Results tagged ‘ Jose Guillen ’

9-11 and Baseball


 

As the years roll on, the terror and the feeling of uncertainty and remorse do not wane on this day. It was the awakening moment of this Nation to the horrors and the tragic events that unfold daily in other corners of the World. We had taken a direct terrorist attack upon our shores, and the Nation took a step back, then collectively joined their hearts and hands together to initiate a healing process that doesn’t seem completed even today.


Today millions of words of remembrance and prospective of this horrific event will fill the blogs and pages of newspapers and the Internet to again always remember this day, and the way this country rose from the dust and tangled mass of our beloved twin towers to again soar high as an eagle. For this 11th day of September used to be remembered for other Worldly events, but now it will be a day of mutual spirit and sadness as we remember those lost and other who searched and fought to bring a positive moment to this tragic event.

Everyone has their own stories and versions of the visual and audible sights and sounds of this day, including a few of the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays players and coaches who were bunked up in their hotel outside of New York City awaiting that evenings game against the New York Yankees. They could see the towering smoke and the increased activity along the streets below, but many did not know the cause and effect of this day until most of their cell phones or hotel phones began to ring with the news from worried loved ones and friends.

Paul Hoover, now a catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, will be in uniform during the pre-game ceremonies at Citi Field as the New York City citizens again remember the courage, and the pain of that faithful day. Back in 2001, Hoover was just two games into his 2001 stint with the then Devil Rays when September 11th changed the landscape of not only the World, but baseball. As he stands there by the dugout during the moment of silence followed by the singing of the National Anthem by a FDNY member, emotions and reactionary moments in his mind will instantly bring him back to the chaos and the extreme uncertainty of that day.


“When we came to New York, we didn’t even stay in the city,” Hoover told the Courier Post Online. “We stayed in Jersey cause they didn’t know what could happen with what was all going on. I didn’t feel scared, but you’re definitely on alert.”


 

The events of that day bonded the young Rays as players began to assemble to watch the events of the 9-11 tragedy unfold. They consoled each other as some of the players phoned friends and relative to hear what the reports were outside the city to the cause and effect of that days events. Rumors and innuendo were running rampant in their team hotel with unsubstantiated reports of additional attacks all over the country.


The series against the Yankees was suspended along with the rest of the Major League Baseball schedule as the Nation grieved and collected itself to begin the healing process and begin the enormous task of assessing and reporting the physical damage and begin the healing process for so many around the country. The Rays and the Yankees finally brought a bit of instant normalcy again to the city when they began their delayed series, and the New York populous could make a collective sigh and give thanks for the many who helped build their city again from the ashes of the twin towers.


“There was a lot of emotion,” Hoover said. “I just remember all of us playing, thanking all the policemen and firemen. We were on the line together. When we came down the tunnel, they were all there and then when we lined up it was fireman, policeman, player, fireman, policeman, player. You talked to them the whole time. Some of them were actually down there for 9/11. It was a neat experience, but an unfortunate experience.”


Hoover’s experience was just one of many that day that felt the full emotional tear and angst of seeing his country suffer and also begin rebuilding within the scope of baseball.
Two days after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who had suspended the season to let the Nation gather and mourn, Selig announced:

I believe in the spirit of national recovery and a return to normalcy. Major League Baseball, as a social institution, can best be helpful by resuming play at the most appropriate time.”


That day was September 17th when the Rays and Yankees again be able to bring their talents together to help the New York rebuilding process by getting back to normal life in the city and bringing the fan together to focus and feel joy again in the aftermath of the 9-11 events. The Yankees showed support to the efforts of the NYPD and FDNY brave souls by wearing their collective symbols upon their caps for the rest of the season on their baseball caps.

 

Every MLB club emblazoned on the back of their jerseys an American flag upon the usually prevalent MLB logo to shoe mutual support and respect towards their New York and Washington brethren who had suffered. Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter visited a hospital and armory in New York to be with families awaiting word of missing persons.

When asked about the Yankees returning to play ball again in the sullen city Jeter said:

If anything, playing again will give people an option to watch something else on TV. This (tragedy) is closer to home because it’s New York.”


The seventh inning stretch became a patriotic moment as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was replaced by “God Bless America“. Red, white and blue bunting adorned all MLB ballparks and the American flag made an appearance with great gala in the stands during the completion of the 2001 season. Not only did New York remember and embrace the normalcy, but the rest of this Nation also showed respect, honor and moments of individual remembrance of this event.

 

Nine years later, the images and the sounds heard that day are still fresh in my mind. The hours of watching and digesting those horrific moments and hearing the eventual tumbling of the twin towers to the ground still send chills through me. It was a moment when this country felt insecure, fragile and subject to the World’s ills.

Bringing the grieving American fans into the 30 chapels of the Church of Baseball after the events of 9-11 only seemed right. I still have a D-Rays cap given to me by Rays pitcher Bryan Rekar that shows the symbols of NYPD and FDNY written onto its brow. No matter if you are a Mariner, Rays or even a Yankee, 9-11 will always be honored and remembered.

 
 
 
 
 

Matt Joyce is joining a Special Rays Group

 


Steve Nesius / AP

After last night’s game, during the Florida Sports Network post-game interview newly anointed right fielder Matt Joyce acknowledged the fan base in rightfield that was so supportive of him after he hit his second homer in two games. The young right fielder has only been back in the Rays fold since coming back up to start in centerfield for B J Upton during the Sunday afternoon game. He is beginning to get the feeling that the rightfield crowd can make or break a player in Tampa Bay. During the interview he was quick to voice his appreciation for the show of support and loud applause for him so early in his Tampa Bay career.

Joyce is a local guy who dreamed back when he was in Tampa’s Armwood High School of someday patrolling the outfields at Tropicana Field. It is quickly becoming one of those great hometown stories that national and local papers like to use to show the local fan base is alive and well in Tampa Bay. And little by little he will get to know that sometimes this same fan base that is happily clapping cowbells louder and louder for him can be a fickle bunch at times.

From the first game ever for the Rays on March 31, 1998, when current Bench Coach Dave Martinez was the first guy to man the “9″ spot for the Rays, the love-hate relationship with our rightfielders have been a very open subject. In that first contest, Martinez got the first hit by a Rays player in history and the crowd in right field was there to show their support for him loud and clear that night. From the days of Martinez to the fan adulation of another right fielder, Bubba Trammel, the position has had its share of positive and negative men man the spot under the Jumbotron. Martinez has since gone on to become another special piece of the Rays puzzle as he is the second eyes and ears of Rays Manager Joe Maddon, but you know he still has a special place in his heart for that rightfield corner.

Martinez played with Tampa Bay until they traded him to the Chicago Cubs in 2000 for pitcher Mark Guthrie.  Most of all, Martinez had played in over 1,799 games as a player and did not get to the post season one time. During his first stint as a coach for the Rays, he got his dream and more in 2008.  But it might have been the tough guy Bubba Trammell that so far has been the most revered of Tampa Bays rightfielders.

He was the chosen object of affection of the old 142 Crew, which sat out in Section 142 of the Trop and cheered for him nightly. And he was the kind of guy you wanted to see achieve great things. He was a hustler and a gambler on the field, and carried a big bat into the box with him nightly. Originator of the 142 Crew,Ted Fleming, who now is a member of the local media for The Examiner.com covering the Rays and hosts his own sports radio show on WSRQ-1220 AM in Sarasota, Florida was one of the first to loudly and proudly cheer for Trammell. 

His 142 Crew used to be so vocal during Trammell’s at bats that the Rays stopped the music early so that the “Bubba” chant could be heard throughout the stadium. 
Trammel was one of those guys you wanted to see do good and excel in the game.  After his short time in Rays-land, current Kansas City Royal Jose Guillen enjoyed moments among the Rays rightfield crazies. But who knows, maybe the 142 Crew can reunite and find a second life now in Section 142 again with the likes of Matt Joyce patrolling the outfield fences.

But there have been a host of great outfielder to gain fans vocal support in the past in right field. Current Royals rightfielder Jose Guillen spent a few seasons listening to the cheers and jeers in the Trop. Guillen was known mostly for his rifle arm that just seemed to be able to pinpoint and throw out anyone on the base paths.  The you had the always smiling Damian Rolls, who was more of a Ben Zobrist clone in the early 2000-2002 seasons.

He used to play wherever and when ever the Rays needed him, but he liked playing rightfield for the fans yelling where the base runner was right before he turned around to throw. Jonny Gomes, another fan favorite for his playing style that seemed more “Pete Rose”-style than anyone else to ever put on a Rays jersey used to love jogging out to right field because of the cheers he got every night from the fans. He also made sure to reward them with balls ever so often to show his appreciation for the fans support.

Jose Cruz Jr. also made a stop with the Rays after playing for the rival Toronto Blue Jays and saw a quick difference in the jeers to cheers he got for finally playing for the Rays. Cruz used to batter Rays pitching in Tropicana Field, and he continued to hit well in the Trop while he was with the Rays. Even when Gabe Gross first took his right field spot in 2008 after being traded to the Rays, the crowd made sure to welcome him on his first night with a thunderous applause.

But not everyone who played rightfield was met with cheers every night. Some players who played out there actually dreaded some of the nights they had to go out and play in right field. To say the rightfield crews were not well versed in baseball would be a crime. But some of the guys who have also manned the spot forgot how to play the game sometimes. Ben Grieve came to the Rays after a great beginning to his career in Oakland.

He never seemed to be at home here and quickly he seemed to garner the vocal backlash from the fans. His playing style was not accepted by the Rays faithful because he seemed to be so lackadaisical about the simple things of the sports. Add that to some hitting woes and it was a recipe for insults and catcalls for the young player.

But the fans seemed to be just getting started because after Grieve left the Rays, another player came out to play in rightfield who always seemed to get a mixed bag of reactions from the fans. Aubrey Huff did not come out and vocally state he did not like playing in right field, but sometimes it did give that impression to the fans out there.

Even though he was still a monster at the plate, his defense in right was questioned a few times during his brief time out there. Huff played his last baseball in Tampa Bay in rightfield, and even to that last day the fans always held him in a love-hate relationship.

But the guy who seemed to be the most hated rightfielder was not a member of the New York Yankees, or even the Boston Red Sox. He was a guy who was quiet on the field and might have even been hated or despised even before his first game in a Rays uniform. Delmon Young never seemed to have gotten a fair break from the rightfield fans, but then again, he never reached out to them either.

The young star held an air of entitlement and fut
ure glory from the moment he first stepped towards the slanted rightfield corner. Most of that was played out in comments and actions by him while he was coming up through the Rays minor league system.

But his lack of general respect for the game was not lost on the rightfield faithful, and they rained down on him whenever he made a goof or a mistake, even a unintentional blunders on the base paths. I can not say he never got a fair shot, but he also never seemed to care, so the rightfield fans fed on that and rain down catcalls more than cheers for him while he was here. 

So the Rays fans have embraced the young Joyce and have seen greatness in him. The best part is that he has been here before in his career. Unfortunately he was in leftfield, but he has heard the roars from the right field stands before and might have been more aware of the fans because of his 2008 time with the Detroit Tigers.

Most might remember that he went  2-8 during the Tigers only visit to Tropicana Field from August 1-3, 2008. In that game he played two contests in leftfield, but made impressions for his hustle and defensive skills. He also played in all four of the Tigers home game against the Rays from September 25-28, 2008, but only managed to secure one hit in that series. He is off to a great start in his career with the Rays.

He has made a great impression in the spring when he came back from his ankle and calf situations to pound the ball late in Spring Training.  So far with the Rays he is 6 for 17 for a nice .363 average to start the fans in his favor. His 6 RBI, with 4 just last night will also go a long way in securing the fan’s early support for the young star.


Mike Carlson / AP

Rightfield in Tropicana Field has seen its good and bad times. But the players who have manned that position have made not only a impression into Rays history, but some of them still are considered a part of the Rays family. Joyce is just the latest in the line of great players to man the “9″ spot, but with his future bright and the crowd behind him.

He could easily move into cult status like Jonny Gomes or Bubba Trammell with a great season for the Rays.  And wouldn’t it be great to see more signs like the one last night that said, “The Right Choice…. Matt Joyce” ever night in rightfield.

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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