Results tagged ‘ Kevin Costner ’

Rays Photo Homage to Past Celebrity and Musical Guests

 
 
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It is one of those photo collages that takes your breathe away when you first see it. Basically the magnitude of the talent and faces that have crossed within the confines of Tropicana Field is amazing. Sure we might not have Kate Hudson in our stands every night, but she was here when the New York Yankees touched down within Tampa Bay for a few games. And people like John Cusack and author Stephen King have also been known to try and sneak in a Rays game without a lot of attention.

 
But the photo collage on the concourse wall right behind the Home Plate 102-104 sections of seating in Tropicana Field shows just how much music, motion picture stars and great moments we have endured over the last few seasons. From the moment the Rays concluded their November 2007 unveiling of their new logo and uniforms, to the upcoming Hess Express/Rays Saturday Night Concert Series featuring John Fogerty, the team has shown both talent on the field, as well as on the Concert stage. And the list of artists featured on the wall collage is impressive indeed.

 
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There are currently 28 photo cut and pasted upon this collage section featuring the artists and actors who have made the Rays part of their baseball family. And it all began in November 2007 with the free concert to Rays fans who attended the Rays logo and uniform fashion extravaganza as actor/musician Kevin Costner and his band Modern West brought their own special spin to the festivities. But he was only the beginning. Since that time fellow actors/comedian Paul Rieser ( Mad About You), Chris Rock, Former SNL star/ Impressionist Darrell Hammond, Barry Williams (Greg Brady) last but definitely not least, Bill Murray who we all loved as Carl the Groundskeeper in “Caddyshack” and is a minor league baseball part owner.
 

 
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But there are also local Florida athletes or players who have trained in St. Petersburg in the past who are immortalized on the concourse wall such as former Tampa Bay Buc running back Mike Alstott, Baseball Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr., Ozzie “The Wizard of Oz” Smith and another Oriole great Jim Palmer. The collage also includes NFL Hall of Famer and Tampa Bay Buc legend Lee Roy Selmon , WWE past Champion John Cena and Orlando Magic Center/Power Forward Dwight Howard. Broadcasting and announcing legends both National and Internationally also grace the collage with the addition of ESPN Basketball Guru and 2004 Inductee to the Pepsi Rays Fan Wall of Fame Dick Vitale and the immortal Boxing/Wrestling announcer Michael ” Let’s get ready to Rumble” Buffer.


But also several members of this new display in Tropicana Field either performed the National Anthem or “God Bless America” such as former American Idol David Archuletta, the Backstreet Boys, and Green Day. But most of the rest of the artists posted upon the wall have performed in the Rays popular Saturday Night Concert Series over the last few seasons. Groups such as 3-Doors Down, Pat Benatar, Daughtry, L L Cool J, Flo Rida, Ludacris, and legendary groups the B-52′s and M C Hammer. Who reminded us “When the Devil went out ( of the team name), the Wins came in!”.


 
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Country artists Big & Rich with Cowboy Troy and Trace Adkins also have provided hours of great entertainment to the crowds of Rays fans attending the game, plus who danced in the aisles and landing around Tropicana Field during their music sets. And do not forget there is still some space upon that wall collage that might include this year’s artists, John Fogerty (April 24th), ZZ Top (May 1st), Nelly (May 15th), Hall & Oates (May 29th), the Go-Go’s /Farewell Tour (July 10th), Train (August 14th), Adam Lambert and Orianthi (Sept. 18th), Country Star Dierks Bentley (Sept. 25th) and two other concerts artists not yet announced on June 12th and June 26th.

 
Talent galore has graced both the field and the stages of Tropicana Field in the past, and the future looks even brighter as the Rays thrust again towards the top of the American League East. This photo collage is just a small sampling of the stars and the people within the entertainment field who have either sat within the main bowl of Tropicana Field, or in the Suites and attended Rays games in the past.

 
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The collage is just a great way for the Rays fans to gather and remember and relive these great acts and people as they became members of the Rays lore. So sometimes in the future be sure to wander up the main concourse just to the east of the Rays main elevator system and have your own great flashbacks into these performances or sightings of the great people who also have adorn Rays jerseys and attended games. Some times it is great to look at the past so that we can see just how far we really have traveled since the ultimate changes made in 2007 to the Rays legend, and the way we will remember our moments within Tropicana Field.

 
 
 

Sunday Rewind: “My Favorite Baseball Movie”

 
 


With so many  MLB bloggers posting their favorite baseball movies the past few days, I thought I might have to include my personal favorite baseball movie that I watch almost institutionally before Spring Training. It is a movie that almost everyone knows, but might not put at the top of their prospective “All-Time” lists.  I put the German versions DVD cover on the top of the blog to show you that this movie has made the move to the International audience, and is not just a US baseball  classic movie.

 
So far this off season, I have watched this movie only about 6 times, but the movie never seems to become dull to me. Maybe it is the fact that I try and find something new  within the film that I have not seen in other viewings. But beyond all of that, “For the Love of the Game ” is by far my “go-to” movie when it comes to baseball.


I actually see this classic as two movies in one: A Baseball movie and a romance. The sporting sequences featuring the “live action” in the film  are definitely worth the price of admission. A Little known fact here, Kevin Costner actually threw every pitch you see in the movie. He did not use a “stunt” pitcher, but wanted a realism that only the actor actually throwing his pitches could provide to the audience. Every pitch came from his shoulder and there is not a single frame of CGI magic or  differentail photographic magic to render his image over another pitcher’s body. It was all Costner….All the time.

 

That to me spells out the love that Costner truly has for the game of baseball. I know you might think that this is a fantasy for him (and it is), but it is also the type of role that he seems to have been born to play. He is that type of actor that you can believe in this role. You could believe that he was the character, and not just someone propped up on the mound for publicity shots. And he is the kind of guy you would root for if he actually had a chance at a perfect game.



As for that second part of the sequence, the romantic angle. I can also see him in a relationship with a woman as complex and beautiful as Kelly Preston in real life.




Most of the solid relationships with women who are attracted to baseball players that seem to succeed in baseball are by women who are attracted to the way you play the game and not just by the way you look in your uniform on the field.


That is why the romantic scenes make sense to me in the film. I know of a few ball players on the Rays that sit in the Bullpen area and check out the stands every game. A few phone numbers have trickled down to the bench, even if they are not wanted by the players. That is a part of life playing a professional sport. Romance is on your own time, and sometimes you have to juggle a lot to get beyond that first “hello”..

 





Being the (hopefully) level-headed guy that I am, I can dig a good romance. While this movie isn’t perfect, it’s a great “compromise video choice” for the sports-loving couple browsing for a  movie choice at the video store. As tough as it seems to achieve a  perfect balance between the game sequences and the lovey-dovey stuff, director Sam Raimi  does a great jot working towards a harmonic level of switching between the evolving game  excitement and the budding relationship between Chapel and Jane.

It seems on the personal level that aging pitcher Billy Chapel (Costner) is having a completely rotten day. He finds out that the only team he has ever played for, his beloved Detroit Tigers are being sold and that the new ownership group wants to trade him to the San Francisco Giants at the end of that season.  And if that might not derail  a normal person for one day, he also learns that his  love interest girlfriend Jane (Preston) is moving to England to begin her career dream job. But the third strike in all of this is that Chapel is scheduled to pitch his final start of a losing season for the Tigers against the hated Yankees and his mind is not in the game.



Through the course of Billy’s  game day preparations and during the game itself, the movie does numerous flashbacks to earlier points in his career. While most of these deal with his romance with Jane, some are memories of lost and distant friendships and unfortunate decisions Chapel has had to make in his life. Granted, the constant ‘back-and-forth’ gimmick may grow a bit tiresome, but by this moment, you will either hate the movie or be completely caught up in the adventure.


I actually took it as life reflective moments that we all have  had at some point in our lives. You get a better sense of Chapel because of the flashback sequences where you see his past career highlights (Tigers World Series appearance), his  remorse and regrets, plus his accident in the off season at his winter lodge that could have derailed his baseball career.



 


I actually enjoy that kind of playful reflection into the background of a character and find the movie more entertaining because it is played out like “at-the moment” elements of the game while Chapel is pitching.  Given some of Costner’s recent films, there’s no real reason to expect this movie to be any good. But it actually is quite an entertaining movie, thanks mainly to the direction of Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead series, A Simple Plan ).

Whenever Dana Stevens’ (City of Angels) script veers towards some corny moment, Raimi pulls up just short, and quickly flashes to the present, and gives us some fantastic baseball sequences. I still think that the film crew did an outstanding job making  the old Tiger Stadium look like Yankees Stadium for the production of the film. And even though they had to do multiple shots of the crowds moving around the stadium and then CGI-ing them into position all over the ballpark, it is a great job of creating the “New York fan vibe” in the film.

Costner plays Billy as melancholy and regretful, the very things that cause him so much trouble in his love life. Unfortunately (and as usual ) Costner never loosens up at all; he’s always stoic and mellow. Kevin Costner suffers from “Movie Star Syndrome”. When he plays a real character, like in the film “Tin Cup’, he shines brightly. While she’s no Oscar threat here, Kelly Preston easily holds her own as Jane, although her character is a bit underwritten for the female lead a romantic film.



What matters most in a movie like this is whether or not you care if
these characters have a happy ending or not. There are several things that can ruin this for you: poor performances, a cliched and lazy script, or just an air of what I can only call ‘fakeness’. ( See “Fools Rush In” or Costner’s own “Message in a Bottle” for examples of such romantic ‘fakeness’).  “For Love of the Game” avoids these romantic maladies (for the most part ). If Costner and Preston don’t always click as a couple, that’s OK because she’s really beautiful (I hate John Travolta for getting to her first ).


If the baseball sequences seem a tad forced or convenient, that’s OK because it’s a damn well-made baseball movie. The scenes are pretty fresh. My favorite is still the one where a rookie is playing in the outfield in Fenway Park, and a ball ends up bouncing off his head ala Jose Canseco and the Boston crowd just laugh as he looks up at them. Now I know for a fact that if that happened, it would have to be in right field at Fenway, and they would more than just laugh at the guy the rest of the series. 
 

In between mediocre Hollywood flicks (I still do not get “The Bodyguard“, but have been hit in the head with the DVD a few times),Costner does another classic baseball movie. While it might not compare in the same breath as some of his other impressive baseball works like “Bull Durham” or “Field of Dreams”  it is gaining popularity as a baseball movie. The true test to this movie might be the simple fact that you want to believe that Chapel can evolve during the movie. I actually see this film as a everchanging morphing of Chapel from a top flight ballplayer to finally realizing his life will not end  by chosing Jane over the game. And in that last scene you see that he truly can let the game go without remorse or regret. And as an ex-athlete, I can admit that moment of realization is an intense moment in your life.



 

Could a Bull Durham Sequel be in Trouble?

After public announcements by movie stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon that they are formally separated as a couple after first falling in love during the filming of “Bull Durham“, you have to wonder if this shocking event might be a potential dagger in Director Ron Shelton’s heart to ruin the 2010 planned production of another “Bull Durham” film. Most people might remember that during the late 1980′s, the Hollywood power couple first began to stoke their own romantic fires as a pair during the film’s production in North Carolina. 

With their recent separation, you have to wonder if it will have any lasting effects on Producer Thom Mount’s already finished script,or Shelton’s unreleased production schedule. As recent as 2008, there have been loud whispers and anticipated rumors flying around the Durham, North Carolina foothills that Shelton and Mount were secretly beginning subtle arrangements to bring back the baseball cult film’s three main characters to a new setting at a new and improved Durham Athletic Park (DAP) for filming during the upcoming 2010 season.
But could the couple’s recent news throw  a monkey wrench into the film’s excitement level, or could it just add an air of spice to the entire adventure? There has been wild spread speculation that the film will reunite the trio with  slight references to the first films love triangle getting back together again, but with some added twists and turns. But one solid idea being tossed around is for Kevin Costner to revive his Crash Davis persona, but this time he will be patrolling only the Bull’s dugout as their Triple-A Manager.  

It has been rumored that the original conceptual theme could possibly put the 1988 film’s original love triangle firmly on its ear as Major League pitcher Ebby Calvin (Nuke) LaLoosh and baseball savant  Anne Savoy will be reintroduced in the new film as a married couple and current owners of the Triple-A Bulls squad being managed by Davis.  With their current announcement, maybe the film needs to be tweaked a bit to make us believe it from the get-go.

My own personal twist that can be added to the script after the separation news is that LaLoosh would eventually see his own  Major League baseball greatness at a distance having both success and failure quickly and dramatically crash and burning before Anne and Davis find LaLoosh passed out in the middle of his posh hotel room in a drunken stupor and carry him back to Durham to teach him a knuckleball to  hopefully resurrect his rollercoaster career and give him one last shot at glory in the Major Leagues.

But with the recent developments in the long time relationship between Sarandon and Robbins, you have to think that maybe Mount is sequestered somewhere within the Durham triangle in a dark trying to find a believable scenario where we will again fall in love with these three characters. That was one of the underlying high points of the original film seeing that love affair bloom under the Bull sign in the old Durham Athletic Park before the new and improved stadium and the advent of the Blue Monster.

And I know Hollywood actors and actresses can create on-screen magic at the drop of a baseball cap, but could the couple create that same believable wildfire of passionate chemistry that we saw smoldering well beyond the surface in the original 1988 scenes. Or could their real life candle finally flaming out bring some predestined thoughts to the filmgoer’s minds even before the film begins to roll in theaters?

And this is a serious question in my mind because we have to believe that Anne and Nuke still have that fire within them, or that there is some path to show a rebirth of the romantic pathos burning bright again, or the film could just go right down the tube. Could the recent announcement actually be a nicely planned public relations (genius) move with the film beginning its production. That would draw instant interest in the film, and maybe be a highly pinioned subject in the blogging community  to try to dig deep within Shelton’s and Mount’s mind for answers and peak the excitement even before production.
And a possible third storyline that springs quickly into my conspiracy-themed mind of a possible Anne and Crash finally finding their sense of real relationship explosion or closure climaxing with a Bull’s Triple-A Championship(Bulls won the 2009 Triple-A Championship)  bringing them together, and a possible career chance thrust upon Davis to finally manage in the big leagues would be a perfect movie kicker.

You can bet there are all sorts of brainstorming sessions going on right now between Shelton and Mounts to find a suitable storyline that will be believable to you and me on the screen. Hollywood has always been a fickle when it comes to sequels of classic sports films. And when you take one of the All Time favorite baseball films and try to resurrect it again on-screen, it has to be near perfect or it will just quickly flutter into DVD only distribution like “Major League 3“. 

And I do not know about you and your views on this film, but I do not want that fate for a film I consider in my personal All Time Top 5 to go out like that. When “Bull Durham” first came out in my local theater I rushed to see it because I wanted to renew my long-lost love for the game. I seriously still watch this film about once every few months just for the pure joy of watching these three characters development during the film. There is a feeling to me watching the film that all three actors were having the time of their lives doing the film.

If they do renew the film series, I want to feel that same level of baseball love and the same comedic level of the current classic lines from the film that have become bar pick-up lines and  are forever interwoven into the fabric of baseball. When you remake a film, or even continue on its journey, you have to feel the love and get transfixed back into the realm of the film. If you can not  reconnect the audience and transform us like in the original Ron Shelton, then maybe we should just leave the film in its current brilliance and let it shine bright without a second glance into this awesome world of baseball.

 

Baseball Fans in Tampa for the Superbowl

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Kevin Costner is a popular guy around Tampa Bay. He’s a regular at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am in Lutz, and last fall, his band, Modern West, composed a rah-rah jingle for the Tampa Bay Rays.


Now he’s plotting his own Super Bowl party in Tampa.


Costner and Michael Strahan will host this year’s Saturday Night Spectacular at 8 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Pepin Hospitality Centre. The event will feature a performance by the avant-garde circus Circue USA; Starship Supergroup, a classic-rock supergroup composed of members of Jefferson Starship, Toto, Survivor and the Dazz Band; and, yes, Costner and Modern West ( in case you just can’t get enough of It’s All Up To You ).

The charity listed as a beneficiary of the event is named for Matthew Tryson Bryant, Bucs kicker Matt Bryant’s 3-month-old son who died suddenly in September. (The charity is still in the works.)

For Individual tickets to the party, visit http://saturdaynightspectacular.com.

My Favorite Baseball Flick

 

With so many  MLB bloggers posting their favorite baseball movies the past few days, I thought I might have to include my personal favorite movie that I have to watch almost institutionally before Spring Training. It is a movie that everyone knows, but might not put on the top of their prospective lists.  I put the German version DVD cover on the top of the blog to show you that this movie has made the move to International, and is not just a US baseball classic.

To count, I have seen this movie only about 6 times this past off season, but the movie never seems to be dull to me. Maybe it is the fact that in each viewing, I sometimes try and  find something new I have not seen in other viewings. But beyond all of that, For the Love of the Game  is by and far my favorite ” go-to ” movie when it comes to baseball.

 



I actually see this movie as two movies in one: A Baseball movie and a romance. The sporting sequences are easily worth the price of admission. Little known fact here, Costner threw every pitch you see in the movie. He did not use a “stunt” pitcher. Every pitch came from his shoulder and there is nor CGI magic or photographic magic to render his image over another pitcher’s body.

That to me spells out the love that Costner truly has for the game of baseball. I know you might think that this is a fantasy for him, and it is, but it is also the type of role that he is born to play. He is that type of guy you can believe in this role. Not like some other sports movies made in the past, this movie you could believe that he was the character, and not just someone propped up on the mound for publicity shots. But then he is also the kind of guy you would root for if he actually had a chance at a perfect game.

As for that second part of the sequence, the romance. I can also see him with a woman as complex and beautiful as Kelly Preston in real life. I got an off chance to meet his wife, by accident at the Rays Rally in November 2007. Costner has great taste in women, I can assure you of that 100 percent.  What most people do not know about professional athletes is that they do have women and people thrown at them all the time.



Most are people who have loved the way you play, but women tend to love the way you fill out your uniform.  I remember when I was playing ball one time in Cincinnati this pretty little thing came up to me asking for an autograph, but the paper already had her phone number on it and I asked where she wanted me to sign since she did not want me to ruin this piece of paper. Well, let’s just say she did not have the autograph showing when I left the stadium parking lot.

That is why the romance scene actually make sense to me in the movie. I know of a few ball players on the Rays that sit in the Bullpen area and check out the stands every game. A few phone numbers have trickled down to the bench, even if they are not wanted by the players. That is a part of life playing a professional sport. Romance is on your own time, and sometimes you have to juggle a lot to even get a simple kiss.

 

Being the Renaissance man that I am, I can dig a good romance. Being a regular guy, I love baseball. While this movie isn’t perfect, it’s a great “compromise video choice” for couples at the video store. As tough as it seems to achieve a balance between the game sequences and the lovey-dovey stuff, director Sam Raimi acquits himself a lot better than most directors would have.

Aging pitcher Billy Chapel ( Costner ) is having one rotten day. He finds out that the only team he has ever played for, his beloved Detroit Tigers are being sold and that he’ll consequently be traded to the San Francisco Giants at the end of the season.  And if that might not derail you enough for one day, he then learns that his girlfriend Jane (Preston) is moving to England to pursue her editorial dream job. (The nerve. ) But the third strike in all of this is that Chapel is scheduled to pitch his final start of a losing season during that same day, and he’s basically in a sour mood.

Through the course of Billy’s preparations and the game itself, the movie flashes back to earlier points in his career. While most of these deal with his romance with Jane, some are memories of distant friendships and unhappy decisions. Granted, the constant ‘back-and-forth’ gimmick may grow a bit tiresome, but by that point you’ll either hate the movie or be completely caught up in it.

I actually took it as reflective moments that we all have sometimes at work. A simple 30 second day dream can sometimes take you out of the dull drums or even elevate your mood and confidence before going into the boss’s office. The moments in this picture that bring the focus to the character are poised around these flashbacks. You get a better sense of the man  because of the sequences you see about his past  career highlights ( Tigers World Series appearance), his regrets and his accident in the off season at his winter lodge.


 
I fall into the latter category, I enjoy that kind of playful reflection into a character and actually find the movie a better picture because it is played out like elements of the game as he is pitching.  Given some of  Costner’s recent films, there’s no real reason to expect this movie to be any good. But it actually is quite an entertaining movie, thanks mainly to the direction of Sam Raimi ( The Evil Dead series, A Simple Plan ).

Whenever Dana Stevens’ (City of Angels) script veers close to true corn, Raimi pulls
up just short, flashes to the present, and presents some fantastic baseball sequences.
I still think that the film crew did an outstanding job making old Tiger Stadium look like Yankees Stadium for the production. And even though they had to do multiple shots of the crowds moving around the stadium and then CGI-ing them into position all over the ballpark, it is a great job of creating the New York vibe in the film.

Costner plays Billy as melancholy and regretful, the very things that cause him so much trouble in his love life. Unfortunately ( and as usual ) Costner never loosens up at all; he’s always stoic and mellow. He offers the typical “Don’t get too close to me or I’ll end up hurting you” role with his usual professionalism, but he’d seem more real if he
smiled maybe twice. Kevin Costner suffers from “Movie Star Syndrome”. When he plays a real character, like in Tin Cup, he shines. While she’s no Oscar threat here, Kelly Preston easily holds her own as Jane, although her character is a bit underwritten for the female lead a romantic film.

What matters most in a movie like this is whether or not you care if these characters have a happy ending or not. There are several things that can ruin this for you: poor performances, a cliched and lazy script, or just an air of what I can only call ‘fakeness’. ( See Fools Rush In or Costner’s own Message in a Bottle for examples of such romantic ‘fakeness’. ) For Love of the Game avoids these romantic maladies ( for the most part ). If Costner and Preston don’t always click as a couple, that’s OK because she’s really beautiful ( I sometime hate John Travolta for getting to her first ).

If the baseball sequences seem a tad forced or convenient, that’s OK because it’s a damn well-made baseball movie. The scenes are pretty fresh. My favorite is still the one where a rookie is playing in the outfield in Fenway Park, and a ball ends up bouncing off his head aka Canseco and the Boston crowd just laugh as he looks up at them. Now I know for a fact that if that happened, it would have to be in right field at Fenway, and they would more than just laugh at or with the guy the rest of the series.

Maybe you just need to be a baseball guy like me who likes winning and happy endings, and  truly loves baseball as much as breathing. But let’s put it this way: Male OR female, if you pick up the box at the video store, and it already looks pretty good to
you, you’ll like it.

 

In between mediocre Hollywood flicks ( I still do not get “The Bodyguard”, but have been hit in the head with the DVD a few times ) , Costner does another baseball movie. As a matter of fact, there is a rumor circulating throughout baseball circles that there might be a Bull Durham 2  being passed around as we speak. And in that movie, you might see Costner actually finally play that manager he was thinking about at the end of the original movie.

While it might not compare in the same breath as some of his other impressive baseball works like Bull Durham or Field of Dreams.  But the true test to if you might love this movie is the simple fact that you want to and can believe that Chapel can evolve during the movie. I actually see this film as a morphing of him from the top flight ballplayer to  finally seeing his life without the game with Jane. And in that last scene you see that he truly can let the game go without remorse or regret. And as an athlete, that is an huge thing.

 



 

As a ‘baseball movie’, neither one of the above mentioned films those can claim to have as romantic a heart and soul as For the Love of the Game  does. ( Another example: If you found the previous sentence really sappy, you probably won’t like this movie, you cold-hearted cynic you. )


A Hodge Podge of Number 2 Ray’s Moments in 2008

 

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I was sitting at the computer this morning trying to pick out a second possible winning moment in 2008 for the Rays when it dawned on me that there are too many to even count. So I have decided to instead list all the important events, as per my opinion, that have made 2008 so great for Rays fans. I mean I truly sat there after deciding on number 3 yesterday, and decided that one was the easiest pick of the bunch.

 

If you get to go to the big show, it has to be a top 3 moment in your team’s flight that season.  There are a huge bunch of moments that helped define 2008 for the Rays. Be it a event in 2007 at shaped the look and feel of the franchise again, or the elimination of a curse in another stadium that served as a mental block to the team. 2008 was the Year of the Ray, and it is one I am glad I got a front row seat for all year long.

 

 


I decided to run this in chronological order from the first event in 2007, up until the final out in Game 5.5 of the 2008 World Series.


So let’s begin with the first order of business way back in November 2007, when the Rays held a rally in Straub Park near the waterfront in St. Petersburg, Florida. The event was the unveiling of the teams new logo and colors. The Uniforms were fashioned to represent the old style of baseball with a new Rays logo on both the home and away jerseys. The “R” on the uniform front posed a new sweeping motion for the bottom of the letter, plus the sunburst between the lettering also brought about a new look and feel to the organization.

 

 

The ray of light was a new focal point of the team, which abandoned the former Ray on the cap and also on the team’s official logo. But the Rays did get to stay for 2008 on the sleeve of the jersey, but might be retired in 2009. The event was to showcase the new look and feel of the team. And with it came a new spirit of winning and posting new attitudes for the team. And one of baseball’s biggest supporters came out and celebrated with us. Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West came out and entertained the masses after the unveiling and rocked the house all the way up to the fireworks display.

 


Then came the last Spring Training reporting for the pitchers’ and catchers’ to the Ray Namoli Complex in Northwest St Petersburg. The team came out onto the field and Rays Manager Joe Maddon had a small speech in which he wanted to stress fundamentals and team work and chemistry in 2008. That was the day he unveiled his famous “9 =8 ” formula for the world to decipher for the rest of the season.

 

 


Then came the first event that molded and formed this band of players into friends and bonded them for the rest of the year. In the day prior to this event, the Rays Elliott Johnson had made a hard charge into Yankees’ minor league catcher, Francisco Cervelli a few days earlier. The event did not sit well with the Yankees’ staff and during the March 12th rematch at Progress Energy Field, Yankees enforcer Shelly Duncan decided to take matters into his own hands.



Duncan was hustling on a hit into the outfield when he turned and made a move towards second base. It was apparent to almost everyone but Duncan that he would not be able to make it to the base in time to beat the throw. During his slide, Duncan brought his cleats up towards Akinora Iwamura and struck him mid-thigh with his metal cleats.  Duncan came up immediately and contested the action before right fielder Jonny Gomes came into the action and leveled Duncan to the ground. It was an event that brought the team together for the first time in 2008.

 

 


Then two weeks later, the Rays said farewell to their present Spring Training home when the team played it’s last game at Progress Energy Field ( Al Lang Field, Waterfront Park). The game was met with sadness and joy because of the memories of teams playing on these grounds since the 1940′s in this present stadium. The event also was a visual point for the team to showcase the new proposed stadium that might some day rise on the same grounds.

 

Eric Hinske hits a one-out double during the Rays' two-run second inning. He tripled in the fourth and homered in the sixth.

 


Or could moments like Eric Hinske missing a cycle by a single. It is amazing to me that he went 3-4 on the night and got his triple and homer early in the contest at the Walt Disney complex, but could not get that elusive single.  Hinske ended up being one of the true bright spots for the Rays in the Free Agent market. He signed for a low number, but produced high energy and some pretty impressive offensive displays during the 2008 season.

 


Then we have the first sweep of the Boston Red Sox at home this season. That would only be the icing on the cake as the Rays would send the Red Sox faithful home as losers in 8 of the 9 games at the Trop this year. The  first series at the Trop. would end with a hard fought 3-0 shutout by James Shields.

 

Then comes the moment where Rays Manager Joe Maddon thinks the Rays season began to turn into its championship run. It was during a road trip up to Toronto when the Rays battled back from a possible loss. Edwin Jackson left the 8th inning with a Ray lead before Troy Percival gave up 4 straight singles to let the Jays tie the game at 3-all. The teams battled back and forth before Dioner Navarro, who went 3-6 on the day hit a screamer into the stands for a Grand Slam homer and sealed the victory for the Rays.

 

 


On May 13th the Rays got to celebrate for the first time in club history as the team officially took over first place in the American League East. It was the latest point in any Rays season that the team had enjoyed the top spot.  The game produced one of the first moments in the Rays 2008 history for celebrations when  pinch runner Jonny Gomes came on for Cliff Floyd after he singled in the bottom of the 11th inning. Gomes stole second, then sprinted  home to seal the victory for the Rays 2-1.

 

 


Then came the L A Angels first visit to Tropicana Field, and the Rays shut them down to also sweep that series. Then came in the mighty Chicago Cubs for a three game Inter-League series that was deemed by many to be a possible World Series matchup. During this series, the Rays finally began to get some national exposure for maybe being a true team that could win it all in 2008.


But not until after the June 19th game, in which Carl Crawford hit a grand slam to propel the Rays. The team had officially beat the best team in baseball all three games did the national media begin to get on the Rays bandwagon. Cub’s Manager Lou Pinella commended the Rays on their young squad, and you could see a small twinkle in his eye that he approved of the young team getting the best of his team that series.


 

 


On June 27th, Rays starter Matt Garza was on the mound in a game against the Florida Marlins and gave up a blast to Hanley Ramirez in the 7th inning to produce the only hit and run in the contest. Garza went on to shut down the Marlins’ offense the rest of the game.

 


According to the Elias Baseball Bureau, It was the first complete-game no-hitter or one-hitter with a double-digit strikeout total in the majors this season. There was only one such pitching performance in each of the last three seasons: by Chris Carpenter in 2005, John Lackey in 2006 and Justin Verlander in 2007.

 


On July 19th, the Rays won their first game back after the All Star break to break the team’s longest losing streak of the season. With the Blue Jays in town for a weekend series, the Rays went on to break up a perfectly good pitchers’ duel on a Ben Zobrist homer on the first pitch he saw tonight. Toronto starter A J Burnett was on tonight, but the Rays caught a huge break on a hanging breaking pitch to Zobrist for the victory.

 

Rocco Baldelli gets the shaving cream pie treatment after driving in the winning run in the ninth.  (AP)

 


While the Rays were at home on August 30th they got to celebrate a first in Rays history. With the 14-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays posted their 82nd win of the season. Marking the first time in franchise history they were guaranteed a winning season.  It also marked the night of Scott Kazmir’s 10th victory of the year.

 

The mystic of Fenway Park was beginning to get the better of the Rays in 2008 before Scott Kazmir took the mound on September 10th in a series the team needed to keep their lead on the Boston Red Sox.  It also began one of the most storied moments in Rays history. During the contest the Rays batters went a combined 1-15 with men in scoring position and almost gave the game to the Red Sox several times. As the team fought back and forth before the Rays sent up a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 9th inning.  

 

 

Dan Johnson had been summed from the Durham Bulls earlier in the day and would have started in left field if he had gotten to the ball park a little earlier in the night. But because of flight problems and transportation to Fenway Park, he arrived just moments before the game. In the 9th inning, Rays Manager Joe Maddon inserted Johnson into the game to pinch hit against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Johnson worked the count to 3-2 before he hit a monster shot that cleared the right center field wall to give the Rays a 5-4 lead in the game. Jason Hammel ended up coming out in the bottom of the 9th and secured the win for the Rays. It was Hammel’s first save of his career.

 

 


With the team away for their last series, it was actually the next day when most Rays fans learned that we had secured the American League East title the previous night in Detroit. With the Rays in Motown for the last series, many players came back to the clubhouse to celebrate into the wee hours of the morning. It was a wild fact, but players and staff went to area hotels sports bars to do a bit of  scoreboard watching as the New York Yankees needed to lose for the Rays to be awarded their first title in team history.

 

 


After the hard fought season, the Rays staged a airport greeting for the team at St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport on September 29th. The event was attended by almost 5,000 people who flocked into the baggage area and loading zones to greet and cheer the team as they got off their chartered flight from Detroit. People filled the airport and also the outer traffic lanes of the airport to see their new champions come in from their road trip.


 

 


On October 6th, the Rays were in Chicago facing the White Sox when they secured their first series win in the American League Divisional series. The Rays won the series 3-1, and established that they were the team to beat to get to the World Series in the American League. In that series, the Rays battled back time and time again against the tough White Sox pitching staff before finally breaking through and getting right breaks.

 

 

When the Rays faced the Philadelphia Phillies on October 23rd, they sent James “Big Game” Shields to the mound. The game  showed the waking up of B J Upton and Carlos Pena at the plate as both help produce much needed offense for the Rays. In a play featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Rocco Baldelli came across the plate for an apparent Rays run, but Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz held onto the ball.

 

 


The game came down to great situational hitting by the Rays. B J Upton scored Akinora Iwamura from third to plate the first run for the Rays.  In the 4th inning, the Rays took a hold of the game after Cliff Floyd hit a single and Dioner Navarro hit a nice liner up the middle to put two men on base for the Rays. Baldelli then hit a nice shot down the third baseline, but it was gloved by Feliz and the Rays had men on the corners. Jason Bartlett then came up and executed a safety squeeze perfectly  in front of Phillies starter Brett Myers to put the Rays up 4-0. It would be the Rays first victory in the Fall classic.


 

 


Last, but not least is the Game 5.5 as I call it of the 2008 World Series. No matter what happened in this game, the historical significance was more pressing at the moment. The contest was a hard fought contest and each team traded runs and hits before the Phillies finally walked away with their second World Series Championship.

 


The game was a true test of everything that got the Rays here in 2008. The Bullpen, which was the team’s focal point in 2008 had finally given up a run at the most critical moment in the contest. And the Rays offense could not close the gap when needed during their last at bats. with Eric Hinske striking out for the last out of the game.

 

 


All of these events made a different focal point for the Rays in 2008. I hope a few of your fond memories have graced the blog. If I forgot a moment that you found remarkable in 2008, please feel free to comment on the blog and I will check into it and might even make it my number 1 choice tomorrow.  Again thank you to all the readers of Rays Renegade for their insights, comments ans readership in 2008.

 

Hopefully in 2009, I will have more outstanding Rays moments to record for you.

bRAA versus xRR Equals What the……?

I was sitting there in my favorite sports bar the other day when it came to my mind that in the last few years there have been a multitude of adaptations and abbreviations transformed and formulated to even decipher the amount of chew spits a player makes during a plate appearance. It was at this time that I had a brainstorm thought about the Tampa Bay Rays and decided to pull out the old laptop and try and do some fast research while he went to did some business.

I jotted down a few fast pages of statistics from the bevy of sites like www.Fangraphs.com, who have developed a whole new language within baseball and speak about phrases and even notations that most sports fans have not even heard of before. I mean,  until I ventured online looking for their explanation I could not tell you what  bRAA, or even Tra stood for in baseball statistics talk. So let me try and decipher the first two here for you then get back to my conversation. BRAA is actually an abbreviation for batting runs above average. It is computed by taking a hitters RV/PA ( Runs valued per Pitches attempted above average) and multiplying the number of plate appearances  he has had that season.

Okay now that I have you maybe totally confused, or I am talking Esperanto to you, let me use the first research abbreviation noted above with the American League MVP, Dustin Pedroia, and the 2008 American League Rookie of the Year, Evan Longoria.  So using the formula of  bRAA, I have calculated that Pedroia’s was 24.1 in 2008. 

If you consider that his bRAA has risen from -7.8 in 2006, to a respectable 10.1 last season during his own ROY season, you can see the progression of this young hitting star. If you take the current ROY, Longoria, this is his first true season in the big leagues, so he doesn’t have even 1 at bat to put into account to show the fast progression of his hitting in the AL. But then again, when you come into the league for the first time, and have a projection of 16.4, the sky is the limit.

So unlike Pedroia, Longoria is showing immediate plus plate appearances and making his presence know in the M L B. That bodes well for the league and for his team in the coming seasons as his bRAA will increase a bit, and might spark another strong run at the playoffs for the young Rays. So as you can see, the S A B R guys have taken a huge hold of baseball, and that is not a bad thing. As Kevin Costner said in the movie, “For the Love of the Game”  when asked if baseball counts everything, he said ” We count everything, it is what we do.”

Odd stats and projections have become the backbone of fantasy leagues and professional betters and has been absorbed into everyday life now. 5 years ago, who would have known what OPS stood for, and what offensive production number were accumulated in that statistic. Now it is a commonly used graphic on most every ballpark in America when a hitter comes to bat. 

I know there have been a few time this past season that I took out my laptop at games and tried to update a certain stat, or even produce a stat to supplement a comment I was making to a seat mate or even another fan in the section. It is almost as if very soon there will be a second language spoken only by statistics mongrels and the cyber republic to express our actions and reactions in abbreviations and commas. But that is not always a bad thing.

Since baseball is a game where statistics are law, and the amount of statistical firepower can make a drunk fan sit down and ponder even a simple fact, it is the reality of baseball in the modern days. I know my Dad used to say the only stats that matter are the ones under the “H”, “R” and “E” spots on the scoreboard. Now that is not to mean he did not know the batting averages or a the pitching selections of his favorite players’, but the love of the game was more physical to them.

Today, the game is taking on more power beyond just the batted ball or the nice 12-6 break on a curve ball. It is becoming a game where science and logic and even that math class we all hated in college statistics is coming to the forefront of information. I mean who was the top pitcher in 2008?

Was it C C Sabathia, or even Derek Lowe?  Or could someone like Randy Johnson or Ervin Santana sneak into the Top 10 without us even noticing it. To be totally truthful here, Sabathia was listed twice in the Top 10 performances of 2008. He was the top selection and also the 10th for his time with the Milwaukee Brewers, and Cleveland Indians. And how did Lee sneak all the way up to number 3 without anyone noticing him until late in the season, and during the playoffs. Sometimes the statistics as a whole show better productivity and more stable references to a players’ true nature at the plate or on the mound in baseball.

Okay, let’s head the other direction, who was the best in the batter’s box in 2008, was it the MVP’s of both leagues, Dustin Pedroia, or Albert Pujols?  Or did someone else have a banner year and got lost in the shuffle?  If you guessed Pujols, you win a huge prize. He had the best season of anyone is baseball at the plate in 2008. But if you picked Pedroia, you might be disappointed to know he did not even rank in the top 20 in offense in 2008.

He did have an amazing post season, but the season only produced him a slot at number 23, and that was not even the best showing on the Boston Red Sox. That slot went to Kevin Youkilis, who came in at number 9. And Pedroia did not come even second on his own team. So you to wonder, just how great a season did he have if he was ranked 4th on his own squad in total offensive numbers in 2008.

Well, if you consider the fact that Youkilis probably had his best season as a professional this season, his selection at number 9 might be realistic for him. But the two guys in front of Pedroia also had injury concerns in 2008, but when they were able to hit the plate, they were effective for their team. Both J D Drew ( 13) and Pre-Trade Deadline Manny Ramirez (12) had better statistics than the American League Most Valuable Player.

So since I am a Rays fan, I also took the liberty of seeing how my guys did on both lists.  Well, even though we did have an amazing run towards that beautiful trophy in October, we missed out and will have to repeat to have another shot to hoist that beauty in the air. I scanned over the sheets and saw that pitching wise, we did not fare really bad on the list.

James Shields actually coming out  18th in the top 20 of the 2008 listing.  Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir came in at 54th and 61st respectfully, and that is a great showing that the Rays had 3 guys in the top 60-ish of baseball.  The one guy who really got me excited was the fact that number 4 starter, Andy Sonnanstine blew past Garza and Kazmir and came out a impressive 31st on the final list. He had some great statistics behind the front numbers and has shown some remarkable consistent numbers in 2008. 

So the next time you want to wonder why Sonnanstine is still here and Jackson is gone, you can look at the 2008 numbers and they tell a very clear story. Jackson was listed at 114th best in baseball, while Sonnanstine was in the 31st slot. Consistency wins ball games, and with the Rays being a truly statistic friendly team, you know that Rays Manager Joe Maddon sees the potential of Sonnanstine even growing in 2009 for the team.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Rays did have a few guys who did better at the plate then imagined early on in the season. The team actually placed 3 guys in the top 100 hitters in 2008. As you might expect, Carlos Pena was the highest Rays with a ranking of 29th for the year. That was followed by a 55th spot by Longoria, and a 92nd slot for center fielder B J Upton.

On the surface, people thought the Upton was having a down season, which he actually was due to a shoulder injury, but with him adjusting his swing and even placing into the top 100, the sky is the limit when he is fit and healthy in 2009. And with Longoria placing so high as a rookie, it also sets a high expectation level for him in 2009. Hopefully the sophomore jinx will not hit him and he can remain in pace to become a new star at third base for the M L B.

But the category that really had my eyes popping was in the relief pitching listings. The Rays were consistently being praised for their upgrades in their Bullpen, and with the huge developments in their relievers, but just how great was this change for the team?  The squad actually placed two guys high on the list.

Considering the guy who came in at number 10 on the list was not even on the Rays Opening Day roster is a amazement in itself, but he did not get any reputation, or even recognition until he came back with a fire in his belly to prove the world wrong about him. Grant Balfour came back to St. Petersburg, Florida to fulfill a potential of being a top 10 reliever in the M L B, not just the AL. If I took the top 10 and split them by leagues, Balfour would rank 7th in the American League. 

But as great as the story is on the emergence of Balfour, the productivity of  J P Howell can not be measured by just the statistics. During the season I saw the guy who used to slunk by the Bullpen area come alive this season and become a fan favorite for his personality and his spunk. As Howell gained strength and great numbers, he also opened up to the fans and showed that great inner champion to him. Howell just missed the top 50 in baseball by 2 slots, but he is a top guy based on his upswing in 2008.

So as we can see, the basic statistics in baseball sites and on leader boards can not always show you the total package of a player. Be it a MVP winner who is not even the 4th best player on his team, or a 5th starter who is actually statistically better than 3 other starting pitchers on his squad, the number can be deceiving at time.  But we already knew that didn’t we?

 

Rays Reminiscing…………..A Year Later

 

 

 

 

A little over 13 months ago we took on a new persona here in Tampa Bay. Everyone remembers the limp, win-challenged Tampa Bay Devilrays. Well, we were told to expect changes and get used to winning and maybe keeping a roll of antacids in our pockets for the 2008 season. But little did we know what was about to happen to effect our lives, stomachs and attitude towards our home team.

 

First there was the events st Straub Park that put the entire thing into motion for 2008. Kevin Costner and Modern West came to put on a free concert for the Tampa Bay Masses as we dropped the Devil from our moniker and became to Rays………free and clear. Along with those changes were vibrant logo with a highly accented “R” and the burst of light, which could of been a sunburst, a flashlight, or maybe even a quasar from the futre telling us about 2008.

 

 

 

 

The event brought alot of mixed emotions into the Tampa Bay area, but also brought about a sense of removing the past and being reborn to become what we should always have been…winners.  Not only did the team have a new energy about it, but the player showed the emotion and the anticipation on stage that night to bring about total acceptance of the new look. I only had one problem with all of this change. I still thank that the road jersey should have the “Tampa Bay” naming on the chest instead of the Rays.

 

It might be something simple to most people, but I also have been on teams that accented the away jersey would have a regional flair, and the Rays became only one of a handful of teams that now held the same uniform both home and away. One small patch on the sleeve kept the flying “ray” alive, but for how long. I have a feeling we might see it gone in 2009, replaced by some sort of symbolic gesture of winning, or maybe a “burst” like in the center of the current logo.

 

 

 

 

After the effectiver launching of the new logo and advertising, the team went on a media blitz that saturated the Tampa Bay area with the new attitude and logo. Gone were the green and white shirts off the shelves, and on them now was the burst and the typically blue hats with the white “TB” on them. Also gone were the 5 or 6 variations of the caps during the initial launch. Tampa Bay wanted the entire area to re-unite under one cap scheme before re-launching variations and knock-offs.

 

The Champs Sporting Good store player appearance were extremely popular and some store even ran out of certain team apparel that night. The buzz was all over the Tampa Bay area about the recharged Rays and their plans for the future.  So we got to relax for a short while before the team announced two huge trades of disgruntled or negatively-aligned players. One was a superstar in waiting, while the other may someday be a great powerhitter, but not with the Rays.

 

 

 

 

Delmon Young, who had been in the doghouse of Maddons’ since the last game of the season was jettisoned to the great white dome in Minnesota along with utility guy Brendan Harris and minor league outfielder Jason Pridie. The deal at first looked like the Twins had fleeced the Rays for a potential All-Star and slick-hitter in Young.  But the deal did not take a Tampa Bay turn into late in Spring Training when it looked like two of the players dealt to the Rays might be starters on the team.

 

 

 

 

Jason Bartlett came to the Rays as a much under used appreciated and mis used member of the Twin’s infield. He had good skills at the plate, but his strong point was his defense. The second member of the trade might have come with the most baggage to Tampa Bay. Matt Garza was a great pitcher, but he got into himself too much and might have done himself more damage than good in his time with the Twins. In the end, both guys became valuable members of the team and did not even look back as they moved forward with the Rays. The minute Spring Training started at the Namoli Complex, you could see both guys were relishing in their change of scenery.  Bartlett quickly got into the team’s rhythm and poised to become a valuable member of the squad.

 

 

 

 

Garza tried to become a dominating pitcher early, but his mind got in the way of his pitching and sulking and frustration came to the top alot in the beginning. The truning point for this trade came on that faithful day in Texas where Garza could not longer hide the frustrations and outwardly exploded in the dugout. That day, Garza let it all out and began a transformation that made him into a stellar pitcher.

 

 

 

 

The second trade might not have made much sense at the time, but it was done more out of helping a player who did not think he needed the help at the moment. Elijah Dukes will someday be a trememdous hitter and outfielder, but the local enviorment for him was toxic and he needed to leave before it destroyed him. Duke was traded to the Washington Nationals and did not see a huge amount of action in 2008, but the positive did rear their heads for him during the year.

 

He played inspired ball and did not focus or dwell on the off the field problem he had in Tampa Bay. He showed the Nationals the raw ability and power he had, and made some amazing plays in the field before finally going down in a game against the New York Mets. In that game, Dukes sprinted for a ball near the base of the wall and hit it with such force it should have broken his leg.

 

He did come outy with a knee problem, but came back  quickly and even made more heads turn before the end of the year. He stayed out of trouble and learned that the change of scenery made the trade a blessing in disguise. Tampa Bay might not have gotten alot in return for Dukes, but they did give him his life back, and he repaid them by doing it the right way.

 

 

 

 

After these two trades, the team went about signing two members of the 2008 team that made contributions in different ways. Troy Percival was chasing a top 10 spot in the All-Time save list when he signed a 2-year contract with the Rays. Because of his knowledge of Maddon’s gameplan, he was the perfect candidate for closing out Rays games. He came with veteran experience and postseason muscle, which could come in handy for the young Bullpen.

 

His work ethic and chats with the young guys could serve a dual purpose as having another pitching coach out there in the Bullpen to educate and relate to the other players. Percival came into the year  wanting to secuire the back end of the Rays Bullpen and give them some stability in the position.  Little did we know at the time what would happen, but in 2007, it was heralded as a major upgrade and a certain intimidation factor.

 

 

                              

 

 

The second signing was for a former outfielder who had won a World Series ring just like Percival. Cliff Floyd came to the team with a dual mission. He came to the team to provide ammunition and experience to help educate and emotionally charge the young bench. Floyd came here with great credentials, but his on-field mobility was in question from the start. Gone were the legs who could produce a run from a single, but the power and the stroke were still there in force.

 

He became an instant leader in the clubhouse and lead by example. Always the professional, Floyd took young players like B J Upton and Carl Crawford under his wing and taught both of them the art of the game. That half the battle in this psort was fought between their ears and in their words and comments to others. You could see the change in both players’ early in the year, and it set the tone for the team.

 

                                

 

 

 

So with these 4 episodes early in the off season for the Rays, the team set about  a series of changes like never before in their history. They had a change of uniforms, attitude and a veteran experience level they had not witnessed in their short history. The sky was the limit for the young team before the Feb. reporting day, and from there they just kept making history. 

 

Kevin Costner plans ‘Bull Durham’ sequel

 

Reprint from article in St. Petersburg Times  by Josh Gillin.

 

 

Kevin Costner plans ‘Bull Durham’ sequel

 

Tbdkevincostner100708 We now know the secret why Kevin Costner has been writing so many baseball songs — he’s resurrecting his beloved Crash Davis for an upcoming sequel to Bull Durham, the New York Post’s Page Six says. Say it ain’t so, Kev!

A source tells the tabloid that Costner just met with director Ron Shelton in L.A. to discuss going to the well again. Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon are supposed to return, as well, but it seems Nuke and Annie were the ones who lived happily ever after, and bought a Major League baseball team that Crash manages.

Throw on top of that steaming pile the idea of Kristen Kerr as one of the cantankerous catcher’s love interests and you will see every baseball fan on the planet simultaneous vomit onto the bleacher bench in front of them. Since the Rays have a working relationship with the Bulls, can’t they do anything about this? This is the worst idea since the designated hitter — remember, Kevin, you’re better off being a Sixty Minute Man.

Billy Chapel aka Crash Davis aka Kevin Costner aka 1 Cool Dude

 

There I was, just sitting in one of my accounts when it dawned on me, it is K-day. I had been looking forward to this day for a month and was past anxious with excitement. The _____Rays were going to unveil their new look in logo, jerseys and symbolic new beginning in an adventure in their brand of zen wisdom. They were having a free viewing and unveiling down by the water in Straub Park in St. Petersburg, Florida to show their fans the new looks and reclaimed attitude of our hometown team.

Funny, we were less than a mile from where they want their new stadium and did not even know the clock and dagger concerned with that endeavor. But that is for another blog.

Back to K-day. I had recently bought a copy of “Baseball America”  on Ebay. I have been a big fan of Costners’ for years. I have enjoyed most of his films, and even liked “Waterworld” for its eco-system message and sailing scenes. I have been a Costner guy since “Fandango” and “No Way Out.” I have owned and frequently watched  “Silverado” and “Open Range.”

But the two movies that I feel put him on the map were not “Tin Cup“, or “The Postman“, or even the chick flick “The Bodyguard.”

It was the two movies were he showed his athletic talents and lust for realism.

For the Love of the Game’, and “Bull Durham” are classic movies that everyone can enjoy and thrill to watch anytime. Most people have seen “Bull” and know the symbolism and special place it holds in  a true baseball fans’ eyes. Have you noticed that Susan Sarrandon’s character has a shrine to Yankee Thurman Munson, or that Costner actually takes all his own whacks at the plate in the movie.

Besides that, ex-Red Sox manager, Grady Little was the technical consultants to the film.  I  have expressed my love for that film on too many occasions, so a friend in LA got me a signed copy of the script. I have it hidden  in a safe place.

In the film, “For the Love of the Game“, that is old Tigers Stadium made up to look like Yankee Stadium. And the realism of that breaking ball Costner throws is remarkable.  An added note, he pitched every scene of that movie. No CGI or special effects were used in the pitching motion or delivery.  Pure Costner energy and commitment to his craft. And the true baseball fanatic thank him for that.

Getting back to my point, which I turned left at “Go” and did not collect $200.

I got down to Straub Park at about 3 PM on that wild Thursday with my camera in hand and a backpack full of balls and my fragile copy of Baseball America. The reason I bought it was because it had Costner on the cover. Yes, it does have him as “Billy Chapel” in his Tigers number 14 jersey on the mound. On the inside it talks about the film and his wanting the most realistic baseball movie to date( Hint hint………you achieved that Kevin.)

I got there and the Rays  front office busy bees were buzzing around getting the food, refreshments and  new logo caps for the Season Ticket holder ready for the event.

 Just then a tall stranger got on stage and began to play one of Modern West’s song that I had heard on their Myspace page. But the guy singing wasn’t Kevin. It was one of his band mates, Park Chisolm. And he was crooning a song entitled “5 seconds from America”.  This is a great song and I wish you would go to his page and check it out sometime.

                                           

Costner was persuaded by his lovely wife to again make music and he is truly a singer of the ages. I am not saying he is the second coming of Elvis, just a really talented guy who can also carry a mean tune and play a guitar.  On stage were the members of Modern West, Park Chisolm, Teddy Morgan,Blair Forward and Larry Cobb.  Bobby Yang came by and played a mean fiddle up there.he is one talented guy.

I  proceeded to begin taking a few pictures and get the focal  camera settings for the concert. I was interrupted by a British sounding stage manager that asked all the people to “vacate the area, this was a closed sound check.” Imagine the shock of the group I was in that they would say that in a city owned park, and in an area where there was no fencing or restrictions from us walking about the  grounds.

I decided to meander my way back by the backstage area and try and catch Kevin before he was going into the motor home. He came back from the stage area and I caught his eye, and he saw the Baseball America. He did a few things around the area, and then came up and signed the magazine and talked with me for a few minutes and we chatted about his music and his recent tour. 

I asked him how his European adventure/tour went, and how the show that last Friday at Atlantis in the Bahamas came out with a Tropical Storm brewing to the south. He was shocked that some had done their homework on him, and asked how I knew about that. I  informed him that he was one of my Myspace friends and I regularly went to the page. He forgot that some fans do know that he started his band on a Florida tour some years ago………………..I remembered, and I was there Kevin.

I did not want to bore him or seem fake to the guy. I guess it was the fact that the Rays people knew me and let him chat with me for a second. I originally offered the Rays organization a donation to their baseball foundation for a chance to do exactly what I was doing at that very moment. I wanted to commend on  “For the Love of the Game.” and for making the only movie that can be put in the category of “baseball movie” and borderline “chick flick’”.

My ex-girlfriend loves that movie. I think more for Kelly Preston that Kevin, but that is a womans perogative. I then went out front and watched the Rays  uniform and logo presentations. 

As projected, the Devil fell off the uniforms and team name and we were the “Rays” again.  Hmmmmmmmmmmm, the newspapers and media have been calling us that for a long time. Maybe this is just a formality for goodness sakes.

 

                                          

 I then watched the parade of players come out modeling the Home, Away and BP jerseys to the crowd. Jonny Gomes, practicing for his WWE gig, was a bit theatrical and torn the old shirt off himself to reveal his new duds.

 

                                                                          

                   

With my treasured signature and a moment with a future legend in the past, I sat back and enjoyed the day and sat there and enjoyed the free concert with Modern West.  I did not stay for the entire concert, I had left my lady and the kids at home and felt a bit guilty for it.  So on my way out, I bought 5 gift bags with the new logo balls in them, with a few stickers and logos for the kids. I also went to the Season Ticket holders table and got my  free new logo cap and strolled out to the pier where my car was parked and headed home.

Spinning forward,  I left as Kevin was hitting the high notes on “Long Hot Night,” and truly thanking the crowd for letting him enjoy this day with him.

                                     

 He is a class act.  I have met a lot of famous people in my long life, and he is in the top of the list in personality, pleasant demeanor, and total “one of us” feeling that you wish all celebs would show to the masses.

 

Post Script. 

 I went to Brandon Town Center that Friday night to catch a few buddies at the Champ’s sporting goods store, but Carl Crawford was not feeling well and Edwin “Action” Jackson had just left.  The Rays personnel there left a special present for me. a limited edition New Era “TB” cap. It was number 12 in a series of 30 to celebrate the new logo. I will work on get the entire team to sign it by the end of the year.

 

 

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