school, college and beyond. It is that feeling when you step into the room that this was your peaceful and energetic focuepoint. That this locker room was the beginnig of the whole sha-bang. There is truly nothing like the spirit and the bond that pulls together by a team on a streak, or a winning season.
Sitting there watching them come out in Feb. 2008 at the St. Petersburg Namoli complex for the first workout of the Spring, I had a gut feeling it was going to be one to remember. I yelled over to Chris Westmoreland, the Rays Clubhouse Manager and shook his hand and just chatted a bit about the upcoming year. The guys as they came out to the fresh mowed grass had a different air about them. Something felt different about this workout, and about 2008 in general.
A few days earlier, the Rays had their annual Fan Fest at the Trop., and as ususal I was there bright and early and checking out all the auctions and the items up for sale around the stadium. One thing caught my eye. “A photo opportunity with the 2008 team during the Team Photo Day.”
I jumped at the opportunity to jot down my name and have a chance to be positioned in a keepsake between these great baseball players. I went about my day and came back a few times before putting down my final bid and heading home for the day. I got a call the following Monday that I had won the auction and they would call me when the team had a opportunity to all get together and take the picture. That day turned out to be May 10, 2008.
I got out there around 3 pm on that day to get down to field level and get a white Rays jersey and chat a with a few of the guys I knew before everyone got into place for the pictures. I took these pictures as we were getting set into position for the photo. As the guys came out to the field, a few saw me sitting there and were laughing and wondering how I could of wrangled this opportunity. I had been the Pepsi rep for the team for several years and had worked around the clubhouse in the spring and during the year. Everyone who knew me knows how much this baseball team means to me personally.
Chris Westmoreland and Dave Barr, the Rays Strength and Conditioning guru came over and shook my hand before PR Direcotr Rick Vaugh started arranging everyone for the photo. By that time the guys were all chatting amongst themselves and just enjoying the moment. But little did all we know just how special this photo would end up meaning not just to me, but to each and every one of the team on that stage.
I was a bit nervous before getting out there and getting into position. Not because of the guys around me, I knew enough of them to know that they are a great group of guys and would make this picture a true treasure for my collection. I had seen alot of these guys come up as rookies ans now they were taking on verteran leadership roles for the first time and truly leading this club by example.
But what I truly found amazing was a few facts surrounding the picture that if you did not know the team well, or the players, you might miss the subtle differences in the picture.
So I had a few minutes to just take in all the surrounding before getting into the photo and saw some of these funny situations:
1) Usually in a team photo you try and put the tall trees in the back row or above the height-challenged members of your roster. In the back row today were Rays’ back-up catcher, Shawn Riggans and Reliever Al Reyes. Both are over 6 feet, but seem a bit short compared to the height of Reliever Gary Glover on their left and Outfielder Rocco Baldelli on their right. So becuase of this height ripple, it looked like a wave going across the front row and rolling up and down.
2) One of my favorites, Rocco Baldelli was in this picture on May 10th with a full on Grizzly Adams look-alike beard. The beard was a wild look for Rocco. But since he was the disabled list at this time, he used it as his own measure of coping with his situation. Little did wqe know at the time to what extent Rocco would play in this teams playoff push.
3) If you notice the two groups on the left and right of the players, you have the Clubhouse crew to the left, and the teams’ trainers and physical staff to rhe right. And among the characters to the right is Kevin Barr. He is the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the team, and refused to wear the dark carolina blue polo tops that the rest of the staff wore that day. He stands out real good in his white top and black long pants, while the medical staff wore their dark blue tops and tan shorts.
Kevin is not a fan of the University of North Carolina, and it would be a personal insult to wear those colors. Kevin, I understand, you could never get me to ever wear any FSU colors even on a threat of death. You sometime have to make a moral decision on things. He stands out real good in his white top and black long pants, while the medical staff wore their dark blue tops and tan shorts in the picture,
4) in the official Team Photo, but not with the team much longer after the photo were: Rays reliever Kurt Birken and Elliot Johnson.
So then it is my time to get situated in the photo somewhere in the middle of everyone. You can definitely tell where I am in the picture, because I did something that intially looked a bit dumb at the time, but it makes it easier to find me because of it.
I have heard in the final picture that I am making into a 11X16 photo with a lettering spelling out “2008 American League Champions” I will look the same as everyone else.
What I did was cross my hands in front of me instead of behind me in the picture. Yes, that is me right behind Rays Manager Joe Maddon, who was laughing that I must have paid someone off to get that close to him. But he knows me from the “Maddons’ Maniac” group and we have chatted many times in rightfield during BP.
They decided to put me between Akinora Iwamura and Willy Aybar for the photo. Great choice considering we are all three about 5 10-ish and would make a better height blend for the photo. To get into that spot I had to cross over the feet of Jason Bartlett, Evan Longoria and Gabe Gross. The chairs in front of the risers were right on the shins of the guys in the second row and it was a tight space to get in there for the picture.
As I was passing by them, my Bullpen buddies Scott Cursi and Bobby Ramos were giving me a bad time as to not step on their toes since the guys had to play that night.
As if to curse me, I then stepped on Evan Longoria’s right big toe. I did not hurt him, but went gentle into position for the photo. Skip, the team photo guy then took about 3 picture before I pulled myself out of the picture for the official team photo in the media guide.
I did not get in that photo, but I do have a wall photo that is as orignal as the guys in the picture. We might never have a team like this in Tampa Bay again. Not because of talent or event ability, but the personalities from the Coaching staff up to our closer was one of the best I have ever seen on a field.
This team not only were impressive on the field, they were even more impressive as to how they reacted to each other off the field. This photo might have cost me a bit in money, but the experience was priceless.
And I know it took some time to get this photo finally up and posted, but Tricia Johnson, who works in the Community Relations department for the Rays did a great job hunting down the photo and getting it to me. She tried to get it to me by e-mail, snail mail, and finally we just put it on a disc and I came and got it after the World Series. I love the photo and the memory will be one that will be told over barstools for a long long time.
It is a memory not only of spending time with a team of champions, but watching friends mingle as they took a photo that would be priceless in the annuals of our team’s history.
Chicago White Sox fans have to know you have a very classy manager in Ozzie Guillen. He has been complimentary to the Rays all year long and as a former Rays, he knows just how far this team has gone in a really short time.
And to add another level to Ozzie’s wild times, after the game yesterday, he made sure to stop by the visiting clubhouse ahd chat and hug Rays Manager Joe Maddon and wish him luck against the Boston Red Sox. He did not have to do this, but being a classy player and a manager can get you some levels of respect within the league.
For every thing that Ozzie does to invoke a fine or a temper tantrum, he is just as classin in the “good” areas too. He is a players’ manager, and they love to play for him. Just becuase you question your team’s General Manager, or remind baseball that sometimes you do hit guys on purpose, he is also a kind and true soul that is rare in this league. You go Ozzie, and we will see you in May dude!!!!!
Tell me right now that this team was not better after the first 11 games when Evan Longoria came up and played his rookie season. He is one of the offensive stars of the team this year, and has a killer glove at thrid base to remind you of Brooks Robinson of the old classic Orioles.
James Shields, Jonny Gomes, Scott Kazmir, Edwin Jackson, B J Upton, and a cast of millions toasting to the Rays success with a little Patron tequila right before changing and hitting the bus for the plane home………..priceless.
Joe Maddon with the first Patron bottle, with either Chris Westmoreland, theRays Home Clubhouse Manager, or Jeff Ziegler the Rays’ Director of Team Travel. I am not good at judging the back of people’s heads.
Akinora Iwamura getting into the American custom of dropping a full Budweiser over Carlos Pena’s head. Cool clean and good for the follicles guys.
Carlos Pena in the middle of a blast of champagne. But do not worry people champagne is good for the eyes. Trust me here.
Tell me Grant Balfour did not deserve to end out this series. The Rays Bullpen had a .088 ERA in the White Sox series. And the Aussie was more than an intimidation factor after the game 1 fiasco with Orlando Cabrera. With his four-letter exercises in First Amendment speech, Balfour gave way to a new era of wild, excitable relievers in the playoffs.
If you missed the Tampa Bay Rays Rally at Straub Park in St. Petersburg on Monday, you missed a party 10 years in the making. Not that we have a habit in this area of saving our parties for special occasions, but this day was for celebrating baseball in general. I got there about 1 P.M. to meet with a few on the Maddon’s Maniacs and participate in a short promotion video that will grace the Jumbotron this week during the two ALDS games at the Trop.
It is a short little diddy around our lovable mascot Rayomnd and the “Feel The Heat” theme song that is a huge success for the Rays. It was not a long shoot, and it was a bit corny for my tastes, but you never know what the video genies will do with a small piece of film. We shall see on Thursday.
After getting that video situation out of the way, I scoped out my stage right standing position right next to the lous speakers that would be blaring music by the 80′s group Survivior in a few hoiurs. It was about 2:30-ish and I had a bit of time before the activities were to start. Florida Sports Network and Sunshine Network were setting up to broadcast the event and provide some commentary and extra footage from the Rays Television trio of Dewayne Staats, Joe Mcgrane and Todd Kalas.
As 5 P.M. got closer, Rusty, the Rays usual Tropicana Field game M.C. got us all excited and reminded us that the Chicago White Sox vs. Detroit Tigers game was still in a rain delay. This is important to us Rays fans so we can decide who to email and hassle before Thursday’s game. At 5 P.M., Rusty came out and started the event off by letting us know that national figures had sent a few videos kudos to the team.
We had the usual ESPN people and members of the TBS broadcasting teams shot during the All-Star game, but there were a few unusal greetings also sent to the Rays. Rob Schneider, of “You can do it” fame sent a bizzare, but really thought out diddy that even included his dog pimping out for the Rays. Kevin Costner unvealed his new song, “It’s All Up To You” written for the Rays as a show of respect from Costner and his band, Modern West. The video was a montage of the visit by Costner and the band last November to help promote the new uniforms, and included some batting pratice pieces from Progress Energy Field.
Orlando, a popular DJ from 98.7 radio station in town also brought his new song for the Rays to be unveiled today during the Rally. The song was titled, “The Trop. Boys”, and it had a grat beat and was a cool sounding song. I know we will be seeing more of that song here in the playoffs at the Trop.
After that, it was onto the introduction of the players. I am going to post an additional blog with the picture on it to save some space here today. The Television guys, Staats, Mcgrane and Kalas all started the program off with a video recalling the highs of this magical season for the team. the video played up the Boston, Chicago and Angels series sweeps, and showed the walk-off wins for the team in 2008.
After that, Todd Kalas came out and got into the player and coaches introductions of our 2008 Rays team. The most applause of course went to skipper Joe Maddon and Don Zimmer today. After the coaches took their place on the stage, the players were intorduced one by one, with Akinora Iwamura getting the “Aki” chant from the crowd. the guys were all sporting their Rays white uniforms, and it made a great background for the hundreds of cameras snapping their every move. After getting through all but one of the players introductions, Kalas introduced B J Upton, who I still believe is the most unsung hero of this season.
After that, Kalas introduced a few people I know well, but Tampa Bay should get to know. Bullpen Catcher, Scott “The Enforcer” Cursi is one of the most tireless workers I have ever met, and is a great guy to boot. Chris “Chico” Fernandez does a great job getting game and scouting video for the team. And last, but not least is the Rays clubhouse manager Chris “Westy” Westmoreland. I have heard fron a number of people that he runs the best clubhouse system in the major leagues. Kudos to him for that.
After these last 3 important introductions, Kalas turned the mic over to the skipper, Joe Maddon to talk a bit to the crowd. Madden as usual, was uplifting and totally believeable and the crowd showed its energy by clapping and cheering for the boss. After he was done speaking, the mic was turned over to the team’s charismatic Carlos Pena who pumped up the crowd more by urging them to come out and make the Trop deafening with their noise and enthusiasm on Thursday and beyond in the playoffs.
After the players left the stage, Rusty called up a few local icons who have been true Rays fanatics for years. The first was current WWE Champion John Cena, who confessed he used to live in Boston, but has converted into a true Rays believer now. Cena also provided one of the best moments of the Rally when he informed the crowd he had heard from Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield and first baseman Sean Casey that the Rays had no heart.
Well, Cena decided to call Sean Casey on his cellphone, but Casey was probably either at the Red Sox Rally held that day before the hit the airport for California, or he was not going to take the call because he knew he would hear a load of crowd noise in the background. Cena made sure Casey had an interesting voicemail and proclaimed that the Rays did have spirit and heart and you heard the entire crowd roar towards the stage to voice their opinion on Casey’s comments.
Right before Cena was going to leave the stage, he called up the Rays appointed 10th man, Brian “Nasty Boy” Knobs to the stage for some comments. Knobs came onto the stage in his usual manner blowing smoke and fire from his nostrils and pumping the crowd into a frenzy. Of course, Knobs could not leave the stage before getting the entire crowd to chant, “Let’s Go Rays.”
After that, the show was winding down and Rusty intoduced the band, Survivior who put on an amazing concert for about 2 hours. During this time I got to go sit in the VIP section in front of the stage courtesy of Trisha Johnson of the Rays and snapped a few hundred pictures. I am thinking I might include a few of them on the blog. The band did an amazing show and ended it with “Eye of the Tiger” to push the crowd into a frenzied climax to the event.
At this time we still did not know who was going to be our opponent for Thursday, but the White Sox were up 1-0 at the time. As I was walking to my car in the Pier parking lot, it hit me that this might not the only Rally this year for the Rays. That we have a possibility of 2 more Rallies and a few hundred chances of cheering for the team between now and a possible World Series game. I am not going to jinx or put a hoax on anything, but 10 years ago, that was not even in my mindset for this squad. Wow, how times flies when you are having fun!!!
It must be a true rush to be on stage and singing……….that is something I wish I had done in my younger life….totally, totally into music