Results tagged ‘ Dirk Hayhurst ’

Tuesday was Not a Sonny Day

Tuesday morning was not a particularly “Sonny” day for me. Sure I knew that the cards were stacked high and solid against the Rays closet jokester and team trivia buff from possibly garnering an arbitration hearing, but I held a slim sliver of hope for the impossible. For this was the quiet prankster who emerged with a triumphant team-wide display during the relatively short Dale Thayer phenomenon, and who was instrumental in the “porno moustache” caper during a Florida Marlins series back in 2008. This player was as much a consistent part of the Rays team character during his tenure as Rays Manager Joe Maddon.

Here was a player who was so in-tune with Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s quips and quirks that he was  a covert Maddon Delta force commando with his comedic plays and daily transformations in 2010 of the figurine images on the right field wall. From the popular and comical road trip attire to team sponsored events and Season Ticket get-together, this player was all Tampa Bay, and I was glad to have known him. But that is just a small shovelful of the magic and outlandish things that made Andy Sonnanstine a team favorite.

Sure most of the people in Section 140 remember him as the Bullpen player who grabbed fists full of bubble gum and showered them with the sweet confection. Others knew him for his literal side, the one that could quote stats and Rays team trivia with more insight and more depth than the Rays own broadcast historians and fact-checkers. Sonny was a guy who with a glance could have you either laughing or knowing instinctively that you must have missed out on a special Rays moment.

Did you know he was the first of the post-2007 Rays to get a dog and make him a huge part of his off-the-field routine. Sonny was so into his “man’s best friend” that in 2011 he would travel almost 160 miles daily to the Rays Spring Training camp and then back home to his Gulfport abode to be with his canine (golden retriever) roommate “Murphy “. Maybe that was one of the reason I grew to like seeing Sonnanstine being a devoted dog dude myself.

The again my kinship with Sonny might have blossomed with his daily journey into his artistic side as he changed the Matt Garza and David Price figurine Fathead decal put up on the Right field corner back in 2010. Daily I would be transfixed the moment I entered Tropicana Field wondering what accessories, what facial or body transformations would await all of us in attendance. Even being sent down to Rookie Hudson Valley, Sonny found a willing accomplice in Randy Choate who put the finishing touches on his Price masterpiece while Sonny sat on the pine bench 1,300 miles away.

Sonny was the consummate “company man”, a person who Maddon and Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey knew would do whatever was needed to secure an advantage. His biggest day of flexibility came via a Maddon line-up card malfunction (5/17/2009) against the Cleveland Indians. Sonny committed to the start, then picked up a bat and brought his own offensive pop to the game and his eventual victory. On that day Sonny became the first pitcher since Chicago White Sox starter Ken Brett (Sept. 23, 1976) to be listed on a game’s starting line-up card as a hitter.

He was a guy who was born in a pitcher’s body, but had the mindset and confidence of a power hitter. Some of the most entertaining Batting Practice events of this past seasons came on the days the Rays pitchers got into the cage and took their hacks. Sonny loved to hit and leaves the Rays with a lifetime .318 batting average. Sonny was such a frustrated hitter he took his past 2 Rays team individual photos in the Spring with a bat on his shoulder. Now that is a commitment to hitting.

Sonny leaves the Rays organization with fond memories. Take April 19, 2009 start is a great testament to the magic that can come from Sonnastine’s arm. He went to the mound opposite White Sox hurler Mark Buehrle and produced his first complete game, which included a 3-hit shutout. But there was an additional bit of essence that was all-Sonny on that day.

Sonny combined that night with Beuhrle and completed that contest in a remarkable 2 hours and 2 minutes, the shortest game in Tropicana Field history, plus Sonny faced only 29 batters and at one time retired 17-straight, both club records at the time. On June 18,2010 Sonny earned his first MLB save in an impressive way retired 3 batters while the tying run was anxiously awaiting a hit ball at third base. Ice water truly ran in his veins that night in that balmy contest against the Marlins.

Then in late 2010 Sonny became an author collaborating with MLBlogs.com’s own Tucker Eliot to produce the popular “Tampa Bay Rays IQ: The Ultimate Test of True Fandom” in paperback. Seems only natural the artistic flow of a writer would enter into the versatile Sonny persona since he did attend Kent State University with fellow MLB author and Rays teammate Dirk Hayhurst (Bullpen Gospels).

Some say the last nail was firmly struck in Sonny’s coffin when the Rays trade for fellow arbitration player RP Burke Badenhop from the Marlins on December 10th. Badenhop might not have the rubber band mentality of Sonnastine to go from starter-to reliever and back again without recourse, but his 58.5% ground ball rate peaked the Rays interest pushing Sonny firmly to the outside of the team circle of trust.

Sonny will truly be missed by the Rays Republic for many reasons. From his gum barrage, to his artistic impressions and clothing selections, Sonny has always been a disciple of the “Rays Way”, a consummate professional, and someone you never could turn you back on because of his spontaneous prankster mentality His antics and memorable moments will resonate within Tropicana Field for a lot of us for a long, long time. Viva la Sonny!

Rays Wives to Host Mystery Ball Event on Saturday


I am a sucker for wrapped mystery gifts.  I love them because you never have a clear indication or ryhyme or reason of its enclosed contents but just pure imagination sprinkled with unadulterated speculation and kid-like wonder. Well this Saturday before the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox take the field, the Rays Wives will try and emulate that sense of joyous euphoria again on Saturday.

The Rays Wive’s “Mystery Ball” event will give Rays fan a chance at that rush of wonder and amazement as they offer $ 30 mystery bags filled with an autographed baseball. Who knows if it is a team signed ball, one with the awesome “Garfoose” illustration by former Ray Dirk Hayhurst, or a cherished David Price or Johnny Damon autograph. It will be just like opening your presents on Christmas morning, but in 72 degree comfort.

The event is being held to benefit St. Petersburg’s All Children’s Hospital. The plucking of your bag will be similar to the bag selection process the Rays have held during previous Fan Fest events as fans who pluck down $ 30 could receive a cherished new baseball heirloom signed by one or several Rays players.

As an added bonus, Allison Shelton, wife of Rays Hitting Coach Derek Shelton have worked diligently this season getting autographs not only from the Rays players, but also secured the penmanship markings from players who have visited Tropicana Field this season. A grand total of 600 signed balls will be available on Saturday, including autographs by the entire 2008 Rays team that went to the World Series.

Number 1 with our guys, they’re always willing to get behind a charity,” Derek said. “But particularly this one since it’s All Children’s Hospital, a place many of us have taken our kids, and a place so close to where we work. They made getting the items easy. And all the players were gracious while doing so.”

The Rays Wives will be stationed at Gate 1 and Gate 5 starting when the doors open at 5:10 pm. A silent auction will also be held just outside the Whitney Bank Club where many unique treasures like a Johnny Damon signed bat, a glove signed by the “Legend” Sam Fuld and a authentic MLB base signed by B J Upton.

This event is another great opportunity for not only the Rays Republic to commandeer some authentic autograph and share in that gift of giving, it can be a nice and exciting way to help support one of the near and dear charities that is close to the Rays hearts. Who knows, you might be the lucky one to pick the mystery bag that contains an entire rawhide ball encrusted with the signature of every member of the Rays 2008 World Series team…….I know I am raiding the ATM tonight.

Rain Out Bring an Encore Performance of: “The Legend of the Garfoose”

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Since the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red
Sox did not get to take the field today for their third game because
of liquid sunshine. The contest got postponed early enough (3 pm) for
the Rays to get on their charter flight, and possibly get in their
own beds in time for the later night news.


Because of the Rays/ Red Sox
cancellation, the good folks at the Sunsports/FSN Florida had to dig
into their massive vault to come up with instant programming to take
over the 3 hour segment originally slated for the Rays third game
against the Red Sox.


I decided also to bring a secondary bit
of blogging programming today to commemorate the Triple-A Charlotte
Knights and MLB rehabber Jake Peavy taking on the Rays Triple-A club,
the Durham Bulls and their “Garfoose” creator Dirk Hayhurst. You
can never get tired of “The Garfoose“.


I was introduced to a wild and new
character in the annuals of minor league baseball this week by a
couple of my Rays friends. I had heard that such a mythic character
existed around the darkened boundaries of baseball, especially within
the confines of that maddening place, the Bullpen.




The origin of this mystical character
first graced the pages of Baseball America back in August 2008, and
tells of the origin of one of the most colorful characters since Rays
reliever J P Howell to come out of the sometimes misunderstood
Bullpen region.


There is no historical reference of
when the “Garfoose” first entered the legends of baseball,
nothing in Wikipedia, MLB annuals do not even recognize its
existence, much like Bigfoot . But in Tampa Bay, we know the Garfoose
lives and breathes.


Dirk Hayhurst, the originator and
creator of all thing “‘Foose” was originally drafted by the San
Diego Padres back in 2003 and made his Major League Debut 17 days
after his tale of a particular Bullpen creature first appeared in
Baseball America. The following is the tale of the infamous
“Garfoose”.


Be warned, small children, people with
vivid imaginations and farm animals should not read this passage as
it will incite nightmares and possible sightings of this interesting
creature during both day and night games where ever Hayhurst hangs
his glove.

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Do not say I did not warn you in
advance about “The Garfoose”. Without further ado,…..The Legend
of the Garfoose:

The
ball rolled all the way to the pen. Struck foul with no one to give
chase, it made it’s way to us, the lazy pack of minute men sitting
down the left field line. Nonchalantly, I stepped on it to catch
it. 

Immediately cheers erupted. Fans know fouls go into
the stands and so they began petitioning for it.

Unfazed by
their urgent, desperate pleas, I leisurely reached down to pluck the
new ball from under foot.  It dawned on me, as I turned the ball
in my hand, the balls in the catch bag were not as nice as this
freshly foul pearl. I decided I would switch it out with a tarnished
ball so we could extend the life of this good one.


I
started to walk away from ball suitors to make the exchange. The
crowd let me have it. I expected as much, they assumed I wasn’t going
to sacrifice to them, but they were wrong. I made my way back with a
downgraded ball and tossed it into the maw of hungry hands.


182258_10150145667485850_613525849_8103263_5632004_n.jpgBefore
I could return to my seat a teenage boy in extra baggy clothes with
choppy hair shooting out under a hat turned at that annoying
half-cocked angle, bellowed at me with voice of rude expectation
indicative of little punk,  “
hey,
why choo didn’t gib-me-dat ball? Gib-me da other one, the good one. I
saw you switch it! You gotta whole bag dawg!”

“Are
you really asking me why I switched it or why I didn’t give it to
you?” I asked, in a slow, tired draw. 

Both,
man. I come to like every game and stuff, like all the time. I
deserve a ball
.”

Your
a big fan then huh?”

Yeah
bro, I love da Beavers (insert your team name here). I’m like the
number one fan yo, you should give me a ball
.”

“Ok,
well, what’s my name then?” It was on my jersey, but my back was
turned.

I,
uh…”

“Right.
Biggest fan.”

Still,
I seen you had a bag full a dem, hook me up man?”

“I
can’t do that. Sorry.”

Yo,
you suck then man, why you can’t? I mean, seriously, y’all be
millionaires and stuff.

“Oh,
If only that were the truth…”

I
had a buddy tell me you get those balls for free.

“That’s
not true at all. These balls are expensive. More expensive then
you’ll ever know.”

Whatchoo
mean?”

“Well,
it’s a long story, but since your such a big fan, I’ll tell
you…”

thumbnail.jpg“Every year, in the spring time, hopeful
monks wishing to enter the sacred order of the Stitched Moon make a
pilgrimage to a land deep in the Tibetan mountains. They take very
few supplies with them, barely enough to make the journey, resting
upon faith they will accomplish the task before them.

They
travel night and day, rarely stopping to eat or rest. Some are over
come with fatigue, others by starvation. Some are carried of by
predators. Still, a select few fulfill the journey and find
themselves in a paradise untouched by the poison of the modern
world.

You see my friend, legend speaks of a valley in those
mountains, a second Eden if you will, where beauty blossoms with out
limit. It is a land of magic and fantasy.

They sky of this
paradise is arrayed with exotic birds. The ground littered with
precious gems. There is a sapphire blue lake where mermaids live, the
water as sweet as ambrosia. There are fields of flowers, each bud
more magnificent then the next, where unicorns frolic. Sometimes,
when not singing to the sounds of their lutes and harps, the native
elves ride the unicorns, though that may just be an old wives
tale.

The journey is full of temptation, yet there is none
greater then call of this paradise. “Stay,” it bades,
“forget about the order of the Stitched Moon.” Many monks
are seduced, and in their careless self indulgence, they fall victim
to the lands only guardian, the dreaded Garfoose, a fire breathing
half giraffe, half moose, whose only known prey is man.

Stealthily,
so as not to alert the Garfoose, the monks travel into the heart of
the paradise to an enchanted grove. It is within in this grove they
find the treasure they so desperately seek. For the trees of this
grove are baseball trees with limbs bursting with perfectly formed
baseballs. The monks collect these baseballs and carry as many as
they can back to their villages.

Upon return, the monks are
met with celebration. Weeks of feasting are held in their honor
before they are warmly excepted into the order of the Stitched Moon.
The baseballs are proof of their commitment but they also serve
another purpose. The collected baseball are sold to Major League
baseball for a healthy profit to the monks. The money is then used to
buy new initiates their robs and Sacred Moon text books.

Major
League Baseball then takes the baseballs and sorts them. The best
balls going to the major leagues, the next best to triple A, and so
on. Over the years science has tried to replicate the the perfect
harmony of a naturally created baseball from the enchanted, Garfoose
guarded, groves of the legendary mountain paradise. But a real
baseball player knows the difference. Don’t ask me how, but there is
just something special that you can feel when you hold it…”

distance, my hand extended as
if pointing to some heavenly  paradise. 

thumbnailCAC1O9XH.jpg“That,
my friend, is why these balls are so special, and why I can’t give
them out to just anyone.”

Man
shut up, quit playing
.”
Said the boy. 

“It’s all real man, I’m not playing.”
I was stark serious, staring at him like it was all true, like he was
a crazy person for doubting me.

He paused, looked left and
right then leaned toward me and with a small, timid voice whispered,
You
being
for real about that?

“Of
course not, what kind of idiot would believe that story? The balls
all say made in China on right on them! I’m not giving you a ball
because your a lying little punk in need of a grammar lesson. Now get
a hair cut and fix your freaking hat, you look like a two year old
trying to wear his dads clothes.”

He made that
tongue-tisk sound, and threw his chest out at me, “
Man,
you suck! Dat’s why you be in da

minors,
you ain’t never gonna make it, loser!

“Thats
alright, at least I’m not going to have nightmares about the Garfoose
coming to get me.”

 By the way, Dirk Hayhurst, who started tonight for the Bulls went 6 innings and gave up 3 hits one earned run and 7 strikeouts to post his first victory as a Bull. Hayhurst is sporting a 1.64 ERA for the Bulls early in the 2011 International League season.  


 
 
 


Spring Baseball Has Finally Sprung!

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Some days when you drive down to Port Charlotte,Florida to watch the Tampa Bay Rays during Spring Training, the ride seems like it take forever and a day. Somehow the miles seem to drag on, and by the time you hit the Torch Blade exit, you are already on the verge of being spent. But not today. Not on the day that the Rays officially start their 2011 season. Opening day in Port “C” is always a time to renew friendships, bask in the light that is the new season, and most of all, begin to work on the base for that great Summer tan.


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SpringOpener2011 016.JPGWith David Price set to hit the hill, followed by a Tall reliever that brings it from the clouds, mixed with the facial gold from the “Garfoose” master, Rays baseball has arrived in 2011. From the moment I hit the line near the gate today, the buzz was on the new blood and some of the old Rays. James Shields, also known this time of year as the privateer “Graybeard” is anxious to get his year started on Sunday, erasing the doubts and clouds from around his 2010 performance.


 

SpringOpener2011 011.JPGThen you have the young bloods like Chris Archer, Brandon Gomes and Cesar Cabal, each collectively fighting for their MLB life (Cabal), while Archer and Gomes most likely are just hoping to set a beautiful impression on Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Pitching Coach Jim Hickey as a secondary option if an injury takes down a starter or long reliever.


All three have a boatload of possible MLB potential, but we know one will definitely start in the minors (Archer). Cabal will be fighting for the right to stay with the Rays as a Rule 5 player that has to make the roster, or be offered back to the Red Sox. Gomes, who was part of the Garza deal wants to show his new employer that they made an intelligent investment in bringing him into the Rays fold. All three will get their chance to impress on this first day of action.


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SpringOpener2011 103.JPGThere is a buzz around the gates of the INF Elliot Johnson finally getting another chance to crack the Rays infield, even on a part-time basis. His game has been elevated, but will it be enough to stave off the advancements of veteran Felix Lopez who also wants that vital roster spot. This infield utility spot might have more than a few sets of eyes watching as it’s competition starts today. But most of the chatter circling the closed gates seems to be on who the Rays might choose as their Opening Day starter.


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SpringOpener2011 032.JPGDo you go with Shields, who has owned that spot for what seems like decades, or do you pass the mantle to Price this year? There are varying opinions on this, but my sentiment is to see if Shields rebuilds his arsenal, then make the educated decision. It can not be an emotional pick just because Shields is the veteran. It has to be for the overall good of the team, and for the player involved. If Maddon and Hickey feel adamant about the possibility of Price having the same success in the top spot as in the two slot, then it is a no-brainer….Or is it?


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SpringOpener2011 126.JPGThe potential of the number 2 guys in the American League East is impressive. Jon Lester in Boston, Brain Matusz in Baltimore, Phil Hughes in NYC and a possibility anyone from Scott Richmond to Brandon Morrow manning the 2-slot for the Blue Jays. The number 2 spot might be the essential spot to decide a series win or loss in 2011. The top slot might have lost a bit of it’s luster as the “terrible two’s” might be the 17-20 game winners this season.


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SpringOpener2011 048.JPGBut today is about Spring baseball. It is about the return of the game that left us wanting more in October. It is time to fill our collective bellies with the food of the game, get to know the new players, plus provide the first enthusiastic push of emotion heading into the March 31st Spring finale on the new AstroTurf in Tropicana Field.


SpringOpener2011 190.JPG
SpringOpener2011 198.JPGSure we want to see the new guys, but the old favorites and the guys who have teetered that thin line with the Rays might be another great storyline to watch in the coming weeks. Dirk Hayhurst, coming back from injury should make a play for one of the three potential unclaimed Bullpen spots.

 


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SpringOpener2011 207.JPGThe first day of live pitching for J P Howell might be one of the most anticipated events this Spring as the Rays reload their vacant Bullpen. The emergence of possibly someone like Matt Bush, who started his career as the first overall pick of the Padres, then had a few unexpected moments before making his rebirth as a reliever.


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Briggy.jpgThe stories are all there. Enough for writers from every corner of the Tampa Bay area to scope out, research and analyze until their eyes blur. But today it is all about the rebirth of the season. The first step towards not only competing, but putting the competition back on their heels. Some say the next three games against the Pittsburgh Pirates is a bit anticlimactic, but this young Bucco team is hungry to make the same Spring jump the Rays did in 2008 and 2010. They are hungry to see the “W’s” multiply.


SpringOpener2011 226.JPGSo I was sure to plop on the sunscreen and apply a bit of logic to a first contest that would have bugs and flats moments, but give us a sense of what to expect in 2011. This is a great young squad that should be a pain in every team’s plans in 2011. It is a team reloading itself for the potential of having another string of highly competitive years, with a full arsenal of budding MLB stars ready to knock on the door. This might be the beginning of a beautiful Rays era started on the mound today by one of baseball most likable young stars.



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Some would say that Price is auditioning for that Opening Day nod today, but I beg to differ. I honestly feel Price is showcasing the next wave of Rays talent that is bubbling just below the surface and want to make an impression on the fans to know their names. Guys like catcher Robinson Chirinos, outfielder Brandon Guyer and Sam Fuld. When the Rays finalize their 25-man roster in less than four weeks there might be a few surprises, and a few disappointments.


But it all begins today, with an expected sweltering humid Florida afternoon game, offset by the cooling notion that baseball is back. I do not know about you, but I have waited for this moment since October and I can’t waif for these rot iron gates to swing open….Let the Spring begin!

 

 

 

Andrew Friedman: Reloading the Rays, Not Rebuilding.

 

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I really do not know how Tampa Bay Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman keeps doing it. For a long span of this off season it was almost as if the Rays entire front office staff closed their doors until almost January.

It was if the Rays staff wanted to sit there lurking as the MLB Free Agent market set its ceilings and cellars for positional and pitching. Then like a top of the food chain predator, Friedman awoke from his Rip Van Winkle slumber and proceeded to hand pick his replacement fruit from the still bountiful MLB player trees.

Evan as other free agents started getting plucked with vigor from the tree by other teams in haste, Friedman acted more like a customer in the produce aisle thumping the exterior of players like a ripe melon. His first move of the off season Friedman went out and signed promising ex-Nationals right-hand reliever Joel Peralta on December 17,2010 to help fill the first piece of the Rays Bullpen overhaul.

In his now classic under a cloak of secrecy Rays style, Friedman was also concluding one trade deal with the San Diego Padres to ship one of his big ticket arbitration eligible Jason Bartlett on the same day as the Peralta singing. Still lurking in the darkness was a thunderous trade of Rays starter Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs on January 8, 2011. Friedman made out like a bandit on both trades bringing back a bountiful treasure trove of both MLB quality players, plus some high caliber prospects that will help reload the Rays farm system for the next Rays reload.

The trades of his two highest dollar arbitration eligible players helped Friedman free up just over $ 10 million to pursue some big fish for other Rays glaring holes in their Bullpen, plus a big bat to protect Evan Longoria in the Rays line-up. But the Tampa Bay sun was shining bright on Friedman as two of his other arbitration eligible players Centerfielder B J Upton and reliever Andy Sonnanstine both signed one year contracts freeing up Friedman from any possible arbitration hearing duty this Spring.

Just as you thought Friedman might take a deep breath and relax for a brief moment, Friedman went out and got his intimidating back-end of the Bullpen reliever in RHP Kyle Farnsworth on January 15. Friedman then possibly made a few decoy moves in signing complimentary pieces RHP Dirk Hayhurst and 2B Daniel Mayora to minor league deals with a Spring Training Invites.

Then in Friedman style, just when you thought that the MLB cupboard was starting to become mighty bare, Friedman signs Tampa Bay native and defensive First Baseman Casey Kotchman to a minor league deal. The Kotchman deal might have been another Friedman diversion as his next deal had some around the MLB wondering if the Rays were in fact rebuilding or just simply reloading.

One day after Kotchman signed, the Rays announce their biggest off season signing of the season, a duo signing of Lf/DH Manny Ramirez and LF/DH Johnny Damon to one year contracts that are very team friendly. Ramirez and Damon’s combined salaries will cost the Rays around $ 7.25 million (not including Damon’s attendance incentives), which still is only $ 1.75 million LESS than the Rays paid Pat Burrell for his services through mid-May 2010.

If you even include Farnsworth’s $ 3 million base salary (not including games finished incentives), the three signings will sneak just under the projected off season arbitration figures of traded players Bartlett and Garza ( $ 10.5 million). Only Friedman could trade away two important cogs of the Rays roster and get so much back in return, plus prospects who will help keep the Rays payroll in check for a long time.

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But that is the magic of Friedman. Somehow he can come into a do-or-die cost-cutting scenario with only a bale of wheat or hay and come out in the end spinning a strand of thin gold into a tight ball. You have to seriously wonder just how savvy and creative Friedman was as an investment banker if he can do all of this with a significantly reduced Rays payroll (proposed ceiling between $40-50 million).

Pull up the Rays 40-man roster going into Spring Training, including their under the radar Spring Training Invites. On February 15, 2011 when Rays pitchers and catchers begin their first 2011 workouts, it will be just over 60 days since Friedman’s first signing of Peralta. Just think about the level of talent already assembled, and we still have over 10 days for Friedman to still daze and confuse us before that first workout.

Not since that first Rays blunder under Friedman’s watch when the Rays tried to sneak Josh Hamilton through the Rule 5 Draft, has Friedman toughened up and taken a firm stand that he will never be surprised like that again. Deal for deal, salary for salary, I truly think Friedman might have gotten the most money back on his entire player investments since taking the Rays reins.

Besides the tarnish of the Burrell debacle, there is nothing but shine to Friedman’s trade and Free Agent moves. Since his emergence on the MLB scene, Friedman has been simply golden. Gifted with a crack Scouting Department, piles and piles of correlated data and visuals, plus an eye for talent, Friedman has made the Rays a role model for team competing on a shoestring budget.

But do not be surprised if in the next 10 days, before February 15th if Friedman doesn’t pull another off-the-cuff deal that seemed to come out of nowhere. But then again, that is okay, Friedman is not rebuilding the Rays, he is just helping them reload

Tasty 2011 Fan Fest Morsels to Whet Your Rays Appetite

 

 

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By now most of the Tampa Bay Rays Republic members have either read the MLB.com blog post by fellow MLBlogs.com’s own Bill Chastain giving you a rough outline of some of the great events planned for the Rays 2011 Fan Fest. Or possibly you have heard a few more fantastic developments through the Rays “Sunshine Telegraph” on other Fan Fest revelations being thrown out into the Rays-verse.It has made more than a few of us hungry for baseball, and ready to consume some more Rays memories, but it is about to get even better. I got a few more really tasty morsels I have digested over the last few days, and want to divulge today hoping it will give the Tampa Bay community even more reasons for all baseball fans to flock to the Trop on February 19,2011 and touch and experience Tropicana Field’s NEW Astroturf II surface.

But that is just a small tapas plate of the new revelations currently getting me salivating and eager to be pressing my nose to the Trop’s Gate 1 window waiting for the Fan Hosts to throw open the doors. I know I will not be able to experience this one event, but the kid’s press conference with a actual Rays player still sounds like the thing of dreams to me. What I would give to be under 14 again and be able to ask any one of the Rays players a serious question about the game.

Just when you thought the Rays had outdone themselves in their 2010 Fan Fest, they go all “Raiders of the Lost Rays Gear” and provide a glimpse back into the Rays early past with a Rays Baseball Foundation Yard Sale that will showcase past items from as far back as the 1998 First Season. All proceeds of this Yard Sale will go to help organizations throughout Tampa Bay. Believe me, the items that have already been told to me have both my wallet and my mind excited and anxious for the doors to swing open.

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TBO.com

One of the items I am most excited is a chance to purchase an actual MLB authenticated piece of the Rays Clubhouse carpet that has seen champagne spilled upon it more than a few times. And if that doesn’t get your pocketbook spinning a bit, how about possibly purchasing your own slice of fabric from the Trop’s old FieldTurf surface for your very own. Think about that package for a moment, you can get two pieces of Rays history, both authenticated by MLB, and you get to help those in need in the Tampa Bay community. Definitely sounds like a “win-win” situation to me.The Yard Sale will also include the usual fare of game used equipment and jerseys. And the greatest thing about the 2011 Rays Fan Fest is that it is still FREE to enter and take in the magic, with only a few events possibly costing you anything out of your pocket. I will get more into this in the coming week as to the events that will cost you some money at Fan fest, but remember again, all proceeds will benefit the Rays Baseball Foundation.

The Rays have even added in the last 24 hours the incentive that a portion of the overall proceeds from Fan Fest will also go to the families of two recently deceased St. Petersburg police officers. Great to see the Rays reach out with a kind hand to help a pair of families in need right now.

There will be the always popular events like the complimentary Clubhouse Tour, and the Metro PCS “Call a Friend table with a revolving array of Rays players returning this season. A great addition to the Fan Fest fanatic pace is a unique reading section where an actual Rays player will spend time and read with the kids.

This is extra exciting to me especially since Dirk Hayhurst was signed by the team . We could have a live rendition of the “Legend of the Garfoose“. Got my fingers crossed that we also might be able to hear JP Howell or his wife Heather Hennessy-Howell possibly reading the children’s journey, “The Adventures of Dangles“. This one section of Fan Fest could turn into a virtual Home Run by the Rays promotional department with a overcrowded area filled with kids of all ages listening into the stories. (Heck, I might try and sneak within hearing distance).

These are just a few reasons to red-circle the date of Saturday, February 19th on your calendars or set a vocal cell phone alert to be in line at 10 am when the Tropicana Field doors open on that date. Possible treasures from the first Rays season, hearing a Rays player read with or to your child, and maybe having someone like Evan Longoria call your boss or best friend.


ff3.JPG 

This is one of those early moments of the season when finally you can breath and know that Spring is just around the corner and the sound of a bat on the ball is near. This season you can not only make Rays memories during Fan Fest with autographs, possibly get a high-5 from a Rays player as you cross Home Plate or take home a piece of Rays history for yourself.

So far the 2011 Rays Fan Fest is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in the team’s short history. Daily I am getting more and more tidbits of Fan Fest information and it just seems to escalate the excitement and the push for mid-February to get here faster.

 

 P.S.

 The profile photo was taken during my 2004 induction into the Tampa Bay Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame ceremony

 

Warning: Garfoose Is Loose in Tampa Bay!

 


l_2fec71a7319b4ef4ab8a0c0787eabb6d.jpg

Photo by Pat Manfredo

Got to tell you, I am really excited about the possibilities of possibly having a right-handed half moose, half giraffe who will be given a fighting chance for a roster spot this Spring on our Tampa Bay Rays Bullpen staff. And no, I am not talking about the Tall Texan Jeff Niemann who resembles a World-wide toy store Giraffe either.

The animated and finely illustrated character I am referring to is the creature that first festered out of the mind of relief pitcher Dirk Hayhurst, the highly acclaimed Garfoose. If you have not read any of my past posts about this mystical character, please feel free to hit this link, which will get you more in tune with the Garfoose frame of mind.

What is extremely exciting is not only will Hayhurst get a fighting chance to win a spot in the Rays Bullpen, but his mire presence in the Bullpen even this Spring will have droves of kids of all ages clambering for a brief moment with an acclaimed author ( The Bullpen Gospels ) , bus also the originator of this highly addictive baseball eating melting pot.

Sure some of you might also be excited that Hayhurst is also a socially active baseball player who is known to post more than a few particularly mind-bending 140-character posts to his Twitter account, or even to his own website just to see if you are awake and thinking. But I like those kind of people.

The Rays Bullpen can use more guys like Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos and his motorcycle dance and Salsa moves to cut the tension like a knife. For some odd reason, I think a Bullpen with Hayhurst on it will never be a boring place to view during a game. Not since John Rocker or Rusty Meacham has the Rays Bullpen had someone you knew had distraction written all over them, even before Spring Training starts.

But also it could be an amazing mind melting experience if you can get an artist/prankster like Rays long reliever Andy Sonnanstine and Hayhurst possibly together on the same bench….. Think for a moment at the amount of imagination and ability assembled just under those two Rays caps and it definitely should have you smiling.

It is not a ” sure thing” that Hayhurst will even get a legitimate shot at being on the Rays bench, but I am a glass half full kind of guy. With the Rays Bullpen in definite reloading mode, and the possibility that some of the recent additions to the Rays roster could find an early home at the Rays Triple-A affiliate, the Durham Bulls,

I find it highly probable with a great Spring the Garfoose will be on the new AstroTurf at Tropicana Field helping the Rays as they raise their 2010 American League East Championship banner to the rafters. And even if Hayhurst does spend some quality time at Durham, imagine the possibilities of a half-giraffe, half moose getting to know a snorting bull like Wool E Bully…up close.

I mean the idea instantly has me clicking and checking Hayhurst blog today as he introduced himself to the Rays Republic and was extremely excited about the future. With Fan Fest barely a month away, could the addition of the originator of the Garfoose to the Rays suddenly bring some extra incentive for kids to want to drag their personal chauffeurs ( parents) to the Trop on February 19th to meet Hayhurst in person, hoping for a Garfoose sighting or two….

l_ca1a807321074f9f979ca8c7a553dda4.jpg Photo by Pat Manfredo

You can bet between now and then I will be picking up the dusty covered “The Bullpen Gospels” still sitting on my coffee table and reading it from cover-to-cover in anticipation of the first time I get to chat with Hayhurst. Over the last several years I have met and talked with Hayhurst before, but never really talked about writing or his minor league odyssey..

For some reason I have the feeling Hayhurst would be an amazing guy to sit down and interview, or possibly just pick his brain for knowledge both on and off the pitching rubber. I love this signing.

More for the potential of greatness that Hayhurst could possibly achieve in 2011 than for the outer lying presence of his imaginary “friend”. Having Hayhurst in Tampa Bay will never be labeled “boring”.

But seriously, when was the last time you looked into the Bullpen before the 6th inning to see what madness might be occurring, lurking or possibly sighted with his antlers rising above the front row. Welcome to Tampa Bay Garfoose, I will keep a few baseballs handy especially for you.

 

 

Favorite Funny Photos from 2009…….Rays Style

 


www.Cowbelltime.com

2009 will go down as one of those seasons that a few of the members of the Tampa Bay Rays might want to forget as fast as possible. But there also have been some amazing funny and totally memorable photos taken during the past season that might be needed right now for a few who can’t seem to turn their frowns upside down. How could the photo above of a dog lover even turning his canine best friend into a Rays fan not get you to at least start the curving of your mouth into a smile or a deep belly chuckle.

So today I decided to entertain and hopefully lighten up the stress and the angst of the playoff series an hopefully put a few chuckles and smiles on everyones faces as their favorite teams continue to battle it out between the chalk lines. And you know that the best way to relieve stress has always been laughter, or an occasional funny moment. So with that in mind, it is time to begin the 2009 search for the funny bone, and hopefully we all still have one.


www.archiemcphee.com

I am always amazed at some of the new gadgets, puns and practical joke items on www.ArchieMcPhee.com . I originally used this photo not so long ago on August 7,2009 when I wrote on a visit to Seattle……the Renegade’s way.  The place is virtual comics dream with some of the wildest items ever offered online, or in their unique store in Seattle. I mean, look at the photo above of the handerpants, which are billed as “underwear for your hands”. Just the idea of such a thing is beyond words to me at times.  But at least you never have to worry about a skid marks, but you might have to worry about hairy palms.

I mean if you get a chance and want to have a really hard belly laugh, you got to go to the website and check out some of the wild and amazing things that you can buy for yourself or to amuse your friends. You can buy bacon soap, Absinthe floss for your teeth or maybe a Monkey portrait oil painting for the upcoming office Christmas party anonymous gift. Whatever your likes, this is the website for the simply insane and the mostly gag gift for people of any ages.


http://www.raysbaseball.com

This one actually is not a funny photo, sorry, but it is a great reminder that we lose so many great baseball fans every season to the dangers of smoking. I know it might seem like I am jumping on a soapbox here, but I really feel that it is a habit that has robbed us of a lot of great people even during my lifetime. I have never smoked, chewed or used any tobacco products, but with my luck I will die trying to shove in that last hot dog during the $1 Dog Nights at the Trop.

What is also amazing about this photo is the fact that the skeleton has two handlers right behind them in case they have to run and retrieve a foul ball and the leg-bone becomes disconnected from the hip-bone, and the hip-bone loses its tail-bone somewhere on the stairs. Or maybe that is just my own sick sense of weird humor? 


Pat Manfredo

This extremely hungry Toronto Blue Jays reliever about to eat Rays fan Christin Manfredo’s head during a photo opportunity in Dunedin, Florida during Spring Training is Dirk Hayhurst. Most people might remember him as the original storyteller of the Legend of the Garfoose, which is a tremendously funny and totally obscure baseball story that gets me giggling every time I read it. The guy has a wild sense of humor, and seems to like to bite the heads of live Rays fans. 


RRCollections

I always wondered what a 6 foot parrot ate when he came to Florida for Spring Training. I guess he has an appetite for foul ball catching kids.  Seriously, when I first saw this photo in April I was wondering if t was one of those caption photos where you decide what he is doing, and what you want to have printed under the photo. If it was just that sort of opportunity, I guess my entry would say something like: Penalty in Pittsburgh for reaching over the wall for a ball, you get pecked to death by the Parrot.


http://www.brianshousefanclub.com

Another website that has gotten me to give up more than a few chuckles this season is www.brainshousefanclub.com. On this website dedicated to the Rays “leftie” specialist, you can see him immortalized as Neo from “The Matrix“, the Terminator, Santa Claus, and also Ghandi. The site was developed when Shouse was with the Milwaukee Brewers and was used in the 8th inning of Brewers games.

When he came to the Rays, I was told about this website, and tried to immortalize it a few times during the season for the Rays faithful to check out and hopefully use as their desktop photo. No one has ever emailed me back with any information as to if they have selected any of the photos, and in turn added them to their desktops, even for one day. But it is still great to see fans of other teams have a great sense of humor about their favorite players, and want to immortalize them like this. Could a Jason Bay website be in the making?



RRCollections

Still not sure what these guys were trying to convey when they showed up at Tropicana Field one night during a Scott Kazmir start. Were they lost on their way to the Middle Ages revival somewhere downtown, or could they actually be showing some level of solidarity for the Rays Republic. I came up with the notion that they were the Knights Tampa, who were sent here by a Coucil of an European hierarchy to protect the American League Championship trophy as our own Holy Grail….or I could be wrong?


RRCollections

T
o this day, I wish I had known that the Rays and the GEICO Caveman were going to do a parody commercial where he runs out on the field and attacks the GEICO signage put up on the right-centerfield outfield wall. It was a trip talking with him in the interview I did a few minutes before he decided to run onto the field after being selected as the “GEICO Fan of the Game”. Such and honor, and yet he got to spend a night in the Pinellas County Jail making new friends and maybe getting a “Born to HATE GEICO” prison tattoo.

   
          http://www.BaltimoreSun.com

 Earlier in the season I wrote about an old tradition that was resurfacing again in the land of the Oriole. It seemed that some years ago they used to do a cartoon after every game, and after a bit of time, the cartoon fell by the wayside until they decided to return the tradition again in 2009. After every one of the 162 Oriole games there was a cartoon the next morning right there for everyone to see both online and in the morning paper delivered to the doorsteps of thousands in the Baltimore area. Great to see such a humorous tradition again take root in the town that gave us the “Ace of Cakes“.

  

Mark Duncan / AP

I still want to know how much each of those seagulls makes that have a habit of coming into Progressive Field and making a nuisance of themselves. I know that on at least one occasion, the winged ones have knocked down a potential game winning single then let out that all telling gull laugh as the Indians celebrated at Home Plate with a walk-off win. Make you want to again read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” and see if there was any real truth to that book.  In Cleveland, the proof is sitting right there among the green grass on most nights when the Indians play baseball.


Steve Nesius / AP

I have to admit, I always wondered why B J Upton never stole any bases against the New York Yankees earlier in the season. I guess during this game in July I got my answer. Seems that Robinson Cano likes to come up behind Upton and clutch him like a long lost buddy until the ball gets to the plate. Seriously tho, it is great to see the guy have a common respect and love for each other, but can we save the “Man Crush” for after the game and let B J  run next time?


Steve Nesius / AP

I am not sure why Scott Kazmir first off decided to give his rightfielder, Gabe Gross a nice little extra pat on the back pocket, but the look on Kazmir’s face is simply priceless. I miss Scott, he was always up for some sort of humor within the confines of the game, and usually it somehow did get caught by the camera. Not sure the reasoning behind the low pat, but you can bet he got more a few ribbing from his team mate when this one hit the wire services. But the sign  held up in the background by Rays fan George Stone that stated simply “awesome” gives this picture a purely comical edge, and almost turns it a bit cartoonish, but it is a classic moment now.


Chris O’Meara / AP

All during the Rays season there has been at least one culprit during the Rays home games that has been delivering shaving cream pies to unsuspecting victims during television or stadium Jumbotron interviews. And the wild part it is someone who you would never associate such speed and stealth moves to for the most part. Dioner Navarro has been the shaving cream pie stealth bandit all season long, and you never know when he might sprint out of the dugout tunnel holding a towel filled with the creamy substance.

Such was the case when he got Rays Manager Joe Maddon during a FSN Florida interview near the end of the season. But Navarro was not as stealth as usual, as Maddon heard the catcher coming, and turned his head at the right moment to only get a right earful of the cool lime smelling concoction. Maddon, always the cool cucumber basically added during the interview that “Now I feel like one of the boys, and have been accepted into the club”. Classic line by a classic guy who also leads by example for his team to witness nightly. Even wilder, for the next two nights after the shaving cream pie, Navarro started behind the plate for the Rays.


Chris O’Meara / AP

A Major League dugout can be a wild place during a games. You never know just what kind of high jinks or pratfalls might be coming, and you never know who the true culprit is at the moment. Take this photo for example, it is the shoe of Rays Rookie Wade Davis after Rays pitcher Matt Garza gave him a hot foot during a game against the New York Yankees during the last home stand. But Davis was not the only victim of that series.

Earlier in the game, Rays reliever J P Howell, who was shut down in the last weeks before the end of the season got the classic treatment himself when he stayed in the dugout instead of strolling out to the Bullpen like he usually did on game days. He was situated on the dugout rail watching another Rays rookie, David Price pitch during a game and someone, who will remain nameless, got him with the classic bubble gum bubble on top of his Rays cap.

So these are a few of the moments in 2009 that got me to chuckle, laugh and maybe sip a few sips of soda all over the floor of the Trop. The season is long over, and the fans have gone from the stadium, but it is memories like these that will live on within our hearts and minds for a long time.

Legend of the Garfoose

 

 



Christine Manfredo@Facebook.com
 


I was
introduced to a wild new character in the annuals of baseball this week
by a couple of my Rays friends. Well, actually by a picture she had
taken while attending the Toronto Blue Jays versus Team Canada game a
few days ago. Christin and Pat Manfredo are also members of the
Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame and are pretty well known around the Trop.
for their signs and their  great relationships with some of the Rays
players.  I have heard of such a character existed around the
boundaries of baseball, but through their bond with the player that
originated the myth. legend, or maybe the honest truth that is hidden
by the bigwigs of baseball. 

 

 
The origin of this mystical character first graced the pages of Baseball America
back in August 2008 and tells of the origin of the Garfoose, the hidden
creature of baseball. There is not a lot known of Garfoose. If you try
and find anything online or in the Wikipedia  you get a mumble and a
jumble of words and locations, but nothing shows any type of concrete
answers or even questions about this mythical animal. So is it so
unusual that you would find the answers in a Toronto Blue Jays Bullpen
during the Spring of 2009.

 

 
The
teller of this tale is relief pitcher Dirk Hayhurst, who originally was
drafted in the 2003 Major League Baseball Draft by the San Diego
Padres. Hayhurst made his major league debut 17 days after this story
was told in Baseball America, on August 23, 2008. In that
contest he faced Barry Zito and the San Francisco giants in AT&T
Park. But that season in San Diego did not end well for him as he was
placed on waivers and claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays on October 6,
2008. Recently he was released by the Jays to make room for pitcher
Matt bush on their roster. He was again brought back into the Jays fold
via a minor league deal on February 13, 2008.

 

 
The following is the tale of the Garfoose told by Hayhurst in his Prospect Diary inside the pages of Baseball America.
Be warned that small children and farm animals should not read this
passage as it might incite nightmares and even odd sightings of the
creature during both day and night games around the Toronto Blue Jays
home during the Spring, Dunedin Stadium. Do not say I did not warn you
in advance. So without further ado…………The Legend of the
Garfoose:

 

                                    
                                     http://www.sportsvite.com

 

The
ball rolled all the way to the pen. Struck foul with no one to give
chase, it made it’s way to us, the lazy pack of minute men sitting down
the left field line. Nonchalantly, I stepped on it to catch it.

Immediately cheers erupted. Fans know fouls go into the stands and so they began petitioning for it.

Unfazed
by their urgent, desperate pleas, I leisurely reached down to pluck the
new ball from under foot.  It dawned on me, as I turned the ball in my
hand, the balls in the catch bag were not as nice as this freshly foul
pearl. I decided I would switch it out with a tarnished ball so we
could extend the life of this good one. I started to walk away from
ball suitors to make the exchange. The crowd let me have it. I expected
as much, they assumed I wasn’t going to sacrifice to them, but they
were wrong. I made my way back with a downgraded ball and tossed it
into the maw of hungry hands. Before I could return to my seat a
teenage boy in extra baggy clothes with choppy hair shooting out under
a hat turned at that annoying half-cocked angle, bellowed at me with
voice of rude expectation indicative of little punk,  “hey, why choo
didn’t gib-me-dat ball? Gib-me da other one, the good one. I saw you
switch it! You gotta whole bag dawg!”

“Are you really asking me why I switched it or why I didn’t give it to you?” I asked, in a slow, tired draw.

“Both, man. I come to like every game and stuff, like all the time. I deserve a ball.”

“Your a big fan then huh?”

“Yeah bro, I love da Beavers. I’m like the number one fan yo, you should give me a ball.”

“Ok, well, what’s my name then?” It was on my jersey, but my back was turned.

“I, uh…”

“Right. Biggest fan.”

“Still, I seen you had a bag full a dem, hook me up man?”

“I can’t do that. Sorry.”

“Yo, you suck then man, why you can’t? I mean, seriously, yall be millionaires and stuff.”

“Oh, If only that were the truth…”

“I had a buddy tell me you get those balls for free.”

“That’s not true at all. These balls are expensive. More expensive then you’ll ever know.”

“Whatchoo mean?”

“Well, it’s a long story, but since your such a big fan, I’ll tell you…”

“Every
year, in the spring time, hopeful monks wishing to enter the sacred
order of the Stitched Moon make a pilgrimage to a land deep in the
Tibetan mountains. They take very few supplies with them, barely enough
to make the journey, resting upon faith they will accomplish the task
before them.

They travel night and day, rarely stopping to eat
or rest. Some are over come with fatigue, others by starvation. Some
are carried of by predators. Still, a select few fulfill the journey
and find themselves in a paradise untouched by the poison of the modern
world.

You see my friend, legend speaks of a valley in those
mountains, a second Eden if you will, where beauty blossoms with out
limit. It is a land of magic and fantasy.

They sky of this
paradise is arrayed with exotic birds. The ground littered with
precious gems. There is a sapphire blue lake where mermaids live, the
water as sweet as ambrosia. There are fields of flowers, each bud more
magnificent then the next, where unicorns frolic. Sometimes, when not
singing to the sounds of their lutes and harps, the native elves ride
the unicorns, though that may just be an old wives tale.

The
journey is full of temptation, yet there is none greater then call of
this paradise. “Stay,” it bades, “forget about the order of the
Stitched Moon.” Many monks are seduced, and in their careless self
indulgence, they fall victim to the lands only guardian, the dreaded
Garfoose, a fire breathing half giraffe, half moose, whose only known
prey is man.

Stealthily, so as not to alert the Garfoose, the
monks travel into the heart of the paradise to an enchanted grove. It
is within in this grove they find the treasure they so desperately
seek. For the trees of this grove are baseball trees with limbs
bursting with perfectly formed baseballs. The monks collect these
baseballs and carry as many as they can back to their villages.

Upon
return, the monks are met with celebration. Weeks of feasting are held
in their honor before they are warmly excepted into the order of the
Stitched Moon. The baseballs are proof of their commitment but they
also serve another purpose. The collected baseball are sold to Major
League baseball for a healthy profit to the monks. The money is then
used to buy new initiates their robs and Sacred Moon text books.

Major
League Baseball then takes the baseballs and sorts them. The best balls
going to the major leagues, the next best to triple A, and so on. Over
the years science has tried to replicate the the perfect harmony of a
naturally created baseball from the enchanted, Garfoose guarded, groves
of the legendary mountain paradise. But a real baseball player knows
the difference. Don’t ask me how, but there is just something special
that you can feel when you hold it…”

I finished the tale looking out into the distance, my hand extended as if pointing to some heavenly  paradise.

“That, my friend, is why these balls are so special, and why I can’t give them out to just anyone.”

“Man shut up, quit playing.” Said the boy.

“It’s
all real man, I’m not playing.” I was stark serious, staring at him
like it was all true, like he was a crazy person for doubting me.

He paused, looked left and right then leaned toward me and with a small, timid voice whispered, “You being for real about that?”

“Of
course not, what kind of idiot would believe that story? The balls all
say made in China on right on them! I’m not giving you a ball because
your a lying little punk in need of a grammar lesson. Now get a hair
cut and fix your freaking hat, you look like a two year old trying to
wear his dads clothes.”

He made that tongue-tisk sound, and
threw his chest out at me, “Man, you suck! Dat’s why you be in da
minors, you ain’t never gonna make it, looser!”

“Thats alright, at least I’m not going to have nightmares about the Garfoose coming to get me.”

 


Thank you again to Christin and Pat Manfredo for letting me know about this awesome baseball story.

 

The Legend of Garfoose

 

 

 

I was introduced to a wild new character in the annuals of baseball this week by a couple of my Rays friends. Well, actually by a picture she had taken while attending the Toronto Blue Jays versus Team Canada game a few days ago. Christin and Pat Manfredo are also members of the Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame and are pretty well known around the Trop. for their signs and their  great relationships with some of the Rays players.  I have heard of such a character existed around the boundaries of baseball, but through their bond with the player that originated the myth. legend, or maybe the honest truth that is hidden by the bigwigs of baseball. 

 
The origin of this mystical character first graced the pages of Baseball America back in August 2008 and tells of the origin of the Garfoose, the hidden creature of baseball. There is not a lot known of Garfoose. If you try and find anything online or in the Wikipedia  you get a mumble and a jumble of words and locations, but nothing shows any type of concrete answers or even questions about this mythical animal. So is it so unusual that you would find the answers in a Toronto Blue Jays Bullpen during the Spring of 2009.
 

The teller of this tale is relief pitcher Dirk Hayhurst, who originally was drafted in the 2003 Major League Baseball Draft by the San Diego Padres. Hayhurst made his major league debut 17 days after this story was told in Baseball America, on August 23, 2008. In that contest he faced Barry Zito and the San Francisco giants in AT&T Park. But that season in San Diego did not end well for him as he was placed on waivers and claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays on October 6, 2008. Recently he was released by the Jays to make room for pitcher Matt bush on their roster. He was again brought back into the Jays fold via a minor league deal on February 13, 2008.


The following is the tale of the Garfoose told by Hayhurst in his Prospect Diary inside the pages of Baseball America. Be warned that small children and farm animals should not read this passage as it might incite nightmares and even odd sightings of the creature during both day and night games around the Toronto Blue Jays home during the Spring, Dunedin Stadium. Do not say I did not warn you in advance. So without further ado…………The Legend of the Garfoose:
 

                                    

 

The ball rolled all the way to the pen. Struck foul with no one to give chase, it made it’s way to us, the lazy pack of minute men sitting down the left field line. Nonchalantly, I stepped on it to catch it.

Immediately cheers erupted. Fans know fouls go into the stands and so they began petitioning for it.

Unfazed by their urgent, desperate pleas, I leisurely reached down to pluck the new ball from under foot.  It dawned on me, as I turned the ball in my hand, the balls in the catch bag were not as nice as this freshly foul pearl. I decided I would switch it out with a tarnished ball so we could extend the life of this good one. I started to walk away from ball suitors to make the exchange. The crowd let me have it. I expected as much, they assumed I wasn’t going to sacrifice to them, but they were wrong. I made my way back with a downgraded ball and tossed it into the maw of hungry hands. Before I could return to my seat a teenage boy in extra baggy clothes with choppy hair shooting out under a hat turned at that annoying half-cocked angle, bellowed at me with voice of rude expectation indicative of little punk,  “hey, why choo didn’t gib-me-dat ball? Gib-me da other one, the good one. I saw you switch it! You gotta whole bag dawg!”

“Are you really asking me why I switched it or why I didn’t give it to you?” I asked, in a slow, tired draw.

“Both, man. I come to like every game and stuff, like all the time. I deserve a ball.”

“Your a big fan then huh?”

“Yeah bro, I love da Beavers. I’m like the number one fan yo, you should give me a ball.”

“Ok, well, what’s my name then?” It was on my jersey, but my back was turned.

“I, uh…”

“Right. Biggest fan.”

“Still, I seen you had a bag full a dem, hook me up man?”

“I can’t do that. Sorry.”

“Yo, you suck then man, why you can’t? I mean, seriously, yall be millionaires and stuff.”

“Oh, If only that were the truth…”

“I had a buddy tell me you get those balls for free.”

“That’s not true at all. These balls are expensive. More expensive then you’ll ever know.”

“Whatchoo mean?”

“Well, it’s a long story, but since your such a big fan, I’ll tell you…”

“Every year, in the spring time, hopeful monks wishing to enter the sacred order of the Stitched Moon make a pilgrimage to a land deep in the Tibetan mountains. They take very few supplies with them, barely enough to make the journey, resting upon faith they will accomplish the task before them.

They travel night and day, rarely stopping to eat or rest. Some are over come with fatigue, others by starvation. Some are carried of by predators. Still, a select few fulfill the journey and find themselves in a paradise untouched by the poison of the modern world.

You see my friend, legend speaks of a valley in those mountains, a second Eden if you will, where beauty blossoms with out limit. It is a land of magic and fantasy.

They sky of this paradise is arrayed with exotic birds. The ground littered with precious gems. There is a sapphire blue lake where mermaids live, the water as sweet as ambrosia. There are fields of flowers, each bud more magnificent then the next, where unicorns frolic. Sometimes, when not singing to the sounds of their lutes and harps, the native elves ride the unicorns, though that may just be an old wives tale.

The journey is full of temptation, yet there is none greater then call of this paradise. “Stay,” it bades, “forget about the order of the Stitched Moon.” Many monks are seduced, and in their careless self indulgence, they fall victim to the lands only guardian, the dreaded Garfoose, a fire breathing half giraffe, half moose, whose only known prey is man.

Stealthily, so as not to alert the Garfoose, the monks travel into the heart of the paradise to an enchanted grove. It is within in this grove they find the treasure they so desperately seek. For the trees of this grove are baseball trees with limbs bursting with perfectly formed baseballs. The monks collect these baseballs and carry as many as they can back to their villages.

Upon return, the monks are met with celebration. Weeks of feasting are held in their honor before they are warmly excepted into the order of the Stitched Moon. The baseballs are proof of their commitment but they also serve another purpose. The collected baseball are sold to Major League baseball for a healthy profit to the monks. The money is then used to buy new initiates their robs and Sacred Moon text books.

Major League Baseball then takes the baseballs and sorts them. The best balls going to the major leagues, the next best to triple A, and so on. Over the years science has tried to replicate the the perfect harmony of a naturally created baseball from the enchanted, Garfoose guarded, groves of the legendary mountain paradise. But a real baseball player knows the difference. Don’t ask me how, but there is just something special that you can feel when you hold it…”

I finished the tale looking out into the distance, my hand extended as if pointing to some heavenly  paradise.

“That, my friend, is why these balls are so special, and why I can’t give them out to just anyone.”

“Man shut up, quit playing.” Said the boy.

“It’s all real man, I’m not playing.” I was stark serious, staring at him like it was all true, like he was a crazy person for doubting me.

He paused, looked left and right then leaned toward me and with a small, timid voice whispered, “You being for real about that?”

“Of course not, what kind of idiot would believe that story? The balls all say made in China on right on them! I’m not giving you a ball because your a lying little punk in need of a grammar lesson. Now get a hair cut and fix your freaking hat, you look like a two year old trying to wear his dads clothes.”

He made that tongue-tisk sound, and threw his chest out at me, “Man, you suck! Dat’s why you be in da minors, you ain’t never gonna make it, looser!”

“Thats alright, at least I’m not going to have nightmares about the Garfoose coming to get me.”

 

Thank you again to Christin and Pat Manfredo for letting me know about this awesome baseball story.
Photo credits for today’s blog go to: ChristinManfredo@Facebook.com, www.sportsvite.com, http://www.baseballamerica.com.
 
 
 
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