Results tagged ‘ Cliff Wittig ’

Ice Bucket Challenge…Do You Have It in You?

 

If for nothing else, the Summer of 2014 is going to be known for ice cold buckets sloshing all over the heads, upper bodies and shoes of people from all walks of life. What’s a little H2O when it can be done for a great cause, and to also call out for friends, family, co-workers and maybe that one person you always wanted to get a little revenge on…..now is your chance.

The challenge is actually quite easy in thought: you get a full bucket of icy cold water, dump it over your head, record the action, post the video out and about on any or all of your social media outlets and then loudly call out or challenge anyone and everyone to also take the plunge and make a donation to the ALS Association.

I mean tons of famous and also non-famous people have already gotten their cold shiver on with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I mean athletes and celebrities like pro golfer Greg Norman, actress Elisha Cuthbert, Toronto Maple Leaf Dion Phaneuf, Household goddess Martha Stewart and even the Tampa Bay Rays mascot Raymond have completed and sent out their own challenges to other to also compete and complete the icy adventure.

I am simply flabbergasted that the watery “Tag..Your it!” endeavor has risen to such high standards with hundreds and thousands of people through their social media pages and messages calling for the friends, followers and even family to take a cold one for ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Amazingly enough, the event has raised over $150,000. Already this year and before the first leaf falls could surpass a quarter of a million dollars just by people all over the social map calling out others to douse themselves and to extend the challenge to their select intended targets to also partake and donate, then keep the cycle going…possibly all summer long.

And this awesome fund raising challenge actually has a bit of a baseball foundation. Seems that this whole icy situation began back in 2012 in the Boston, Mass area and quickly began to gain a more wet footing as friends, relatives and former teammates of former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates who was diagnosed with ALS.

Pete’s close knit group of friends, family and others decided used the cool idea as a visual physical challenge to raise awareness about ALS. Frates, 29, has been living with ALS since 2012 and has worked for The ALS Association’s Massachusetts Chapter. Frates is a former Divion1 college baseball player for Boston College and is a tireless champion for the foundation and its awareness.

Recently Pete’s own parents, John and Nancy along with 200 assembled dry souls doused themselves in Copley Square. His parents state that the ice bucket challenge has done more to increase the understanding about ALS than anything else they have imagined over the past 2 years.

How much has this event helped the ALS Association?

ALS Association National President Barbara Newhouse said donations to the national office have surged during the last 10-day period that ended this past Thursday to about $160,000. From $14,480 during the same period a year ago. And you have to believe that local and community chapter offices have not been able to give their donation yet, so a figure of $250,000. Seems within reach just for a few moments of uncomfortable chills for a tremendous cause.

I have been the subject of a ALS Ice Bucket  Challenge twice now (8/10/14 & 08/17/14) and have been honored to take that heavily laced bucket of ice chips and some water  and dumped it over my Rays capped noggin.  I completed my first challenge after being called out by a former Colts teammate on August 10th and completed my second tour of icy goodness on Sunday, August 17th after a challenge was issued to former Baylor football players. I also donated $100 each time with the second donation being presented in the name of my daughter Alex Hougham.

All I can tell you is thank goodness it is 90+ degree in St. Petersburg, Fl right now so the water not only cooled me down, but kept my feet and shorts cool for an hour or two afterwards as I did not bring spare clothes (Hint: remember spare clothes, at least flip flops). 

I mean I have heard of some wild challenges already like the one completed by Boston Bruins stars Brad Marchand and Torey Krug who willingly dropped frozen ice (not from Boston Garden) on themselves and then promptly issued their own set of challenges to their intended water-logged friends.

So friends, family and old arch-enemies be aware, for soon I might be calling you out to also partake in the chilling but totally satisfying adventure of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Now if only my Nike’s would dry out…

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Rays Begin The Price Clearance via a Online Auction

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We all knew this moment was coming. When the Tampa Bay Rays would begin a process of removing David Price themed items. It is sad, but unfortunately a way of life that people come and go sometimes in our baseball lives and the Rays have begun auctioning off some Price memorabilia with a larger more tuned-in auction process beginning on August 11,2014 at 1:30 pm EST and running until August 18,2014 at 1:00 pm EST.

Funny side note, as of the time I am producing this post, the Rays somehow decided to use the abbreviation EDT to designate Eastern Daylight Time instead of the traditional EST that symbolizes the more known Eastern Standard Time we older folks all learned in school. Both are correct, it is just odd to see it posted in that manner (I suspect it might be changed by Monday).

img-255075-mWanted to remind everyone every item up for auction will feature a MLB authentication hologram sticker.

Several premier items will be featured in the almost 7-day Price auction including a unworn one–of-a-kind David Price away retro 80’s jersey. This is the same mostly yellow-hued style uniform top the Rays will sport this weekend during the Chicago Cub series. This item is a must have for the Price collectors out there and will begin the bidding at $300. on August 11th.

img-255084-mAnother one-of-a-kind and historically unique auction offerings is the game-used home jersey from Price’s last start as a Ray that also features the “ZIM” patch on the right sleeve. Bidding for this one-of-a-kind prize will begin at $400.

The team will also be offering such items as Price’s old Rays Clubhouse locker chair back. Bidding for this personal Price heirloom will begin at $40.

adpThe Rays will also be auctioning off 1 each of the over-sized Price and Astro head cutouts that became iconic collection pieces that became the mainstays of the now defunct District K-9 outings that always corresponded with Price’s game day starts.

I mean who in their right mind would not want an oversized Price face and Astro’s adorable mug both complete with an MLB authentication. Bidding will begin for the cutouts at $10 and each will have their own separate auction listing featuring these special close-out of Price themed memorabilia items.

img-255071-mAlso on the auction block of Price eradication items will be the awesome 27 foot by 2 foot “Welcome to Tropicana Field” featuring Price on the left corner and Evan Longoria on the right side of the huge banner. Bidding for this grand item will start at $20. I suspect someone with a sports bar or possibly an over-sized great/trophy room might jump all over this item.

img-255076-mPrice’s 6 foot by 8 foot Player Profile Banner will begin its bidding at $100. Or possibly you would enjoy having Price’s team-issued blue Rays batting helmet which will begin this items bidding frenzy at $150.

img-255087-mAlso on the auction block will be Game-Used baseballs hit by the likes of Brewer Ryan Braun (reached on an error) or possibly baseballs hit against Price by Red Sox teammates Dustin Pedroia (single) or David Ortiz (single) during a home contest in 2014. Bidding for these baseball will be in separate auction listings and begin at $40.

img-255088-mPossibly you are just one of those many statistic driven Rays souls who would love to possess the game day line-up card from Price’s last start as a Ray. The bidding for this special item will begin at $100.

There are also current auctions going on the Rays auction site providing “BUY NOW” options.

img-252495-mOne of the items you can now buy today is a game used, MLB authenticated ball from Price’s 1,000 strikeout game for just $40.

img-186620-mAlso being offered are 2 different Price jersey swatch plague for $15 each. One is a Price game day jersey swatch framed plague (auction runs until bought or November 1, 2014) while the other commemorates Price’s 2012 Cy Young Award with a specially themed jersey swatch plague (auction runs until bought or Dec 31, 2014).

All items in this auction will benefit the Rays Baseball Foundation, the official charity of the Tampa Bay Rays. The organization focuses primarily on youth and educational programs within the Tampa Bay region that make a measurable difference in the community.

Please use this link  to visit the Rays Auction site and bid on these great pieces of Price memorabilia today. 

I know it is sometimes hard to close the book on players as they move from one team to another. Price leaving the Rays did produce a bit of pain for fans of this franchise. But you have to let him go, and quite possibly win some of this great Price memorabilia that you can look at and remember him forever. I know I will be nodding on more than a few of these Price items.

Was Wily Mr. O. Possum be the New Oakland Spirit Animal?

 

Native Americans believe that nine different spirit animals or totems are connected to us throughout our lives acting as guides to steer us towards events or occurrences that will define our lives. They believe these nine animals are with us for life and even as they all have their purpose, one is the lead animal that will show the way and provide moments of clarity and awareness.  downloadWe now know that the opossum has to be one of the Oakland Athletic’s nine focal spirit animals. And possibly with this white-faced creature showing itself to the assembled masses last night in the bottom of the 10th inning of a tied contest between the Tampa Bay Rays and the home town A’s, his presence had to be the deciding element to sway the energies last night and provide a victory. It’s the only logical reasoning  for the way the bottom of the 10th inning played out for the Tampa Rays last night. For the Opossum spirit animal is a deceiver, a strategist and an animal that uses deception to his advantage now both on and off the baseball diamond.  Whatever else could have caused such a rapid and defining chain of events that led to the A’s snapping the Rays road winning streak with this very peculiar stage of events? download (2)I mean the Rays had the fiery ex-Athletic, current Rays reliever Grant Balfour growling on the hill, but somehow the elements did not favor the Aussie one tonight as he saw not one, but 2 consecutive hitters get out of the 0-2 hole and find solace upon the base paths.   The first Oakland hitter Alberto Callaspo saw 4 pitches before lining out to left for the first out of the inning. The inning started to look a bit uneventful for the A’s. Then all bets seemed to be off as our opossum made his appearance strutting down the outfield wall in left field to his favorite cubbyhole just after Balfour’s first pitch to someone the O-town locals call “Super Sam” ( wonder where they got that name) Fuld. Possibly the opossum occurrence  inspired Fuld who was down 0-2 at the moment on 2 straight called strikes.  Fuld then found his pitch and deposited it into center field to become the A’s first base runner of the inning. Opossum 1, Rays 0. Then another former Rays, this time a chap named John Jaso swung mightily at 2 straight Balfour offerings as Balfour again had another A’s batter down 0-2 before Jaso, possibly through the vision of the opossum, gained  a bit of serenity and somehow secured himself a free pass to First base via a walk.  Opossum 2, Rays 0. imagesThe during the at bat by Oakland 3B Josh Donaldson we witnessed the usually steady defensive duo of Sean Rodriguez and Kevin Kiermaier somehow let a white sphere drop not in their gloves, but to the green turf  down the left field line missing a golden opportunity to garner a much needed out from this A’s  and keep them from victory. Wonder if S-Rod or the Outlaw saw a opossum out of the corner of their eye, or possibly seated in the stands? Donaldson’s at bat also produced a double whammy of not only reaching base by another walk by Balfour, but also via a deceived fourth ball that got Rays Manager Joe Maddon all ballistic and led to his eventual ejection from the contest by Home Plate Umpire Quinn Wolcott. Opossum 3, Rays 0. That set up a bases loaded situation with one out for the A’s next batter, Brandon Moss. Unfortunately Moss ended up striking out setting up the possible walk-off scenario for the next hitter, Derek Norris.   images (1)Balfour quickly got Norris behind in the count 0-2 before Norris followed Fuld’s lead and hit a game-winning single into center field breaking the Rays road winning streak and sending the Aussie muttering to himself about lost opportunities. Sure the victory went to the A’s that night, but somewhere, under the stands I can just see Mr O. Possum doing the “Dougie” knowing he might have helped by diverting just enough attention to deceive a win. 

Thank You David…..Simply THANK YOU!

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I have to admit, when I first heard some of the Spring comment from then Tampa Bay Rays prospect David Price’s mouth back in 2008 I wonder if he arrogant or just knew something we all somehow could not see at that moment in time.

1379997_10151724907248429_463699542_nHow wrong was my thought process on that day because Price did not only deliver on his statement way back in 2008, he has backed it up every contest since up until his eventual trade today not a half hour short of the Trade Deadline finish line.

Going to be weird thinking of Price as a Detroit Tiger. He always seemed at ease in the Rays Carolina Blue unis, never seeming to delight in donning the darker Rays home or away jerseys, just bathing as much as possible in the team’s blues and whites.

Price was even on the turf of the old Tilted Cap that is Tropicana Field today throwing on his off-day with fellow Rays hurler Jeremy Hellickson just 200 yards away from the Rays War Room that eventually cast a different end of his 2014 tale.

But so not fret Rays Republic for Price will be back sooner than you think.

thCAZZG668Because the Rays and Tigers still have to play a mid-week, 3-game series under the Teflon dome from Tuesday, August 19 to Thursday, August 21.  It could be the last chance for any of us in 2014 to see see Price on the AstroTurf, and I think we can almost guarantee Price will be out working the sidelines chatting with old and new friends.

But there could be an additional huge cherry on the top of this series if the Tigers arrange their pitching matchups in a way that Price could take the hill during that 3-game stint and get a righteous standing ovation from the fans he has thrilled ever since his promotion to the “Show” back in September 2008.

From Astro to Zorilla  Price has truly been a class act showing leadership, relieved team stress through humor and has ( to myself personally) exceeded every expectation, every social engagement, and certainly been a prime example of the true essence that makes up the “Rays Way” of baseball.

thCAQO9RE7I was lucky enough to be in the stands at old Yankee Stadium back on September 14, 2008 when Price took the hill against the Yankees in his MLB debut.

I even shagged a baseball during that day with the old Yankee Stadium logo attached and Price signed it for me without pausing for a second. I still cherish that ball sandwiched between the signed MLB debut balls of Evan Longoria and James Shields

I was also lucky enough to see his hands go skyward after finishing off the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series and sip some of that sweet nectar as he and the team paraded down the First Base line post game.

Was even lucky enough in 2011 as Price wearing that Carolina Blue tartan-themed post season shirt took a swig of bubbly supplied by one of my Bullpen friends.

 

I was also lucky enough to get to know Price on many occasions on and off the turf at charity events, Season Ticket holder events and just chilling by the Bullpen seats after a bullpen session.  Taken numerous images and videos of the daily defacing of his bobble head cartoon image on the Right field wall, and seen him become a well respected and admired figure among his adopted community.

thCA8ZX2R3I know there is a lot of “I’s” here, but truly what Price brought to not only me, but the entire Rays Republic is knowing hard work, believing in yourself and your teammates brought historic memories to this franchise and their fan base.

Was simply a pleasure knowing this guy who might have irked me for a moment, but rose to the occasion so many times I lost count. Even though he only pitched once every 5 days, he always took this team on his back doing whatever needed to be done.

He was the Rays biggest cheerleader, their clubhouse voice of reason and a guy who grew into a leadership role for the pitching staff and accepted it with grace, confidence and a hint of calculated indifference.

If there was an All-Star designation for value to his team, Price would have been a 7 time All-Star.

I’m personally looking forward to that mid-August mid-week series with the Tigers. Because I want to find Price on the sidelines, catch his eye and shake his hand and truly thank him for not only the memories, but the role model and man he became while a Ray.

Thank you David…..Truly THANK YOU.

 

 

 

Glad I Never Have to Make Trade Deadline Decisions

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How would you decide if it was your task to determine if your Major League Baseball squad was in “Buyer” or a “Seller” mode?

Would you compile a list of Pros and Cons onto an over-sized white board constantly striking out the illogical and mundane ideas while encircling the plausible and rational and in the end combining them neatly into a realistic orderly outline hoping they have the explosive measures to strike down any additional counterpoints.

images (2)Would you air on the surreal side of whimsy and instead flips a coin hoping that this twirling silver-plated marvel can secure you a viable answer, or take you down a long road of regretful actions. Taking the gamblers’ way and letting the bone decide you, your team and your continued careers path.

Or would you rely on the perception of scientific reasoning and radical decision management by resigning to the feasible factions of conducive tinkering of statistics and numerical normality’s to hedge the risks and rewards of anyone or everyone on your roster, including some of your previously off-limits top tier prospects.

Could you conclude without a shadow of a doubt orchestrate the perfect transaction scenario, isolate a primary trade package down to the last detail and complete the action before the last tick of the Trade Deadline clock without regret or second-guessing?

But that is the reality of the next couple of days until the sounding of that last tick of the clock on Thursday, August 31, 2014.

images (1)All 30 G.M.’s, Vice-Presidents and even Team ownership groups will have to make public via their voices or their players’ their final decree of being “Buyers” or “Sellers” as we approach the last few months of the season.

This is a time when a team can possibly regain their winning ways, forge into uncharted playoff glory or resort to the reality they do not have the horses to realistically make a final charge for any of the Wild Card or Division title slots.

For this brief moment in time so many will evoke the ever-changing thought processes of a Vegas gambler who decide within moments with instinct, a brush of Lady Luck or blind odds that the direction their team, and quite possibly their selected careers paths will be deemed failure or success by a unhuman 6-sided entity.

images (5)Every year some team rolls them bones and gets pieces that accumulate into a winning moments of glory accented by a joyous parade, while others over-pay, over-evaluate and commit career Hari-Kari as their selected seasonal saviors, needed for that last push towards a postseason dream come crumbling down upon themselves when an injury or unprovoked slump finally derails the most honest of intentions.

Some of these soles will have to decide the personnel value of a player or what number of bodies or wealth will be needed to secure their services, even if only for the short-term. The same players these franchise leaders shake hands with, joke with and see on a daily basis will be assigned a monetary stamp that other suitors will see affixed to them as that team’s negotiable first bartering price.

In that instant contact moment each M L B G.M. will have visions of future yearly salaries, arbitration raises and years of control numbers dancing in their heads.

images (7)Medical charts will be viewed with fine toothed combs, decision made on-the-fly concerning their compatibility to their present team’s chemistry and if the move has merits beyond just the 2014 final postseason push.

Yep, this is the time of year I’m glad I do not work in one of the 30 M L B offices as daily the pendulum can swing from “buyer” to “seller” with each sway of the arm over the final push of the Trade Deadline.

But then again, there is ample time between now and this Thursday for mistakes to be made, triumphs to be planned and careers to see set aflame.

Who knows what disasters and blockbusters await us over the next few days. How many bottle of the pink stuff and Tum’s will be consumed, and if someone’s cell phone provider’s minutes will be exceeded for the common good of their team.

images (8)At this moment each team has questions and await the conclusions that may provide finite and fulfilling answers for every team.

Only on Friday morning after the final smoke clears will there be  prognosticator assessments as to if there are clear winners or losers and if the “Buyers” this year should have really been aware.

Tick…Tock…..Tick…Tock….

Dance Willis, Cause the World is Watching

 

Somewhere in the Far East there is a Tampa Bay Rays fan, or at least he is a super fan of the funky and classic dances moves of Rays Mascot coordinator Willis Harris.

images (6)Most Rays fans have seen Harris performing during the break when the Rays Grounds crew drag the clay surface and replace the orange-spotted bases during the bottom of the 4th inning during Rays home contests.

You knew the Rays dancing and highly flexible moving and grooving crew member  had a following because of the many videos posted to Youtube or mentions in new articles or blog posts over his tenure with the team. But now his side-splits and gyrations have taken to the International stage as his persona has been jacked and become an instant hit or miss depending on your political views or geographic locale.

images (5)It seems someone has positioned the mighty mug of North Korean leader Kim Jong- Un upon the shoulder of Harris who dominates the first 38 seconds of the newly released dance track featuring the North Korean leader.  

If you were wondering, the musical soundtrack is set to a Chinese pop hit by the Chopstick Brothers, which is pretty toe-tapping. The Korean online new source Chosun Ilbo says the video was the brainchild of a Chinese man surnamed Zhang from Suzhou who reportedly studied at Kyonggi University in South Korea.”

Here’s to hoping that Jung-Un has some sort of comedic bone in his body and can appreciate for a second that someone gave him righteous dance moves and even a great finishing move….but I have a feeling Jung Un is out for almighty revenge against anyone featured in the video, even if they did not send it or let their image be used in such a fashion.

download (1)Hopefully Harris will not come back to his Rays 4th floor office any time soon and find a ton of well fermented Kimchi stacked from the carpet to the ceiling tiles and a terse letter from the depot leader stuck to his door with a ceremonial Liaoning bronze dagger.

Whoever did post the video most certainly will be popped into the crosshairs of the infamous North Korean State Security Department in the near future.  We know by the translated message on the video it was not sent or made within Tropicana Field, or by any member current or past within the Rays, but Harris will probably be guilty by association since someone brandished his trademark dance moves for all the World to enjoy.

images (4)Surely the video will play on every television news program for at least the next 24 hours…or more and Harris will get a bit more great free publicity on his antics during Rays games and hopefully will return to an office free of fermented veggies, Korean symbols and a bronze dagger.

Still, you got to love that the Rays also got some free publicity, few bytes of video antics as to the fun and entertainment you can be assured of at a Rays game.

So for now….Dance Willis, dance like the World is watching, because it is.

 

A Rays Groundskeeper video Encore featuring Korea’s Psy  “Gangnam Style” :

 

 

Final Vote, Sminal Vote….McGee Deserved an All-Star Cap

JCG

I want to vote for one of the American League All-Star Final Vote candidates, but I’m not.

Some might say my reasoning is selfish as baseball is viewed as a team sport played by individuals and we should vote and select the finest talents in the land to represent our AL squad.

 But this season, I disagree with that train of thought.

400-thumb-450x337-2628681Call me a horse’s caboose if you want, but I’m boycotting this year’s selection because I can, as my vote matters (Or that is what every politician says). The main reason I’m not voting for any of the 5 qualified candidates is that I believe there should have been another Rays horse in the running for an A L All-Star slot.

I firmly would have voted as many times as possible on my many email addresses (work and personal) for Tampa Bay Rays RP Jake McGee to be added to the A L squad.

Most will bring me the argument that the A L already have enough talent on the left side of the rubber with the likes of A’s RP Sean Doolittle, Twins Glenn Perkins and 2008 All-Star game late inning reliever and game winner Scott Kazmir (who will represent the A’s) on their roster.

images (2)Add the additional lefty names of Boston’s Jon Lester and the Jays Mark Buehrle , plus the Rays lone selection David Price, and the A L team currently has 6 left-handed selections and the Final Vote could bring another.

I had a feeling Farrell was going to call the name of a southpaw from the Rays, but I did not think it would have been Price even though he has also put up some stellar stats considering his team’s hot and cold running offense at times this season. Maybe it was wishful thinking that Farrell might call on the soft-spoken McGee instead of Price, but I had hopes.

downloadBut it seems the All-Star game anymore is about the “hero factor”, or the guy who has that role model persona loud and proud and not the guy who has honed his craft and finally has all the pieces gathered to complete his M L B puzzle.

I truly thought this All-Star game would be McGee’s “coming out” party to show why the Rays have let him go from a great minor league starter to pulling the final strings at times in the Rays current closer-by-committee framework.

But as they say, let’s let the numbers (as of 7/9/14) speak for themselves.

*** McGee sports a 3-0 record with 6 saves this season, including a nail-biting, 4-out save last night.

*** Sports a 1.58 ERA in 42 appearances this season and surrendered a 14 straight scoreless appearance streak in last nights (7/8) Rays win over the Kansas City Royals.

***He allowed a run for only the 2nd time in his last 31 appearances, plus 39 of his 43 trips to the hill in 2014 have been scoreless appearances.

*** His fastball velocity, which averages 96.5 mph is the highest among leftie AL relievers.

*** His total appearances (42) ranks 2nd in the A L, and his stingy Opponents Slugging Percentage of .214 has him ranked 3rd in the AL.

*** He has pitched 49 consecutive homerless inning, the 3rd longest streak in the entire M L B. His last HR was on Sept 4, 2013 to LA Angel C Chris Iannetta.

***20 of his total 25 hits this season have been singles, and the other 5 have been doubles.

***McGee has stranded 24 of his 27 inherited base runners (88.9 %) this season and if his current formula runs true, should eclipse the Rays record of 88.6% set by former Rays Southpaw J P Howell in 2008.

So the numbers show McGee has the talents and the numbers to be considered a 2014 All-Star.

images (5)Some have said that since Price makes his last start before the break this Saturday that 3-days rest might not make him a viable pitching option for All-Star game.

Others have commented that Price could attend the All-Star game festivities in Minnesota and consult with Farrell possibly Sunday morning to recommend McGee as a viable option since Price would have a little more than 2-2 1/2 days rest before the contest. Some say Price passing the Rays All-Star game cap to McGee would be one of the most unselfish and deserving moves Price would ever do as a Ray. uniform

The move also could be viewed as a team-first move as not pitching in the All-Star game would put Price in line to pitch in the Rays first post All-Star game contest against the Twins on Friday, July 18th.

images (4)So you can snide me all you want that I’m not voting for another player not sporting a Rays uniform in the All-Star game final vote.

The players selected by M L B are deserving and merit consideration, but I got to stick with my gut on this and keep the home fires burning that McGee gets a call from Farrell before Tuesday’s All-Star game.

Sometimes you got to stick to your hometown convictions even if it doesn’t always jive with the majority.

Are You Ready for Some BaseBolly!

 

BollyW

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:

Re-dressing the Proverbial Pig that is Rays Renegade

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I originally was going to write this post on April 1st, but in the past I’ve done posts on leaving the site, changing my team alliances and even a weird player trade that even had a few people call Tampa Bay Rays sources to see if it was official or just a bad rumor.

So I delayed this announcement for a day so that it would not be valued as an April Fool’s notation, but as a true to life change in my literary persona and a widen more broad approach to the game I love and cherish.

RR2Change is inedible in life. We see our surroundings, friends and even lives change within a wisp of wind. Such is about to happen here on my little slice of baseball heaven.

When I decided to some back and write again this past December, I knew I had to mix things up somehow since I felt I had become a bit predictable and downright focused only in one direction. Tunnel-vision can be a good thing and a bad thing for a writer. For me it seemed to be just like being caught flat-footed between the bases with a swift infielder trying to tag me out of the game.

So it was time for a thought process about a change. First I had to decide if my blog persona would stay intact or change with the rest of the black and white type renovation. I liked my handle “Rays Renegade”, and it has been whispered (at least a few times) within the tilted cap of the Trop or on various websites and I had to decide if I was going to start 100 percent fresh, or keep at least the persona I had built since September 2007.

The decision about the name was easy. I had built a literary personality and it for now will stay intact, but not written in stone.

So the next phase has been in the process for quite a while. I love the Rays and cherish every moment and victory the team has achieved since I first glanced towards the infield in 1998, but now my focus will be more resembling any team’s pre-game Batting Practice as balls will be going to all fields, high into the stands and well as screamers down the foul lines.

By opening my vision towards 29 other teams I can find more material, base opinions and provide a more compelling blog by using all fields instead of just trying to go to deep center with each and every pitch.

RR3I truly cherish this game and the people who make it special, and that will not change in any fashion. I will hope to bring a broader voice and basis of opinions and facts as to the game from coast-to-coast. Be it good or bad, I hope to bring my realistic views and notions to things going on around the M L B , but there will be moments where the Rays will hold my glance a bit longer.

That being said, it is time to begin the renovation, the change and the revision I have envisioned for a while but procrastinated until now.

Change in life is a good thing. We all do it be it our clothes, jobs or even revising our personalities or character to bring about a positive change in our lives. This blog to me was a uniform I wore, a cap I pulled down tight upon my brow and stared in at a hitter who wanted to place my pitch into the Rays Tank.

So begins the change that will resemble my time in Row C of Section 138 of Tropicana Field. At the bottom of the section, the seat on the field side of the row within a shout or anguished scream at a player or reaction to the game events…….I always loved to Bellow from the Bleachers to the field heckling or even encouraging players during the course of a game throughout a season.

Hmmm, maybe that would be a great name…

Yep, “Bellows from the Bleachers” it is. 

Baseball, Will You Be My Valentine?

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It gets me all giddy inside when the second week of February comes to a close every year. The anticipation, the excitement, the thrill of knowing one of the greatest loves in this World can again entrance my mind and soul with visions of rawhide, ash plus pine mixed with smell of popcorn and roasting peanuts. Baseball has always had a special part of my heart. Some might say to me it is my first and other would bold to venture my only true love who has stood besides me in days of woe and exhilaration and has truly triumphed the test of time. Others like the NFL, NHL and the revitalized version of NASL somehow lost their luster  in my past and somehow became only just simple cherished  memories tuck into darken alcoves within my mind and heart. But baseball has always been on the tip of any conversation and thought, even in the dead of Winter. 

hgfSomeone asked me once why I have such a deep devotion and love for this simple children’s game. The same game that can have you on the edge of your seat one moment, then in an instant you can see it all come crashing down in disbelief as defeat rears its ugly snout.. Well, to be honest my long time love for this game started a long time ago in a bevy of batting cages that have long since been replaced by residential blight. My first loving memory of the game was going to the miniature golf course on S. Pasadena Ave across from my dad’s friend Jim Brook’s gas station at the northern end of the old Corey Bridge where I had to endure 18 holes of Putt-Putt before I could ramble into the chain-link fence batting cages and begin to fantasize Home Runs to win championships or secure a walk-off win.

The first real grass and clay field I ever got to play baseball on as a 8 year old was a back lot enclave at the now gone Little League Regional Headquarters just between Gulfport and St. Petersburg, Florida. It was here I first had a grounder come up and bite me in the nose (broke it), experienced the joy of hitting a ball as far as I could throw it, and made my first head-first slide into Second Base successfully. It was a couple years later when I played in the concrete arena (stadium) and against some poor kid I slugged one out of the park and onto the railroad tracks that ran just North of the stadium. I always wanted to hit one into the Royal Palms cemetery but never got that kind of power.

dfghMy love for the game started young. I did not know the true exploits of Don Zimmer, Mickey Mantleor Stan Musial who all used to come to my father gas station (Wittig’s Motor Pool/ Pasadena & Central Ave) and fill up their cars during the 70’s Gas Wars era.  Sometimes if they needed additional work like a LOF or tires they would throw the ball with me a bit  in the oil-soaked alley behind the station or we talked about baseball as I cleaned their windshields, checked their oil and air in their tires. I shudder now in disbelief I did not venture into my baseball books or research the Sunday paper’s stats sheet to know of their true greatness to the game. But maybe that was best as they showed themselves truly and did not throw up walls or images that was false to themselves off the field.

I still hold a piece of that same young kid within me every time I enter Tropicana Field, or venture out to Spring Training practices or games. I still carry my infielder’s glove more for sentimental reasons than to catch a BP or foul ball. Heck for years my glove sat on that green painted metal pipe that ran down the concrete wall in Section 138  it somehow became more of a fixture than me sitting in my old Season Ticket seat. I still thrill when a ball comes in hot with sound streaming off it and hear the “pop” of the glove as I grip it or feel a sting from its impact. Usually a kid near me is the final recipient of the ball as I have many now, and want to give other that same thrill and love of this grand game. Who knows that ball could awaken his own love for the game of baseball.

DSC02299Maybe that is why this game has never soured for me, even during those first 9 awkward years of the Rays existence when victories were slim and frustrations mounted within my belly wanting something special to happen like stealing a win on a walk-off or seeing one of our hurlers shut down a high power offense or seeing that ultimate display of last chance power pitching as our closer strikes out the side for the save. The crack of the ball off the bat still sends my heart a-flutter, watching a player run towards a ball at the wall and leaping either to crash on the wall or come down with that white sphere within his grasp. The whole essence of it can still send chills down my spine and excites me to no end.

My favorite baseball movie is still “For the Love of the Game”. Not for the aspect of a pitcher throwing the game of his life on his last outing, but the flooding of baseball memories that will be fodder for conversations and trips down memory lane for the rest of his life. The recent upturn of the Rays fortunes since 2008 have kept me wishing and wanting for more, hopefully seeing a ticker tape parade and being able to kiss or take a memory photo with that glorious golden trophy myself as so many other have in the past.

valentine - baseballI am about to hit the big 5..4, and now I am starting to get into a baseball frame of mind and physical state to tryout and play some form of this grand game with the legendary group the Kids and Cubs down near Vinoy Park. Sure at that stage in my advanced level of baseball skills I will not be the speed demon I was in college, or even hit one 347 feet down the line, but the chance to play baseball with people like myself who’s kinship with this game has not waned or been shackled would be not only a tremendous thrill, but another thing to take off my lifetime Bucket List. Plus I hear chicks still dig the long ball. 

The game of baseball will always hold a huge part of me firmly within its grasp, and on a day like today when loves rules the air, ground and seas I consider myself blessed to have discovered this game, cherished its traditions and idiosyncrasies to a T, not blinking an eye in the process.

On this constructed day of affection and bliss it is time for me to again profess my undying devotion and honest commitment to always be there for the game, take the good with the bad and cherish the moments as if they were my last.

So for me the symbol of a valentine is shaped more like a diamond because its shape encompasses the four essential 90 foot sections of the field infield dimensions. It brings with it a stupendous harmony of sounds and actions played out upon its lush foliage and grit that brings about an odd state of perfection played out in unison upon the field by both those who seem ageless and those who are eternally young at heart.  

lIt is upon that field the we again  can imagine our first hit, throw and cherish it for its complexity and simplicity intertwined in our love for the game. The elements of my valentine fits in my fist, with 9 inches of circumference covered with white cowhide and red stitching. I swear when I leave this Earth they will open me up and find a pearly white baseball where my heart should be…..Or at least I hope they do. So I have to ask……Baseball, Will you be my everlasting Valentine?

Happy Valentines Day

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