Results tagged ‘ Lou Gehrig ’

A Haunting Good Time

 

People have always questioned if there is something after this life. If there is an existence that follows between this physical life, and an afterlife or even a possible state of timeless limbo before we might finally be transported to another realm. It is one of those cosmic questions that each of us seek the answer to at some point in our lives. Each of us play and weigh the realities and possibilities within our own intelligence to hopefully come up with our own reality limits and beliefs.


With All Hallow’s Eve beginning in several hours, I thought it might be a bit interesting tonight to dig into the history and possible presence within my little township of St. Petersburg, Florida to bring out a few examples of paranormal or odd baseball-related coincidences within the city limits of a town where baseball might be played all year long, even beyond the human sightlines. With a city like this so rich in baseball lore, maybe you want to believe it is happening.. or maybe you have seen it yourself?

There are several sites I could bring into this discussion tonight from the downtown waterfront Ponce De Leon Hotel penthouse suites where New York Yankee legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig spent their time in this small hamlet while Spring Training with the Bronx Bombers. Where tales of the heavy footsteps and loud chuckles when no one is in the rooms with you echo at night. The smell of cigarette and smoke clouds when no one is on the porches or verandas during the early evenings.

 

Or maybe there is an unforeseen baseball tourney going on just down the street in a small neighborhood park just off 13th Avenue North along side a quaint city park that used to house a single field that used to be used by the Yankees and several other teams that have trained in this city in the past.


That to this day city employees still think the small baseball complex is still visited by unknown guests, possibly by Ruth and the Yankee Clipper, Joe Di Maggio. Where the smell of cherry scented cigars, a favorite of former Yankee Manager Miller Huggins s till permeates the early morning air as employees enter the locked building for a new days work.

 

That Huggins-Stengel Field, which is now the home turf of the St. Pete High School Green Devils baseball team might not be the only team taking batting practice and infield. Also watching might be a lone apparition sitting in a dugout just as he did with his Yankee players so long ago. Could former Yankee Manager Casey Stengel also be spending some of his afterlife viewing the game he loved, or still commanding his troops on the field during the eerie cloak of darkness?



Or could the Rays actually be getting some unseen help by the paranormal as visiting teams stay in a local hotel steeped in ghost tales even before the Rays existence in 1998. Most people outside of St. Petersburg would not remember the tales of the old Vinoy Hotel during its derelict days as vandals, the homeless and countless other unseen residents of the once swank hotel walked through its dilapidated halls and rooms after first closing its doors to the public in 1974.



But then another coat of glowing pink coral paint was applied to the hotel in the 1990′s as the discarded hotel property was purchased and restored to its old former glory as the Renaissance Vinoy Resort. And the swank hotel then became the hub for visiting Major League Baseball teams who came to play the hometown Rays, and were met by more than a few fans from beyond the baseball realms.

Since that time, visiting team players and Rays players experienced unusual events and happenings in their stays at the hotel, with a few players even balking at returning to their rooms at the 5-star resort .


My favorite visiting player event happened to former Baltimore Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons who rushed up to his room on the fith floor in the old section of the Vinoy hotel to catch an early night’s rest. Before he hit the sheets for the night, Gibbons set the alarm clock by the edge of his bed and went into the bathroom to wash up and get ready for his nightly sleep.

As Gibbons returned to the bed, he noticed the alarm clock, which he had previously set was now off. He immediately sat up to reset the clock and noticed that the power cord was draped over the clock . The electric plug was located near the floor area of the room and behind the nightstand. Gibbons ended up sleeping with the lights on that night.


But he wasn’t the only visiting player to get a rough night’s sleep from the Vinoy’s unseen staff. Former Toronto Blue Jays Manager Cito Gaston also had an event where his hotel room door, which was previously locked by him kept unlocking and swinging open during the course of the night.

I could fill a book with the names and events by countless players and staffers that have had the paranormal “touch” them by events in this hotel. Here is another one. Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts even had his own experience after he put some freshly dry cleaned clothes in the room’s closet and closed the closet door only to find those same clothes out of their plastic wrappings on his bed when he returned to the room. Could a courteous transparent chambermaid put out Robert’s clothes for the evening?

 

My favorite event actually involves a old Rays Bullpen player. Jon Switzer was a old left-handed reliever for the Rays who had his first brush with the presences at the Vinoy when he was first called up to the majors by the Rays.

Switzer and his wife stayed at the Vinoy on the fifth floor of the older section of the hotel and were both awoken by a scratching sound that seemed to be coming from within the walls behind their bed’s large headboard. The sound persisted for 15 minutes then disappeared, but returned later that evening even loud enough to awaken have have both of them bolt upright and turn on the night light to investigate the room.
 

It was at this time that the room’s presence quickly made itself known to both Switzer and his wife as they both viewed the painting above their bed seem to come to life. The painting was of a woman in a Victorian outfit with a basket of flowers in his right hand. The picture, which originally had flowers in the woman’s left hand was now showed the woman’s left hand scratching at the glass as if to find a way out of the enclosed glass. The couple stared in disbelief at the picture for several moments before finally bolting out of the room.
The stories about the Vinoy are so widespread among baseball players that when the Toronto Blue Jays once pulled up to the resort for an upcoming series against the Rays, ex-Blue Jay outfielder Jose Cruz Jr once got on the charter bus P A system and told the players, “Hopefully you guys got sleeping pills because this hotel is haunted.” 

Most people seem to have forgetten about this hotel’s sordid past. That during World War II, the hotel was been used as a military rehabilitation hospital where many soliders checked in, but not all took a final journey out of its doors on their feet. Death and suffering has lingered among these hotelhalls and rooms for a long time.


Combined with the years of neglect and decay following its closure for 20-odd years, residual energy seemd to have been stored among the pink coral and ornately carved wooden moldings. Countless unnerving events have been documented by other hotel guests besides the visiting baseball players. Unconfirmed deaths among the hotels while is disrepair, including a homeless person who supposedly drowned in a water-filled elevator shaft after falling and breaking his neck only help to fuel the legends.

Whether you believe or not, these events did happen and are happening today.


 

How many of you remember the photo I took this January of a pre-dawn Progress Energy/ Al Lang Field where an out of the ordinary blue hue interrupts the most darkened green background of the grandstands. I am of the belief that even if you do not actively believe or even acknowledge the existence of these events you have to respect the intentions that the past can be relived over and over again.

And on a night that will come in a few hours where the macabre and the unknown are to rule the activities, isn’t it at least wise to not taunt or treat them with disrespect…even in a small hamlet like St. Petersburg?


Ken Griffey Junior Adds a New Role to his Career……. Diplomat

 

 

 


If there is one player I wish we could have found space and money for him in Tampa Bay for 2009, it has to be the guy who will go into the Hall of Fame having played for my second favorite MLB squad. With the  Tampa Bay Rays recent signing of  former Phillie Pat Burrell, it ends that secret hidden deep in my heart to see Ken Griffey Junior play and succeed in a Rays uniform. If you really consider what this guy has done in such a long and productive carrer, he is a one of those guys who I believe will be a  sure thing first ballot Hall of Famer, without a question.  I was justing looking forward to watching that swing 81 games a year at the Trop., but I will just have to buy the MLB Package and watch him play maybe in my second city, Seattle again in 2009.

 


From the days at Moeller High School in Cincinnati, where he was a twice voted the best baseball player of the year, to at 19, being the youngest player in the major leagues. The guy has always been at the top of his profession. And to even imagine that he had the chance to do it side by side with his dad is beyond words. Now that is something that I find truly amazing to me. I know I would have loved to play baseball or even box against my dad, or his uncle as a kid growing up, and  would have really learned how it was to play the Philly type of street/ parking lot football and baseball. But Griffey Jr. got to do it along side an All Star dad, while playing for the team that made his dad a star, the Cincinnati Reds is truly amazing to me.

 

 


He is one of the first player to ever be on a major league roster at the same time as his father and playing in the MLB. And if that was not a huge event, he also got to finally play along side his dad after his trade from the Mariners to the Cincinnati Reds. Both Father and son did appear in several lineups that season. And his  outward enjoyment of the game of baseball is clear to see by anyone watching him before, during and after the games. For the art of baseball with all of it’s simple parts and complicated segments never seemed to get him down or stress him out at all. He has always been that care free and smiling figure on the sidelines signing autographs or posing for photos with the fans. He respects the game and pay homage to those before him for letting him have the honor of playing this great game.

 


He is the essence of what you want your teams’ professional baseball player to be, and what you might want you own kids to become someday. He might go out with the boys’ to nightclubs and dinner while on road trips, but he also has been clean and clear to others that he is happily married and loves his lifestyle. The Daily pressures and expectations might take a toll on him, but  doesn’t show the effects or even the worry because when he hits that field for Batting Practice, he tries to convey a sense  of fun and pranks, almost child-like play, and  does not take anything serious around the ball field before the first pitch of the game.  How can you not like a guy with that kind of idealistic joy.  And how can he not be on your list of people in baseball to admire and respect.

 


And people tend to forget he was the youngest player to ever hit the 350 home run mark. He also still hold one of the best  career batting average marks ever in All Star play by hitting over .571 in the mid summer classic. And if that was not enough, the guy also won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves as a center fielder in the American League. He also hit a homer in 8 straight games once during his career, and  has hit a home run in every ball park in the American League, and still will be in uniform to maybe hit one in 2009 in the new Yankee Stadium. Depending on what team finally signs him in 2009, he might still also have a chance to hit a home run in the New York Mets new dig, Citi Park this coming season. If he does sign with the Mariners, he will not get a chance in Inter-league play to go beyond the Mississippi River in 2009. But if he did resign with the Chicago White Sox, he as an option of going back to Cincy during the Inter-league series form June 19-21, 2009.

 


But Griffey Jr. is entering a new phase in his playing career. Ever since 1995, when he broke his wrist while with the Mariners, small injuries and mishaps have taken him down a road he hates to admit might have derailed a lot of his career. Simple injuries have cost this guy a chance at maybe beating Barry Bond’s home run record. He was for years the heir apparent to the crown before his string of injuries cost him at bats and chances at homers over the years. In 2008, an errant foot locker left out in the area near his locker caused him to suffer a knee injury that plagued him the entire season. This off season he has taken measures to correct the injury and should be ready by the Feb. reporting date to again pratice and regain strength in the knee.

 


He is about to enter a second career of sorts for a few months in 2009, maybe setting himself up a bit with a life after baseball motivation.  I could see him maybe in a political role somewhere down the line, but did not think it would go hand in hand with his baseball career. Well seriously folks, for a few years there he could have ran for mayor of Tacoma or Seattle and won by a landslide vote. But recently, United States Secretary of the State Condoleeza Rice named Griffey as a Public Diplomacy Envoy. In accepting the honor, Griffey Jr. is challenged with a new goals and set of parameters. He is entrusted with the act of spreading the values of the United States by helping to spark interest  in America and  in our culture. Griifey also will share this honor with former figure skater Michelle Kwan and  former television star, Fran Drescher, better known for her role and voice as ” The Nanny.”



Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., who was appointed in 2007 to the same post will accompany the newly appointed envoys when they begin their adventures in January with a trip to Panama Since Griffey Jr. has played both on the U S Olympic and World Baseball Classic teams for the United States, he seemed like the logical and most visual player to ever be considered for the post.  ” Public diplomacy must be a dialogue” Rice said recently after a meeting with Griffey Jr.  “This dialogue must extend to every citizen in every country, especially to the young people.”  Because of his still boy-ish looks Griffey Jr. will convey a sense of All American values and be a great example of the type of person an American youth should use as an example for life. Griffey Jr. is excited about the position and is looking forward to his missions for his country.

 


Well-known athletes and celebrities, who exemplify the best in their sports and professions, and as a individual citizens, are appointed by the Secretary of the State to be American Public Diplomacy Envoys.  This special envoy not only reaches out to youth though sports and communications, but promotes the best aspects of American culture and democratic principles. So our latest diplomatic weapon to show people the values and great traits of our country has 611 home runs and has just reached 39 years of age. Griffey Jr is only the 3rd athlete to ever hold this position with the U S government.

 


He also got an honor a lot of people never knew about unless you lived on the west coast of America. In 1989, Ken Griffey Junior got to taste a chocolate candy bar named after him, and it sold over 1 million bars before they ceased production of the bar. Just another great fact about this very like-able baseball player. He has had countless  video games produced and released with his likeness and name upon the packaging. Who can forget the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 games with his name on them that we all played for hours in our family room around the country.


 

 


So what does the future hold for the great Griffey Jr in 2009?  You would think that during the World Baseball classic he would be doing the tours along the sites to promote and entertain the ideals of this great country, while maybe serving in some role for the United States team. But nothing is guaranteed for him in 2009 with the W.B.C. But what might be of concern now is where will he be reporting to after the classic is over in 2009? In a recent article online, it was stated that Tiger’s center fielder Curtis Granderson called Griffey Jr about his time in the 2006 WBC and asked his advice if he should play for the team.  It is not known what Griffey said to Granderson, but the player accepted a invitation to play for the U S team today, and he might be one of  the heir apparents to Griffey’s center field spot on the squad.

 


Now that the Tampa Bay Rays have signed Burrell, it seems that he will not be near home in 2009, unless the Rays can find a way to bring him on board at a reduced price, or maybe shave off some payroll in other areas of the team. Now personally, I would have been honored if the guy had chosen my Rays as his team for 2009. I think the guy is all class, and I got to meet him briefly before the ALDS becuase of an old friend who is playing for the Chicago White Sox. I found him refreshing and totally accessible, and he signed a ball for me without me even asking him for an autograph. We chatted a few minutes before he had to get into the locker room, but it  will remain as one of my best baseball moments. It will sit right along side of photo memory of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris  both holding me for a picture at Al Lang Field when I was young ( 1961 ).



No, the likely destination for Griffey Jr. might, and should be the place where it all began for him. He should be allowed to return to Seattle and help the Mariners during their rebuilding years and to finally play his last game in the stadium that he helped get built in the Emerald City. He has had that town in his mind ever since they drafted him in the First Round in 1987. He finally made it to the big leagues in 1989, and has not looked back since then. He was a part of the Mariners first post season berth, and still has a soft spot for the team’s ownership and the town in general.

 

 

I know I would love it if he was still playing in 2015 ( doubtfully, but I can dream) when I retire to Seattle to see this great player stride to the plate in his last at bat, in that last home game. I know it will be an end of a era of sorts not only in Seattle, but also in baseball. We might never see another player like Ken Griffey Jr. in our lifetime. There are a lot of ballplayers I grew up with that I see at Legends games and charity events throughout Florida during Spring Training, but the games I alsways have looked forward to were the contests against the Reds and the Rays to watch Griffey Jr. just hit the ball during B P . His troke is so pure and seems without effort at times. It is a wonder to just stare at the bat and watch it go through the zone to make contact with the ball.


 

 


Just as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig mesmerized and produced a baseball love affair  for my dad and millions of other fans who never even saw them play some 80 years ago, Griffey Jr. will be one of the true baseball icons we remember when we are sitting on the porch remembering the greatness about baseball in our old age. And you know the one thing I will remember most about this great guy…………..that boyish smile that starts at BP, and grows until the last out of the game. I have never, ever seen him get angry or even get ejected from a ball game, even though it  might have happened a few times in his career. 



Griffey Jr. deserves to be a first ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame after his career.  I think the guy has a few more productive years in him before he might even think about hanging up his Nike spikes and spending the rest of his life in Orlando, Florida with his wife and kids. But, you never know with baseball. In all probability he will be signed before Spring Training and report as usual to begin another great year on the diamond. And to see him having fun in the sport that has given him and us so much to always remember.


 

 

Tampa Bay’s Pursuit of Basball..A Short History Lesson

 

                            

 

The pursuit of major league baseball in the Tampa Bay area began hard and furious in the  1988 after  the  proposed building of the Florida Suncoast Dome in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. The area now had a viable baseball stadium within the  area, and also had an estimated 12,000 deposited Season Tickets on hand.  The area baseball group were tireless in their pursuit of either an existing team, or an expansion franchise for their new  domed stadium.

 


The local group them began to woo major-league baseball to the Sunshine State by visiting and trying to obtain ownership shares in existing MLB clubs that were in either financial trouble or wanted leverage to get stadiums or other breaks from their local city governments. Yet despite nearly eloping with several teams like the Minnesota Twins, Oakland A’s, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, and San Francisco Giants, the region had to wait until 1998 to field a team of its own.


 

 

Baseball first arrived in Tampa/St. Petersburg as teams began to flock to Florida for spring training. The father of major-league baseball in the area was Al Lang, a Pittsburgh native who had moved to St. Petersburg in 1910 and within a few years had joined the management of the local ballpark. After failing to talk Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss into having his team train at Waterfront Park, the future home of Al Lang Field,  ( Dreyfuss refused, calling the backwater a “one-tank town” ) and watching the Chicago Cubs move their spring operation from New Orleans to nearby Tampa.

 

 

Lang finally convinced Branch Rickey to bring his St. Louis Browns to St. Pete. In anticipation of the team’s arrival, financing was approved for a new ballpark, seating 2,000 fans. The first game at the new field saw the Cubs defeat the “hometown” Browns 3-2, behind a first inning homer by rookie outfielder Cy Williams.  Professional baseball  in the town was an instant hit, and soon became so popular in St. Petersburg that businesses began to close early on weekdays so that fans could attend games.

 

 

 However, Rickey’s players, unable to find any other sources of entertainment (movie theaters closed early, and alcohol was forbidden by town law) were bored silly. Embroiled in a financing dispute, the Browns left after their first year to be replaced by the Philadelphia Phillies, who moved to the town’s training facilities in 1918. In 1922, the New York Yankees and Boston Braves arrived in St. Petersburg. Babe Ruth, the Yanks star attraction, was once chased out of the outfield by alligators at Huggins-Stengel Park located near the center of town.

 

 

 

In 1928, the baseball-mad city helped Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert turn a $60,000 spring training profit. The St. Louis Cardinals arrived in town in 1938 and stayed until 1997, at various times sharing the city with the Yankees, Giants, Mets, and the Orioles. Tampa, too, has had its share of spring training tenants, having hosted six teams since the Cubs left after the spring of 1916.

 


Local interest in bringing a team to the Tampa Bay area first emerged after MLB expanded into Toronto and Seattle in 1977. While attracting major-league teams to the area for the spring was never a problem, luring a team on a permanent basis proved to more problematic. Most of the problems were a result of a lack of cooperation between the Tampa and St. Petersburg city governments. Although it was mutually agreed upon between the two cities that it was in their best interests to bring major-league ball to the area, Tampa and St. Petersburg’s local sports authorities independently courted dissatisfied major league owners while making plans for separate stadiums.

 


In 1984, a group of investors known as the “Tampa Bay Baseball Group” ( led by businessman Frank Morsani ) managed to buy a 42% stake in the Minnesota Twins, hoping to move the team to Tampa. But Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, acting in what he called “the best interests of baseball,” pressured the group to sell their share to Carl Pohlad, a local banker who intended to keep the team in the Twin Cities. Tampa was foiled again in 1985, when Oakland A’s president Roy Eisenhardt, after agreeing in principle to sell the team to Morsani’s group for $37 million, decided to keep the team after agreed to a new stadium lease with Oakland’s mayor.

 

 


In November 1985, both cities made separate presentations for expansion teams (amidst charges of plagarism ) to Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who was annoyed at the local community civil war. However, the rivalry continued. From 1986 onwards, St. Petersburg appeared to be the destination of choice for the Chicago White Sox, who were unhappy with Comiskey Park. The St. Petersburg group went so far as to break ground on the Florida Suncoast Dome in 1988, ostensibly the new home of the White Sox. Their neighbors across the bay steamed, and the Tampa Tribune opined that that the locale of the new stadium “puts one in mind of a particularly pinched Albanian village.”

 


However, hopes ended in 1988 when Chicago officials managed to pass financing for a new stadium at the last minute by unplugging the Legislative clock to get a resolution passed to keep the team in the South Side of Chicago. Even though the Sox ended up staying in Chicago, the Suncoast Dome was well on its way to being built, effectively ending the long rivalry between the two cities with regards to baseball; it was agreed that any team coming to the area would be housed in the new stadium.

 


However, opportunities evaporated as quickly as they appeared. Morsini’s attempt to buy the Texas Rangers in 1988 was foiled, MLB left the Tampa Bay area out of its expansion plans in favor of Miami in 1991. Then Seattle Mariners owner Jeff Smulyan had made a verbal agreement with the Tampa Bay baseball group, but decided to try and keep the team in the city by selling his team instead  to Nintendo in 1992. MLB again rebuffed Tampa Bay in late 1992, when National League owners rejected a agreed upon proposal that would bring the San Francisco Giants to the Suncoast Dome.

 

 


Finally, Tampa Bay was awarded an expansion team on March 9, 1995, ending what new owner Vince Naimoli called “a path of ten thousand steps, ten thousand phone calls, ten thousand frustrations.” Three years before starting play, the team named  former Braves executive Chuck LaMar as their general manager; LaMar, charged with the task of building a team from scratch, decided to build his club around veteran cornerstones. To that end, the team signed future Hall-of-Famer Wade Boggs, slugger Paul Sorrento, and  Opening Day pitcher Wilson Alvarez. They then traded for Tampa Bay native Fred McGriff and Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Kevin Stocker. The trade for Stocker took the most heat as the team had picked young outfielder Bobby Abreu and then turned around and traded the young star to Philadelphia for the experienced shortstop.

 

 

 Larry Rothschild, who had never before managed a game but has always been a well-regarded major-league pitching coach, was named the team’s first manager.  So here we have a just a short history of the Tampa Bay area and their quest to obtain their MLB franchise. The area sweated long and hard to finally field a team in the local sunshine of Tampa Bay. And within 11 years of their first game, celebrated a playoff berth for the young team.

 


Tampa Bay’s pursuit of  major league baseball was a investment in the past and the future for the region. And the area is finally reaping the benefits of acquiring  a professional team to play in the confines of Tropicana Field.

 

 

Tampa Bay Rays Scribbles

I was trolling the Internet today looking for MLB news, and I found this great story about a prank pulled by Philadelphia Phillie’s Bret Myers pulled during Spring Training.  It happened in my hometown of Clearwater, Florida. This is the Spring Training site of the Philadelphia Phillie’s, and is located not even two miles from my home. 

It involves a young pitcher named Kyle Kendrick. The prank involved a few veterans like starter/closer Brett Myers and the entire coaching staff and some management. He also got punked by his agent in this prank. It is funny as all get out as the player was told he was traded to the “Giants” of the Japanese baseball league. His (pun) salary was $ 1.5 million dollars, thank god it was not Yen.

The next clip is a failed PDA by Philadelphia Phillie pitcher, Brett Myers. No, it isd not Brett Myer Day on my blog, just ran into a few really funny clips that I think can make your Monday feel better.Brett had a bit of problems up in Boston a while back during and Inter-league series with the Red Sox. He was out on the town, with his wife and made a bad character call. I do not condone what went down here, but I do know that he is making every step possible to help him in his situation.

I did my usual pilgrimage Friday morning out to the Rays Spring Training complex in St. Pete., and saw the pitchers’ and catchers’ come out in their new uniforms and greet the assembled fans and the new baseball season.
A few of the guys looked really eager to get out there and begin to finally throw some meaningful strikes and get set for “live” batting practice here in a few days. the first game of the spring is approaching fast.

Remember, we start our quest on Feb. 29th in our “turn-around” year.
Fitting we start playing on the Leap Year date, because this is the year we hope to change the national outlook on our squad. This is the year we hope to have a few heads pop sideways from Seattle to Miami. We are hoping in the next few months to finally have people at places like ESPN, love to show our highlighted without the jokes and puns included in the broadcast.

One of the guys I am keeping an close eye on will probably not make the Major League roster this year, but was a colorful addition to last years Southern Championship team in Montgomery, Alabama.Chris Mason is a major pitching talent for the Double-A Montgomery  Biscuits. He is known for his amazing pitching as well as his hair color.  Now everyone remembers the movie, “Summer Catch”, based on the Cape Cod Baseball League. 

In this movie, there is a hot shot pitcher who has his hair spiked in white and black to almost look like a Naruto character. Now Chris does not look exactly like this, but he did start the year as a platinum blond, shave it all off, go “goth” black, shave it off, and almost came out in a “pink caddy” look last year around the playoff time. Thanks Goodness his coach on the Biscuits vetoed that move. He wants to be on ESPN for talent, not showmanship.

Good thing this guy has some really great true talent, or this “hair statement” phase might not go well with the parent club. 

This next weekend is the 11th Annual Fan Fest at Tropicana Field. It is held only on Saturday and is a great place to get the vibe started for the upcoming MLB season.
Now, I have only missed 1 of these events, and that was by choice. It is a great time for kids of all ages.

It features a Pepsi/Rays Wall of Fame induction for the new class of fans that demonstrate a talent, special charm or endeavor for our hometown team. And yes, I have been on the wall for almost 5 years now. I am the guy who looks like a coach in his picture. It is a great time to see what spirit and commitment some of us have for our team. This is not a celebration of the “bandwagon” fan, but the true die-hard fans that can make or break the stands in a close game.

Along with this event, there will be baseball displays through the venue featuring items from Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb and other Rays notables like Wade Boggs. 

 Also, there will be tons of events for the kids. there will be a base running timed event, a batting cage area that looks like old Ebbetts field, and face painters and tons of events for all ages. There is also going to be a silent auction going on all day to benefit the “Rays of Hope” foundation. That is the arm of the franchise that awards grants and scholarships to deserving teams and players throughout the year in our community. I am a huge supporter of this cause and would love for everyone to also be a part of it in some way.

There will also be a tour of the Home Rays’ locker room. This will give you a glimpse of the area that these warriors get ready to face the likes of the Red Sox and Yankees’ firsthand.

Harold Reynolds of ESPN fame will be on stage in the Budweiser brew house taking questions and meeting with the masses. A few years ago, Peter Gammons was here before his injury, and he gave a fantastic speech on what he saw in our future as a team. It was a fantastic look into the mind of one of the greatest baseball writers, and recent inductee in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Last but not least, there will be an autograph signing involving the Rays players, and some veterans from the past. Players like Carlos Pena, Scott Kazmir, and Cliff Floyd will be signing for the fan.

If you have never been to this event, it is free parking and admission. Well worth the time and an experience the kids will remember for years to come. I will be there almost all day. Just look for the guy with the Cheshire cat grin, that would be me. See you there.

 

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