Results tagged ‘ Gary Sheffield ’

American Legion & M L B, Two Peas in a Pod

 

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I was especially proud and honored this past weekend to hear that Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon decided to honor the “American Legion” brand of baseball spirit.

images (7)And adding a cherry on top of it all, Maddon picked St. Petersburg Florida’s own American Legion Post 14 just a few miles down the road from Tropicana Field as a focus point.

American Legion unique style of baseball was first proposed during a speech by Major John L. Griffith (then collegiate commissioner of the Western Conference or called the Big Ten today) during a state convention in Milbank, South Dakota back in 1925.  Griffith centered his comments towards the role athletics can play in the development of youth.

Griffith stated to the assembled American Legion members: “Athletic competition teaches courage and respect for others, fostering their growth into active citizens.”

images (4)The South Dakota convention agreed and passed a resolution urging the Legion to create an organized summer baseball league that started each June and ended with a World Championship series. American Legion’s 1925 National Commander James A Drain backed the resolution and was easily passed during that year’s National Convention in Omaha, Nebraska.

The American Legion held its first World Series in 1926 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where a team from Yonkers Post 321 defeated a squad from Pocatello, Idaho. A World Series was not held in 1927 due to the rising costs of attending the American Legion’s National Convention in Paris, France, but soon the Legion found a common ground benefactor to help nurture the development and funding of its young baseball program.

images (8)Early in 1928 the Legion’s Americanism Director Dan Sower had a plan to help keep the Legion baseball league solvent. Sowers attended an executive meeting of Major League Baseball hoping to catch a sympathetic ear of then Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.  The M L B Commissioner pledged a $50,000 annual donation and within 2 years’ time the Legion baseball program expanded to include teams from every state plus the District of Columbia.

During the lean years of the Great Depression, MLB had to rescind their $50,000 a year endowment, but as the economy rebounded so did their contribution that started again at $25,000 in 1935 and gradually worked its way back to the original donation amount. M L B now contributes about 3 % of the total budget.

images (3)Since its inception in 1925, the American Legion baseball program has grown tremendously to now sporting over 5,400 teams from all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Almost 100,000 young players ages 15-19 pull on American Legion jerseys annually. Nearly 60 % of all current college players are graduates of the Legion baseball program.

M L B has help fund American Legion baseball almost since its inception and Legion baseball has produced a huge bevy of M L B prospects. The amount of former Legion ballplayer who go onto the professional ranks increases with every season and it is estimated more than half of all current major leaguers have Legion roots.

From fresh-faced M L B rookies playing short season summer baseball to current M L B players and Baseball Hall of Fame members, many got their true starts towards a professional career by playing Legion ball.

images (6)Hall of Famer Yogi Berra played for the Fred W. Stockholm Post 245 in St. Louis, Mo and was once heard saying American Legion ball was” the most fun he ever had.” Ted Williams pulled on a Legion jersey for a post back in San Diego, California.

Frank Robinson helped lead his Oakland, Calif. Squad to the only back-to-back World Series win in Legion ball history.

Babe Ruth however never got a chance to play Legion baseball as he was too old to participate during its younger years but spent the final years of his life promoting the Legion program as its director of operations.

Even though Maddon chose Post 14 as his local Post, it is not one of the most prolific American Legion baseball programs in Tampa Bay. That honor goes to Post 248 in Tampa, Florida which produced such future M L B players as Luis Gonzalez, Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield.

images (5)Other Florida notables include David Eckstein who played for Post 53 in Sanford, Fl and Chipper Jones and Luke Scott both played for Post 6 out of Deland,Fl.

American Legion baseball even has another great ambassador who played on the gridiron in Bob Griese who played for the Evansville, Indiana post who were the American Legion champs in 1964.

Here is just a small list of some of the current M L B players who have their baseball roots firmly planted within the American Legion program: Cliff Lee (Benton,Ark), Justin Verlander (Post 201), Drew Stubbs and Will Middlebrook (Texarkana), Craig Kimbrel (Post 15), Jason Motte (Post 152), Chad Billingsley (Post 300), Jackie Bradley Jr. (Post 146), Brian Wilson (Post 27), Madison Bumgarner (Post 29) and many, many more…..

downloadI hope this shows some of the sheer magnitude of talent that has come through the American Legion system and are now inspiring members of the major leagues.    

American Legion baseball is something truly special and I was thrilled to be a part of it back in the late 70’s playing for Post 14.  And even though Post 14 never advanced to the World Series while I was playing Third Base, it solidified my personal growth and life foundation through competition, unity of team and created experiences I have used throughout my life.

Playing Post ball helped mold me tighter and wiser as a person while also embracing the spirit of the organization and embracing as well as respecting and honoring for those who fought bravely for our freedoms.

images (2)Some people see the High Schools and college systems as the feeder systems towards a M L B career. I hope this post shows that the American Legion program has deep roots within the American game of baseball and its presence is only going to increase.

I am glad Maddon decided to embrace this past weekend as an American Legion weekend and that he rewarded those in attendance Friday night in Post 14 by picking up that night’s bar tab of over $550.

I wasn’t there that night but if I was, I would have raised my glass high and saluted Major Griffith for having the foresight to embrace a Legion baseball program and giving so many of us great Legion memories.

I mean as the banner said that was displayed in the Rays Clubhouse, Post 14 is “The Fun Post”.

Rays Cancel the Gabe and Gabe Show

 

 

 
 

During their daily pre-game news conference in the Rays dugout, the Tampa Bay Rays have just announced that they are going to release both Gabe Kapler and Gabe Gross this afternoon to make room on their roster for two additions to be announced later today.  This is a huge departure from the scenario that was evident a few days ago where the duo would be a platoon action in right field for the Rays. It seems that their Spring Training averages, and their scaled back defensive play might have been a factor in the decision. ” I was extremely shocked, ” Gross told the Clearwater Sun. ” I thought after I signed my one-year contract, this would be my home for the year, defensing right field for the Rays.” 
 

 
One main factor in the decision might be the lack of power this spring by both Kapler and Gross. Gross currently has a single home run and only 8 RBIs, which pale in comparison to fellow Ray Jon Weber’s 3 homers and 14 RBI’s in the same time period. Even non-roster invitee Rays Sadler , who has 4 homers and 8 RBI’s has shown more power and ability this Spring than Gross. But it might be the .164 batting average posted by Kapler that might have sealed his fate this spring.  Kapler has gone 9-55, which is a masked improvement over going 0-14 to start the spring.
 

 

Even thought the announcement goes against the Rays previous defensive movements, it is said that the team might be making a roster spot for Gary Sheffield, who will clear waiver this week after being released from the Detroit Tigers. In a vertical move, it seems that former Tiger, Matt Joyce might have done enough to secure not only a 25-man roster spot, but also a change to platoon with Sheffield in right field for the team. “We consider Joyce a kid who just might have lightning in a bottle right now” Rays scouting director Syd Finch told the media. ” With him growing and Sheffield tutoring the young guy, we have a current win-win situation on our hands.”

 



 

 
Gabe Kapler, who gave up a chance to again manage in the minor league system has been given the same option in the Rays minor league system if he so desires. “I was told I could manage the Tampa Bay Rays rookie league team if I desire until they can find a suitable position for me.” Kapler told the Evening Independent. ” I actually think this might be a great start to a long and prosperous managing career and I want to thank the Rays fans for not being an ex-Red Sox this Spring.” Kapler also will be still conducting his daily pose-offs with Rays designated Hitter Pat Burrell while he is in the Tampa Bay area. 
 

 

” The reason that the Gary Sheffield situation is so enticing is the PR potential of this move,” Gary Kroger, Fan Excitement Manager of the Rays said before the packed media house in Port Charlotte today. ” Think about this for a moment, here we have a guy who is about to hit his 500th home run, not even our fan favorite Fred McGriff was able to do that in his career. That means PR money in the bank.”  Even though the move might be considered dramatic by most Rays standards the team decided to go “outside the box” on this one because of the demands on the Rays showing their true potential this season.  

 
 

 

 

“For us to defend our American League East pennant, we have to get out of the gate early to exhibit the passion and confidence in obtaining our second trophy.” Finch added. But what is more amazing, is that this is also the day, a year ago when the Rays declined their 2009 option on Rocco Baldelli.  A decision will also be announced later today on the 2010 $ 11.5 million option for Carl Crawford.  Is there some sort of romantic significance to this date in Rays history for contracts and major announcements to be made by the franchise. ” There really is not set goal or objective on this date, ” said Kroger. ” What is amazing is that the Rays and the world take such pride in the date, and truly feel that April 1st is a magical date both in history and in practical jokes.”  I am not sure what to make of that statement when Adam Friedman runs into the room and proclaims loud and clear, “April Fools!, you really did not think we would dissolve the two Gabes’ did you?”
 


Photo credits:   1)-3) www.stpetersburgtimes.com
 
 
 

 
 

Rays Tantalizing Morsels

 


 

Gary Sheffield
 

It seems like some of the dominoes around Major League Baseball are beginning to fall as the Detroit Tigers took the first big step by releasing their old star Gary Sheffield today. What is more amazing about this release is the fact that the Tigers were willing to eat his $ 14 million dollar contract than to even use his services this year at all. Considering they do not even see him as a Designated hitter for then this year is a major departure from their 2008 scenario concerning Sheffield. What might also seem a bit odd is the fact that he is only 1 home run shy of 500 for his career. Usually a team would see that and use it for the promotional value it has for ticket sales. But I guess the Tigers are done with “Sheffy’s” antics and big white puffy Chef hats in the stands in Comerica Park.
 
 

You have to believe that the Tiger have already tried to shop Sheffield around the league, but with his huge salary on the book for the 2009 season, it makes him a bit unattractive to teams right now. By releasing him, the team will eat his contract and he will be available to all 30 teams in any capacity this season. I believe the only requirement to sign him would be that the team taking him on in 2009 will be responsible for paying the league minimum back to the tiger’s for his services. You might want to keep an eye on the Toronto Blue Jays, who might come a round and snatch the aging outfielder and DH to try and help their offense this year.

It is also known that Sheffield would love to play for his hometown Tampa Bay Rays. the only problem would be that he would have to demonstrate that he can play the outfield most of the time, but could be a bargain pick-up by the Rays. Considering they would only be on the hook for $ 400,000 of his $ 14 million contract this season, he could be a attractive alternative to one of the two Gabe’s currently manning the right field spot for the Rays. But this is purely speculation until he clears waivers later this week. But in an interview with the St Petersburg Times, Rays Manager Joe Maddon  did say that, ” That’s very complimentary that he would want to come play for us. I saw him during the off season, and he’s in great shape, he’s a strong person. And I like him.” To even consider this type of addition to the team, the Rays must think long and hard as to the advantages and disasterious situation concerning the future Hall of Famer.

Fitting him into the current Rays roster would be creative at best. But the team has never been shy about upgrades to their team and could possibly entertain the addition.  But the addition of Sheffield might be a defensive nightmare, and the Rays have been building a team stressing the fundamentals and advantages of defensive excellence the past two seasons.  Sheffield has been adamant that he “feels good” and can play the outfield for his next team.  Sheffield stated to reporters today, ” I have a lot left.  I know that.  If one person doesn’t think I can play in the field, that’s their opinion.  I know I can. No one else knows my body better than me.” Sheffield would be a offensive upgrade in right field for the Rays, but can that counter any possible defensive lapses or problems down the line. But  with only a $ 400,000 salary, could  the Rays actually entertain the idea of getting a former superstar, who is about to hit a monumental plateau of 500 home runs and just let him slip away without a second thought. After the star clears waivers he can be signed by any of the other 29 teams in the league. Who knows where “Sheffy” will land in 2009. But the odds are in his favor to find a team willing to take a chance on the aging star…… maybe even in his home town.


 

             

 
Jeff Niemann
 

In the last 24 hours the Tampa Bay Rays have been chatting with several teams about the possibilities of either, and maybe both Jason Hammel and Jeff Niemann leaving the squad for destination unknown at this time. The San Diego Post-Union has an article online about their seeking of pitching with a picture of Rays starter Niemann attached with the article.  The San Diego Padres got more into the talks for Niemann after they found out that pitcher Cha Seung Baek’s  upper forearm strain would set the number 3 starter down for at least a week, and maybe more.  The Rays seem to be asking for lower level prospects ( Double-A and below) and the current asking price is not within the Padre’s considerations.

 

Besides the Padres, it is possible that the Pittsburgh Pirates also have a keen eye on Niemann.  But as happens at this time of year, other teams have now poked their fingers towards the Rays to see just how interested they are in maybe moving the duo. In the past 24 hours the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians and the Washington Nationals have expressed some questions towards the Rays about the pair. It might also be possible that the Milwaukee Brewer’s might also be sniffing around considering their unhappiness with their starters this spring.  One name that will not come up again with Niemann is the L A Angels, who were high on the tall rightie last season, but seem to be uninterested at this time.

 
                                

Jason Hammel
 

As the second part of the Rays quest for s fifth starter this year, Jason Hammel seemed to have a leg up on the competition, but after a strong 6-inning shutout by Niemann yesterday, the duo might be closer than ever in the Rays eyes. By finding a suitor for either of them, the Rays would take the guesswork out of their decision and also benefit by obtaining some new blood into the m
inor league farm system. Hammel has been the most consistent this spring, but do the Rays really consider him a starter after his impressive displays in the Bullpen in 2008.

 
He also did start for the team during Scott Kazmir’s time on the D L early last spring,  and proved to be a great fill-in as Kazmir regained his strength and happily went to the Bullpen without incident in 2008.  During the year Hammel did have a few bumps in the road, the he seemed to have adjusted to life in the Bullpen for the team. Never considered a back-end alternative for the team, he did get his first MLB save in a late inning appearance in Boston by holding the Red Sox scoreless until  the Rays finally countered to win the game. Hammel’s name has come up in recent articles on Fanhouse.com as the Rockies are seeking a few upgrades to their current starting pitching rotation too.
 

Hanley Ramirez Wigging Out

 
I recently saw this article on Sun-Sentinel.com about Florida/Miami Marlin shortstop/superstar Hanley Ramirez getting upset over the new team hair and jewelery policy.  It was said that Ramirez had such a displeasure of the new rule that he actually walked through the locker room with a message across his chest in black sharpie.  It was said that he had ” I am sick of this S*** ” written on his chest for all to see in the clubhouse. It seems a bit odd that the team would try and alienate the one guy who they seems to value in their clubhouse for his abilities and talents.
 

You might not know this, but Ramirez has his hair in cornrow ala Manny ( no relation) Ramirez and had to cut his coiled locks to conform with the new team directive.  Rumors are running rampant on why the team front office has made these changes since they are the same front office that has been here for several seasons. Could the show of respectability and maybe clean-cut appearance be a precursor to the team getting their lion’s share of the local bonds to finally start construction on their retractable roof stadium?

 

 

Weirder things have happened in Miami than this.  But to be honest, not only Ramirez was effected by the new rules. Also trimming their locks were pitchers Josh Johnson, Lou Nunez and outfielder Cameron Maybin.  It is usually a rule like this that can bond a team over the season, but because of Ramirez’s response, could it actually drive a wedge into his mindset and effect his performance in 2009.  Also in the new rules is a no exposed jewelery mention, but no one on the team currently seems to dress out for games looking like Tony Montana at the disco, so there will be no sharpie incident on this point. Even though jewelery can glitter and cast a nice gleam off your skin in the Florida sun, it can also be considered an annoyance to hitters or even fielders at time in the high noon sun of South Florida.

 
 
Cromier and Izzy
 

Another duo that might bring the Rays a few sleepless nights is how they can posture to keep two members of their Bullpen without maybe losing them either by the waiver wire or by trade. Lance Cormier has been impressive this year for the Rays since signing on January 16, 2008.  He had produced a 1.23 ERA in 10 appearance so far this spring for the Rays with 10 strikeouts in 14.2 innings.  He is considered a huge upgrade to either of the Rays 2008 Bullpen mates Scott Dohmann and Gary Glover, who made the team’s 25-man roster out of Spring Training last year.
 
 

Another interesting piece to the Rays Bullpen is the great pitching of former Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen. Since his many physical and mental situation of 2008, Isringhausen has been the find of the 2009 Bullpen and could be valuable to the Rays in many situations. Considering he has 293 saves to his credit, he could be a valuable member of the late inning corp for the Rays. But even with the renewed vigor and vitality of current closer Troy Percival, it give the team another option, and even a solid 8th inning alternative to Dan Wheeler.

 
 

Both men could make the Rays 25-man roster coming out of Spring Training, but there is only one position at this time barring a trade of another member of the staff. Both are huge additions to the Bullpen and will be great additions to the improved look and fear factor of the 2009 possible Rays Bullpen. The team can not possibly get Cormier through waivers since he signed a $ 675 major league contract. They would have to find an alternative, or trade a member of their current pitching staff to keep him safely on their roster. Isringhausen could possibly be put on the DL for a short period to continue his workouts and eventually come back onto the Rays 25-man roster. But considering he has pitched effectively this spring, this kind of manuver might only stall their decision for a short period of time.

 
 
 
 
 
Photo Credits:     1) www.sportsnet.ca
                           2) Associated Press ( Steve Senne )
                           3) www.Bradenton.com
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bsp;      4)
www.news.yahoo.com
                         

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