Results tagged ‘ Jared Sandberg ’

Using the “Tampa” Name does the Rays No Favors

 

 
Chris O’Meara/AP

I guess no one told the Tampa Bay Rays players the history behind the Tampa Tarpons. How this franchise was one of the charter members of the Florida State League and finished last in 1919,their first season of existence in the new Class-D league. But this proud former farm system stop of the Cincinnati Reds did turn it around the following season and posted a 84-28 season for a .745 winning percentage, still tops in FSL history. Or maybe someone left out the tales of this franchise playing every season from 1919 to 1987, except for the four years that most baseball disbanded during World War II.

That the former home of the Tarpons, Al Lopez Field used to be just to the south of the former Tampa Stadium complex before it was finally razzed and demolished to give way to more parking spaces for the Tampa Sorts Authority. The Tarpons were sold in 1988 after Malcolm F. “Bunny” Mick and his brother Mitchell decided to get out of the baseball business. The team was in a state of hiatus until 2002 and re-emerged as the Jupiter Hammerheads.

And how many Rays players knew that in 1961 a young hustler named Pete Rose got his start up the Cincy food chain in Tampa where he batted .331, set a record of 30 triples ( still a FSL record) and also lead the FSL in errors. All this while also helping the Tarpons to the FSL Championship that season.

Other former Reds players who made a stop with the Tampa Tarpons include Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, Charlie Liebrandt, Ken Griffey Sr., Tom Browning and Dave Concepcion. The history involved with this storied franchise is amazing, and should have been a huge inspirational push for the Rays to beat the Baltimore Orioles tonight. The Rays did channel a bit of the Tarpon mystic tonight, but not the positive aspects we were hoping for in the end.

 
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The 1970 Tampa Tarpon squad that the Rays honored tonight while wearing their classic uniforms went 64-68 in the 1970 FSL West division. They squad scored a total of 433 runs, but also allowed 452 runs. It was a pretty mediocre team that was led by Manager Richard Kennedy. Most of the players on the 1970 Tarpon squad were between 19 and 23 years of age. It was a Class-A farm team of the Cincinnati Reds organization at that point, and only had a small handful of player who advanced through the Red’s system.
Players like Dan Driessen, Nardi Contreras, Rawly Eastwick, Tom Spencer and Joel Youngblood were the only notables from the 1970 Tarpon squad to make their way up the Reds farm system ladder.

Contreras was also the only Tampa, Florida native on the team’s roster. The top producer on that season’s team was Spencer who hit for a .285 average with 5 HR, 50 RBI and 21 SB in 130 games.

So maybe the Rays were channeling a bit of that 1970’s Tarpons team last night. Maybe they can find solace in the fact the Rays front office picked a team that did not reach the .500 mark in their season as their “Turn Back the Clock” brethren last night.
 
The Rays front office gurus might do the Rays a little favor in 2011 by checking the references and the statistics of the teams they are going to represent before deciding on the city, team and final standings in that season’s league. With that in mind, let me make a suggestion for the 2011 Rays “Turn Back the Clock” representative team.

 
Chris O’Meara/AP

I am thinking it should be either the 1968 St. Petersburg Cardinals who finished 96-43 (.691) and had hitters like Pedro Borbon, Boots Day, Jerry DaVanon and young First Baseman named Jose Cruz. Or maybe we can remember the Rays first team to win a Divisional Championship in their farm system, and honor the 1997 St. Petersburg Devil Rays who won the 1997 FSL Championship in their first year in the league. They were backed by a 81-56 record that season and had a host of future Rays on their squad.

This roster included a 19-year old Jared Sandberg, pitchers Mickey Calloway, and Rolando Arroyo. This team also had local baseball stars Scott Romano (Tampa), John Kaufman (Tampa), John Cafaro (Tampa) and Greg Blosser (Manatee).

Considering the “Tampa” name on the jerseys last night did not produce any sizeable advantage or confidence, maybe the Rays might be wise to again grasp their St. Pete roots and bring home a victory next year when we “Turn Back the Clock”.I almost forgot this nifty nugget of 1970 FSL information. During the 1970 FSL season, the Baltimore Orioles Class-A affiliate in the league was the eventual 1970 FSL Champions, the Miami Marlins. How ironic is that.
 

Great to See Rocco Back in Rays Blue Again

 

            
             SPTimes.com

It was so great to see former Rays outfielder and all-around good guy Rocco Baldelli standing outside the Rays clubhouse this morning underneath the overhang at the Rays Spring Training complex in Port Charlotte, Florida. It has just been over a year and a half since Baldelli last donned the same type Rays blue outerwear during the 2008 World Series games in Philadelphia, and the Rays colors still fits him like a glove.

But it did also had a bit of an eerie feel to the moment as it seems like such a long period since we saw Baldelli roaming the outfields at Tropicana Field. But there he stood this morning just smiling away with great opportunities in front of him and a chance to get healthy and help his former team’s next generation..

 
 

But even with a..that smile on his face, and his constantly shaking hands with Rays players who also gathered under that awning to see him and wait out this rain shower, Baldelli seemed to have that energized look on his face where he is totally excited to again be with this franchise, and around the game of baseball this season. I shouted over to Baldelli and he waved and then I asked him what number he planned to wear during Spring Training?
 
 

Baldelli just smiled and nodded his head and told me “we will all see soon enough”. A bit bummed, but then again, he has only been here a few hours and maybe Rays Equipment Manager Chris Westmoreland did not have his jersey done yet. I am guessing Baldelli will sport number 55 this Spring, since no one else in Rays Major League camp has that number, and it is twice as lucky as his old number 5 currently sitting on Rays DH Pat Burrell’s back.
 
 

But Baldelli was not just standing there waiting for the rain to stop so he could compete again for an outfield slot with the team, or even a part-time Designated Hitter spot, Baldelli accepted a chance today to come back onto the Rays staff as a Special Assistant with the team, and will be assigned to the Rays minor league camp and serve as an instructor during the rest of this year’s Spring Training. He will concentrate his efforts as a roving instructor focusing on base running and outfield play with budding minor league players like Desmond Jennings and 2009 Draftee Todd Glaesmann.


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Having someone of Baldelli’s caliber and skills in this year’s minor league camp will be great for a top tier prospect like Jennings so that he has a sounding board with a former top tier prospect who made that quick transition to the Major League level. And the Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman jumped at this great opportunity of having an MLB-caliber player like Baldelli to come into the start of the Rays minor league camp to advise and help mentor the next generation of Rays major league ready players. Plus the ” instructor” situation also helps Baldelli by supplying professional level baseball facilities and medical attention as he rehabs from a unspecified shoulder injury Baldelli endured during his 2009 season when he played sparingly with American League East rival, Boston.

And there were a few Rays fans out in the rain with me today wondering why the Rays were civil and open to bringing Baldelli back into the Rays fold after he played for our “arch enemy” last season. And the answer is really quite simple. This situation helps both parties involved, plus it gives Baldelli a chance to realistically see if he might also be open to taking the same Coaching path of former Rays slugger Jared Sandberg and move into the coaching profession after his playing career.

 
 

It also is a perfect “win-win” situation for Baldelli as able to provide certain nuances of the game to the Rays developing players, plus he will be able to rehabilitate his shoulder injury with a Rays medical staff that already knows his past injuries and medical history, and could be beneficial in providing top notch rehabilitation care and treatments while Baldelli also works with the Rays minor leaguers and eventually works out on his own to see if playing again is in his future. But this is also a way for Baldelli to keep his head in the game of baseball and stay mentally ready to play too.

 
 

Think about it for a second here, you are a Major League baseball player and you suffered through months of pain and anguish to find yourself unwanted by your 2009 team and a free agent seeking a shot to compete somewhere, but people know of your shoulder woes, and pass you by, or tell you to get healthy and then give them a call. Baldelli is in that middle “no-man’s land” zone right now between playing, or maybe having to make a difficult career choice in the near future to pursue coaching full-time and mentoring future ballplayers, or getting the chance to regain yourself and your baseball career. How could you not see this opportunity as a positive step to see what you could or maybe pursue after your playing days are over, but also still have your options open to continue with the game.

 

 
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And the Rays have always been open to inviting former Rays players to work with their teams a ample chance to come back into the Rays organization and be a authority figure, or sports mentor to work with other Rays prospects to hone their craft and make them the best they can be in their baseball maturation process. Baldelli is not the first former Rays player to come back to his former club and provide instruction and mentor players. Ex-Ray and current Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs came back to the Rays in 2001 and served one season as their Hitting Coach before leaving the team.

Dave Martinez, who got the first hit in Rays history came back several years ago as an outfield instructor and is now sitting every game besides Rays Manager Joe Maddon as his Rays Bench Coach. And who can forget that 2009 Baseball Hall of Fame nominee Fred McGriff has spent several Rays Spring Trainings working as a Special Advisor to the Rays. Add on that scenario of the consistent growth within the Rays Coaching ranks of Sandberg through the Rays system from his first stint with short-season Princeton to his current post as Manager of the Hudson Valley Renegades for the2010 season.

And Sandberg might just be another budding former Rays player turned manager to some day patrol the benches at the Major League level within a few years. This Rays Front Office has always been open to hiring former players who understand the Rays system, and also adhere to their team’s mantra. And bringing back Baldelli right now just seems perfectly right to me.

 
 

Having Baldelli working out with the next generation of Upton’s, Crawford’s and maybe even another Baldelli just shows his passion and his drive for the little things about playing this game at it’s top level. And it is important to note here that Baldelli is not “retired”, but basically weighing his options and between jobs. Baldelli might have to take a step back like ex-Rays catcher Toby Hall did in 2009 when Hall was rehabbing a shoulder injury and get healthy before finally making some difficult decisions on his baseball future. But I personally would not bet against Baldelli not being wearing some team’s uniform at some point this season.
 
 

There is presently no talk of Baldelli wearing a Rays jersey besides his current Rays gear on his back while he does his job as a roving instructor. But the Rays and Baldelli both have left that door wide open for a future discussion about his plans. And that in itself is almost a mirror-image to the 2009 Spring Training situation where the Rays brought in rehabbing reliever Jason Isringhausen after his 2008 injuries into Spring Training with an eye to get him healthy, then make some personnel decisions.

Isringhausen eventually got healthy and appeared in a Rays uniform in 2009, but Isringhausen went down with a torn elbow ligament and had to undergo Tommy John’s surgery . Could Baldelli be this season’s “Izzy” and be able to again get back to the Major League level?

 
 

Would Baldelli even be open to taking another limited role situation with the Rays similar to his 2008 status with the team, or could there be an eye towards him being a possible in-house alternative/replacement if Rays Designated Hitter Pat Burrell gets injured or off to a weak start in 2009?. All these questions are streaming through my mind, and I know some of you also have those thoughts coursing through your cerebral cortex. But for now, Baldelli is here to heal and help guide and be a source of inspiration and motivation for the next generation of Rays. But that also doesn’t rule out the possibilities of Baldelli not being able to don a MLB jersey at some point in 2010.
 

 
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And there is no guarantee it would even be the Rays classic blue and white, or even a Rays Blue jersey. B ut having Baldelli here is motivation enough for me to feel better about the future of this team. Some web sites have called him the “Prodigal Son”. To some of us, Baldelli never went away, he just was on “vacation” away from the Rays. But in the end, is this the kind of guy you want on your team? Is this the type of former player you want teaching your young players “The Rays Way”?

And can the Rays prospects learn and mature hearing of Baldelli’s past and develop their own pattern to enrich their game before hitting the Major League level? To all three of these questions, I sound a loud and resounding “Yes”. Hopefully in the near future, Rays fans will see Baldelli standing on the side of the field again both his glove and a black bat in each hand, or maybe it will be Baldelli’s arms swaying and pointing a shift to one of the Rays minor leaguers to put him into a better fielding position based on the hitter tendencies, either way, it is great to see Baldelli again in a Rays uniform. Blue just seems to be his color!

Digging the Rays Past (1996)

 


Raysbaseball.com/MLB.com

Every once in a while I get into one of these research kicks where I want to find out once and for all if something could of, did not, or should of happen concerning the Tampa Bay Rays or any other team. The object of my well, obsession last night was to see if any of the 30 Major League Baseball squads ever attempted to draft current NFL hero and New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees in 1996, when he lettered in baseball at Westlake High School in Dallas,Texas.

So I went on a long and detailed journey checking out every name for almost 100 rounds of the 1996 MLB First Year Draft online, and actually did not find a single mention of the Brees name. Some people might consider this then a waste of time and energy, but I did find a few very interesting secondary targets, and even a score of former Rays players I did not know were initially drafted in 1996.

 
 

The 1996 MLB First YearDraft was actually the starting point for first year player selections ever by the then Tampa Bay Devilrays and it set into motion the initial formation of their minor league ranks in their farm minor league system, which today is considered by many to be the best in baseball. And along the way, I found 24 names listed on that year’s draft board that one day would don the Rays emblem across their chests during a Rays game. 

Most of the Rays faithful know that the D-Rays picked Raleigh, North Carolina native Paul Wilder with the 29th pick in the First Round of that initial draft. But did you know that the last Rays selection in that year’s Draft was High School outfielder Michael Rose from Dayton, Ohio with the 1,736th pick?

 

It was a wild night remembering names and also associating them with past great Rays moments. Out of that first 1996 draft, the highest selected pick from 1996 to don a Rays jersey was outfielder Alex Sanchez from Miami-Dade CC, but most of us might remember him better for the April 3,2005  MLB press release that he would be the first MLB player ever suspended for violating the MLB’s newly instituted drug policy.

Not a great way to be remembered, but Sanchez did not last long with the Rays despite an early 2005 .346 batting average. His wishy-washy defensive play and the suspension might have hastened the Rays to designate him for assignment on June 13th 2005.

 
 

Besides Wilder, there was another name drafted in associated with the D-Rays during that first draft when they selected then, Florida Gators quarterback Doug Johnson in the second round. Even though Johnson did sign and report to a minor league team, he never seems to gather enough mustard to rise through the D-Rays farm system, and finally concentrated his efforts more on staying healthy behind the NFL’s Atlanta Falcon’s offensive line. It was a calculated gamble by the Rays Front Office to try and get Johnson to fit into their system, but the young player always seemed to be more comfortable with a football helmet on his head than the baseball batting helmet.

But what is even more surprising is the large number of other players selected in that season’s draft who would end up one day playing in Rays gear. During the 1996 MLB Draft, other teams ended up selecting a total of 17 players who ended up sporting Rays gear during their playing careers. The highest profile player might be 1B Travis Lee, who was the second pick of the First Round by the Twins that season. Also former Rays players LHP Bobby Seay(CWS), INF/OF Damian Rolls(LAD) and P Nick Bierbrodt(AZ) were all First Round selections that at one point wore Rays colors.

 


AP file Photo 

But down the draft line there were also players like P Chad Bradford(CWS), LP Mark Hendrickson(TEX), P Joe Biemel(TEX), INF Brent Abernathy(TOR),3B/C Eric Munson(ATL) P Joe Nelson(ATL) C Robert Fick(DET),LP Casey Fossum(AZ), DH/1B Josh Phelps(TOR),OF Jason Conti(AZ), P Brandon Backe(MIL), P Ryan Rupe(KC) and P Tim Corcoran(NYM). It is a bit unusual for so many budding players to find their way onto one team and prosper during their careers, but at that time, Tampa Bay was a good starting place to establish yourself within Major League Baseball by showing a good foundation, then moving onto another team with experience under your belt.

 
 

It is funny now to also gather the names of other great players who also debuted  as professionals from that 1996 draft.  Later Round selected Players like Astros P Roy Oswalt(23rd Rd), Cubs P Ted Lilly(23rd Rd),current Free Agent reliever Kiko Calero(27th Rd) just among the top 30 rounds of the draft. The you have guys like Yankee OF Marcus Thames(30th Rd), Indians DH Travis Hafner(31st Rd), Twins 2B Orlando Hudson(33rd Rd), rehabbing P Chris Capuano(45th Rd) and Nats INF Eric Bruntlett(72nd Rd).
 
 

But if you like to win odd baseball Trivia Questions, then I have one for you. You can win some major food or drink concessions (I have) by remembering that the D-Rays reliever Travis Phelps, who was drafted in the 89th Round , and the 1,720th player selected that season is the latest draft pick to ever don a Major League Baseball uniform. And because MLB restructured the Draft since his selection, he will be the answer to that Trivia Question forever. Easy pickings unless you are at a SABR Convention.

But he is not the only D-Rays player selected from that initial 1996 Draft to make it to the professional level and put on the jersey of the team that selected him. He shares that honor with current Rays reliever P Dan Wheeler( 34th Rd), P Mickey Callaway(7th Rd), P Delvin James(14th Rd), and last, but not least, 3B Jared Sandberg(16th Rd). Sandberg also went on to coach in the Rays farm system, and will be the head man with the Hudson Valley Renegades (oh yeah!). This will be Sandberg’s third season coaching in the Rays farm system.

 


 TBO.com file Photo

So last night’s scavenger search brought up some interesting surprises, and also a few great Rays moments for me to envision again within my imagination. It is kind of wild that Rays reliever Wheeler is the lone Rays representative from that initial farm system class of then D-Rays left within the Rays roster. And what it must feel like for him to be here during the lean times, then go away and experience a World Series berth(Astros), then come back and see this Rays organization that drafted him also feel that rush of emotions in securing their first Playoff berth and run towards the 2008 World Series with Wheeler in the Bullpen enjoying the view from field level.

 
 

And there was one more name that was hidden among the mass quantity of names in that 1996 Draft that totally shock and awed me. Hidden way back in the 59th Round, and selected by the Seattle Mariners was a young pitcher named Barry Zito. Some people say that if you fall under the 20th Round in any year’s MLB Draft, your odds greatly swing downward to ever see the light of day as an MLB player at a Major League ballpark. So many of the above mentioned MLB players fell below that invisible line and are living proof that will, determination and great talent can not always get you to the show. Sometimes you need a lucky rabbit’s foot too…….Right Barry?

D No Longer Stands for DevilRays

I know by now, most of the Tampa bay area has seen the leaked view of the 2008 uniforms for the Devilrays.

For years, the team has been trying to use the term “Devilrays” only in formal setting and in MLB business. For the past few years, the Home jerseys have read “Rays” and showed the slight feel of the franchise in letting the devil flow back into the murky waters off Tampa Bay.

I personally think that the name is not as important to me. But, in reality, I like the phrase “Rays” better than “Devilrays” for the fact of I hate to hear the church loving faction keep harping on that name  for the simple fact of  their personal agendas of political correctness.

That phrase is not evil or demonic. If it was, Vince Namoli would have sold his collective soul for a World Series ring or two.

The new 2008 unveiled design features a longer “barbed” tail on the letter “R” in Rays. and a more pronounced blue hue in the designs. I was seriously hoping that the team would just use the green hued “Rays” that currently adorn the jerseys.

 I am  aware of the teams announced “wants”  of a more traditional colors and look for the uniforms. I loved the idea that the old Road shirts had “Tampa Bay” on them and the Home shirts were simply “Rays.”

 The look of the new “R” seems more futuristic than retro. I really loved the old logo for its lettering and thought they would just dress it up a bit, not put a tail in the “R”.

 People forget that were almost formally bought and moved a few franchises in the past here before getting our team. The Giants, Mariners,Twins, A’s and another Florida expansion team missed our field before getting our  existing team.  I understand the need to appeal to the MLB upper echelon. Remember, they do make the rules.

 I am  wondering if the images were an attempt to sell out the teams coffers with the old style uniforms during the last home stand of the year. They will become instant collector’s items come Thursday morning and you might see a few Sox and Yanks take some home as items for the closet as an investment. I also think that a savvy marketing person can see the dollar signs and the upcoming “Fandemodium” celebration to end with the game worn shirts being given to loyal fans on the field after next Thursday nights game.

 The following two items also make that night a piece of history:

1) It is the end of the 10th Anniversary of our existance,

2) the uniform changes make this the last set of jerseys of this type to be seen on the field, even in Spring Training.

 I have been lucky enough to have received 9 of the jerseys from the “Shirts Off Their Backs” promo event. The event this year will again feature the option of buying scratch off tickets to reveal wining selections for a number of prizes. The jerseys are thought to be a top prize. I personally like the “suite for a night” item.

Last year, I also got 2 nights at the Seminole Hard Rock hotel. I can tell you that those rooms were the cream of the crop. My room had a balcony and a view of the pool area. My girlfriend looked like an angel staring into the December night with the window open and the  rock music blaring from the rooms CD player. Oh, my room key had a custom made CD of music to enjoy after the stay in the hotel.

Talk about a cool night with a hot babe………oops, forgot what I was writing about here.

I have been lucky and blessed to have received the following jerseys on that faithful night/day following the last game:  Jared Sandberg, Damian Rolls, Jorge Sosa, Jesus Colume, BJ Upton, Jose Guillen, Rocco Baldelli, Randy Winn, and last year, Edwin Jackson.

 It is the ultimate fan experience to step out on the field after the game and have a player peel that jersey off his back and give it to you. They have always signed the jersey and taken a photo with me to show the actual presentation of the shirt.

 It is also my last chance to say goodbye and wish a few select players that have befriended me during my time as a Season ticket holder for the team. I look forward to it with a lot of pleasure and hope for the well being of all the players during the off season. The night usually concluded with a group photo that you can always find me in the picture. Every year I do something different to stand out in the pic.  Maybe this year I will wear one of the old black light inspired caps that seemed to even glow in the dark in my closet.

 I guess the best way to sum up this blog is in the hope that with the new Uni’s, they Rays’ now develop and mature that great winning attitude to produce a pennant for the rafters.

Let’s Go Joe………………

 

 

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