Results tagged ‘ Raymond ’

I could Never be a Mascot!

 

Renegade’s Note:

I know I have been a bit intense the last few posts, so I am going to venture into my light-hearted side today and see if I can bring some joy and smiles back into my blog today. I look forward to the next few days to write about some more positive adventures that hopefully will be a relief to the muck and mud we are experiencing right now.

You see them every game doing unusual things and even driving those crazy motorized vehicles allover the field and you wonder to yourself, just how  hard a  job could  that be?, or that a trained monkey could do that job. And I admit it, I have wondered if I could do a better job, or might have a better dance routine or skit in me that I could perform in that furry costume.

Sure we all think, and some of us know we are funnier, more athletic, and certainly more friendly to kids than the people currently in those big, bulky suits.  But little do we know that according to a recent poll, that being a team mascot is one of the ten worst jobs in sports. And in baseball, most of your time is spent in the stands and not on the sidelines like during a football game. If you have a phobia with people, or touching, this will not work out for you, no matter how funny or personable you are in real life.

And we have all collectively wondered why this would be considered a hard job? Come on entertaining kids and frolicking around in a suit incognito would be fun. You can insult the opponents fans in the name of game humor, you can spray silly string into the mugs of sarcastic and beer-induced adults, and you even get paid for it. But before you go all gung-ho looking in your local paper or team website for a want ad seeking a mascot, you might want to consider a few things.

First off, I think you have to be pretty secure with being “yourself” to know you are not going to do anything to ruin the illusion of your  team’s character.  That might include something as simple as not speaking at all while you are in a costume. Seriously, even if the guy in the third row gives you a perfect line and you have the perfect response, you have to grin and bear it, or in this case, non-verbally get him back maybe with that silly string. Ahhh, got to love props! 

And that in its own rights might be an art form. I know that might be a  really hard thing for me to digest at certain times.  I see the Rays mascot Raymond doing head nods and hand gestures like he is chatting with the crowd, but in reality is is just motions and no sound.  You also see Raymond doing weird and wild dance routines and crowd inducing skits to get the crowd into the game not thinkig of the time it takes to master those simple movements in that furry suit.

And just like you, I would think I could do a lot of things better, faster and with more personality than the current occupant of the furry wondersuit. But there are a some really big hazards to worry about before you hit the sunlight and cheers of the fans. If you have even the smallest hints of claustrophobia, you will be in really big trouble. You can be in that suit pretty much for most of the game, or maybe only 15 to 20 minutes at a time with people all around you calling your name and you have a tunnelvision view of the world. Voices seem to come from everywhere and you might not even hear the small voice of a child just underneath you at times.

Plus people forget that since you are enclosed in a huge furry suit, your body heat will accumulate and build up and you will end up with sweat on sweat before the night is over.  So dehydration will be a constant enemy of yours, and you will have to fight it again and again  even at nighttime. And those game days in Texas must be murder on your body considering it might be 100 degrees outside, but maybe approaching 150+ in that costume for just a few minutes jaunt in the stands.

 Plus, if you are like me and not a huge “touchy feely” person, the constant barrage of fingers and hands pulling you and touching parts of your costume might freak you out a bit during your job. And kids do not know that you are getting tugged from both directions at the same time. And with your tunnel vision, sometimes you might turn away from a small child wanting a hug or a autograph from you. And you do not want to upset your littliest fans, for they go tell mom and dad, then you have bigger problems.

And  all of this is just a small sliver of what is your job. You might think it is just a fun fest with fur, but with all the joy and the happiness you can bring to the crowd, you are always just a step away from maybe even getting hurt yourself. I remember Raymond, the Rays mascot a few years ago was in rightfield getting the crowd into the game and Raymond stepped onto the top rail to get above the crowd. Raymond slipped and fell 12 feet to the turf and hurt himself badly, but he never went out of character as Raymond sprinted towards the sidelines and his waiting handler.

And other people, including the baseball players do not always take into consideration that you are there for fun and games. Some take you taunts and mannerisms to heart and get offended. None really try to hurt you, but you do not need the odd baseball smacking you in the costume headpiece because you upset a team’s shortstop. It is a huge give and take job with everyone outside the costume. And some people get with the program, and others lose their sense of humor in a flash.

But it might be a reality of the job that on any given night no matter what you do, someone will be upset with you that night. You might not have seen the cute little girl tugging on your costume and barreled over her by accident. Or you might have someone wanting a picture, but you are in an area that any picture taking will block the field view of fans, and they do remind you that you are blocking their view of the pitch 250 feet away. Or something as simple as a popcorn prank could backfire and you get a fan complaint to the front office.

And all of this is done for what, the money? Only a small handful of mascots get paid really great money. Most do it more for the rush they get when the crowd follows their lead, or even shows some affection towards their costumed persona. And some mascots really have to change themselves and their “game time”  personalities during their time in costume. And the costume can be its own drug, with a rush of adrenaline and a need for the attention even after you take the sweaty, musty costume off for the day/night.

But most of all, you have to remember that most people can not even know who you are, or what it is you do for the team.  You might walk around the stadium with that “All Access” badge, and  some will question why you have tht right and they do notno one will every know why you get such treasured rewards. You have to stay unknown to the fan base. You can not do interviews in costume because your character doesn’t speak in real life. It can be a hard adjustment to make, and few people can pull it off without a hitch.  It is a busy and silent world within a hectic, frantic world that can not tolerate any slight deviation from the plan.

It is a job we all think we can do better, faster and with more excitement. But the reality is that we have no idea how we would even begin such a journey. I know it is a job I  personally could not do because of some of the physical requirements now. I know the touching from behind by tons of kids and fans would drive me personally nuts, and tasting my own sweat while working is no longer in my job description.

So if you are a Major League mascot and I come up and I shake your hand, it is not for a photo op, but because you do a job I know I can not do in real life. You do your duties under circumstances and conditions that would totally freak me out. But most of all it is a simple handshake to tell you I understand a bit more now of what you do for a living, and the care and preparation you go through to do just a 5 minute bit in front of the crowd. So if  you really think you can do it……..Go for it!  Myself, I am happy in my corner front row seat watching the mascot do his magic and wondering what they are going to do next.

UMPS CARE Visits Tampa Bay

 


http://www.msplinks.com/http://www.umpscare.com/ / Ricky Roberts

I have to be the first guy to admit this today. Sometimes I have a habit during the game of not thinking about those guys in blue being anything other than sadistic holders of my emotions during Tampa Bay Rays baseball games. For some reason, the umpiring crews are the easiest people to not feel any pleasure for in the entire scope of MLB baseball.

We all yell and scream and question their every moves. But we as fans, do not get to see that other side of them after they take their rough exterior beyond the Home Plate club area back into their little room under the stands at Tropicana Field.

But recently the guys in blue came to Tampa, Florida to bring smiles for miles to some deserving youngster through the Umps Care charities. This is a non-profit foundation supported by the MLB umpires. With a new arrival of the men in blue coming in for the Oakland A’s versus Tampa Bay Rays game at Tropicana Field, the visiting Umpire crew of Lance Barksdale, Alphonso Marquez, Randy Marsh,and Mike Winters took some time out to visit with local children at St. Joseph’s Childrens Hospital of Tampa this last Tuesday. They were also accompanied by our own “Rays” blue man in the form of the ever loving mascot Raymond.


www.umpscare.com / Ricky Roberts


During their visit to the cancer and blood disorder areas of the hospital, the umpires went from room to room with pre-stuffed bears and  a huge collection of clothing for them provided by the Build-A-Bear Workshop Experience.  They spent their first part of the visit going to the rooms in encourage the youngsters to come out and help build their own personal bear,rabbit or puppy and were allowed to get one additional outfit for their animal.   

Lance Barksdale, set to work home plate in the Rays game later Tuesday evening, told Samuel Dearth in a Special to MLB.com article, “This is a wonderful way for our umpires to give back in Major League cities across the country.”  After visiting in the wards, the umpires set-up shop outside in the lobby area of the hospital and also provided additional stuffed smile producing animals for other children in the hospital that day.

The Umps Care program was founded in 2006, and the Build-A-Bear Workshop experience is called BLUE for Kids.  In the past 3 seasons, the umpires have conducted 31 special visits to hospitals and care units like St. Josephs. 


www.umpscare.com / Ricky Roberts


In those past events, the umpires have distributed over 2,500 huggable bears to community children. The events have a firm backing of such awesome companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gerry Davis Sports, MLB.com and The World Umpire Association.  We all know that umpires are not the cold-blooded individuals they display on the turf at our stadiums every night. These events instill that sense of community bond and also a reality of life that is important to all of us……….even umpires. 

If you would like to know more about this organization, please got to www.umpscare.com where you can find additional photos and programs supported by this fantastic organization.

Just remember the next time you  see an umpire near the sideline to just thank them for what they do in this great program. We might not show our love for them once the words “Play Ball” sound throughout the stadium, but it is great to know that these guys also have a release for the pressures and the stresses of this position within the MLB.


www.umpscare.com / Ricky Roberts

So by thanking them you might not get that close call at first base, or maybe that strike called on the black, but you might instill a sense of warmth in their minds that people do appreciate them outside of the uniforms, and beyond the chalk lines on the field.

Raymond D Ray

 

        
 

 
Since the Tampa Bay Rays are not playing until this evening, it gives me some time to have fun with my blog today and maybe get deep and into one of the real characters of the Rays family. For years people have wondered aloud and in their own minds as to the origins and the reasons for the fluffy blue mascot of the Rays.  Even during the radio broadcast on MLB.com yesterday, the Houston Astros announcers were discussing Raymond D Rays, the official mascot of the team. They were discussing how in 2008, radio broadcaster Dave Raymond had his picture taken with the “Big Blue One.”
 
 

With their mention of Raymond, I thought it might be fun to get back into the origins and the make up of this entertaining and animated of the Rays.  There is a wide spread rumor that the Rays scouts went out on a fishing expedition prior to the 1998 season and spotted a weird but highly energetic creature playing out in deep of the Gulf of Mexico waters.

 

The amused scouts had just begun eating their lunch of boiled hot dogs and sodas when a blue-hued creature was seen swimming towards the boat at a high rate of speed.  The creature, being the sea-actor that he was started to mimic and provide antics that the scouts found funny and entertaining. They rewarded him with unlimited hot dogs and chips.  During all of the excitement it dawned on one of the scouts to entice the blue one to come back to Tropicana Field and become the team’s first mascot.  The decided to use a piece of the teams name to bring his persona into reality for fans to enjoy. they decided after a few hours of throwing around names that Raymond was the perfect name for this creature.

 
 
         

They then tried to persuade the blue one to leave his lifestyle of frolic and mayhem out in the middle of the Gulf to entertain fans and kids at their new ballpark for their expansion team. The scouts, who have been getting prospects to sign for years had the right incentives to entice Raymond to work with the team. With the promise of all the hot dogs he could eat, all the high fives and belly wiggles he could stand, the scouts brought back Raymond for the rest of the Rays front office to enjoy. they also were quickly amused and loved the belly wiggling and dances that he pulled off with the radio being on in someone’s office. It was decided then and their that Tampa Bay had found their perfect mascot.
 
 

Raymond’s animal-like appearance causes confusion among fans of all ages. His fuzzy face is similar to a walrus and his bulbous blue belly likens him to a mutant manatee. So what exactly is he?  In 2005, scientists from Sarasota’s Mote Marine Institute  made a startling discovery; Raymond is actually a previously undiscovered species of dog known as “Canus Manta Whatthefluffalus” or in layman’s terms, a Seadog.  It common among these canines to show resemblances to all the traits of normal landlubber dogs. They also enjoy going for walks, playing with kids, and fetching. Unlike other dogs they are almost six feet tall, walk upright, are  royal blue in color. Some people have been quoted as thinking he is a product of Big Bird and Papa Smurf having a love affair on the Love Boat and Raymond fell overboard during the trip.

 
 

While other dogs live on land, Seadogs usually live in or around the water.  And now living in the St. Petersburg area, he has water on three sides of the city in which he is living. Seadogs have been known for their fun-loving nature and silly pranks, their true passion for baseball, and general good looks of a sea mammal. But one of things that quickly became part of his personality was his ability to use sarcasm and prat falls to evoke smiles and laughs from his new fans.  Raymond finally got to meet his new fans as he was introduced on the field before the June 21, 1998 game. He emerged from his egg on the third base line and  the Rays fans have not been the same ever since. 
 
 


 

His routines of using his ATV before games to tease and chat with other players, and his ability to mock and imitate both security guards and players has made him a fan favorite at Rays games. But early in 2001 he began to learn some new motor skills and began to sew new costumes and mild props for his adventures during the game.  Who will forget his first costume as a superhero named “Rally Rays”, who was called out in the bottom of the ninth inning to pump up the crowd and the team to bring a victory to the Rays. But with his new found love of the Rays he got to enjoy the company of other mascots around the league. He became great friends with Wally the Green Monster and Ace, the mascot of the Toronto Blue Jays.

 

He even was invited to their stadiums for events concerning their mascots, and they came to the Trop. to be with the fun-loving blue-hued creature. with his new found fame, he did not let it go totally to his big head. He began to be more community oriented and visited countless hospital wards around the Tampa Bay area to make children smile and to take endless amounts of photos with parents and kids alike. His personality grew, and so did the reason we all loved Raymond.  It was feared that in November 2007, when the Rays dropped the “devil” from their names that R
aymond’s day might be numbered, but the team renewed their faith in him by issuing him a new logo jersey with his trademark “00” number on the back. 

 
 


 

Raymond has been a part of the Rays since their inception. He is a small part of the fun and adventure that being a Rays fan encompasses when you enter Tropicana Field. One of the first things you see when you stroll down right field street is his small alcove where cartoon videos play all the time, and mascot bobbleheads line one wall.
 

 
As long as the Rays keep up their promise of unlimited hot dogs and a few cold beverages, Raymond will still come out and entertain the masses and tease the opponents team fans in the stands.  Some people think that mascots are not good for the game of baseball and take away from the action and the atmosphere. I think he actually heightens the energy level and entices the crowd to cheer and make noise throughout the game. Him just walking into a room can make a child run towards him for a huge hug, or even a photo opportunity. Raymond is not only a part of the team’s name, he is part of the culture of Tampa Bay, and its fans, and hopefully we will get to enjoy him for a long, long time.
 

 
 
Photo credits today go to: www.raysbaseball.com, Awinner@Flickr.com, http://raymond@mlblogs.com.
 

Will the Rays Fan Support Flat Line in 2009?

 

 

Here in Tampa Bay, the Rays fans are a bit new at this winning tradition thing. Our fellow brethren in the American League East, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have established these traditions that we are striving for after a successful 2008 campaign. I can admire the courage and the determination it takes to follow a team with such traditions, but how is a team only around for 11 years to fight such a monster wall of expectations.

 

 

Heck before 2008, the Rays faithful had only one season where we  could cheer and find success, and even that was only a 70 game winning season. And because of that lack of solid confidence at times, I am tempted to remind people that there might be a short lived backlash into the past  ways for fans if the Rays do not get off to a great start in 2009. This area has always craved a winner. We have won Super Bowl trophies and Stanley Cups, but that World Series trophy was being salivated over by the millions who live in the Tampa Bay area.

 

 


So are we to believe that the hysteria and the mass explosion of excitement will be in the air in April when we first open the 2009 season after a short road trip through Boston and Baltimore? As fickle as that might sound, the team has only had that one brief practice into the realm of respectability. And because of that, there might be a slide or two in 2009 due to the increased awareness that this team is coming to play every night or day now.

 


No more will there be teams that will be surprised or caught unaware of this teams potential.  Teams around the American League will not be resting players or even expect to sweep a series against the Rays any time soon. The air of uncertainty is gone from the Rays sails and they are on course to come into each contest as a stepping stone back to the promised playoff lands. The Rays will come out hungry in 2009, because they have been in the classic, and they want to get back there as soon as possible.

 

 


But  can this team battle day in and day out with a huge expectation on it from the start of even Spring Training games? That sense of responsibility comes with the success of winning a  A L Pennant. You get a  huge target set straight on your back and you either back up your claims, or fall by the wayside and let the winners’ pass by waving at you. 

 


In the past, the Rays fans and the team have done a lot of waving at losing streaks and misplays in games. But with the increased defense and the Rays Bullpen coming to win every night, it made for a more interesting 7-9th inning in games in 2008. Can they build upon that experience and step it up a notch or two and finally contend nightly with everyone at anytime, or will 2008 just be a case of catching some teams napping and the Rays feasting on their downward seasons.

 

 


But what if the Rays do not get off to a monster of a  start in 2009 ?  Will the “boo” birds be ringing in the papers and from the stands even if we  start off near .500 in April. Will the once vocal and energetic fans still come in bunches to every game, or only for the “Prime” games against the likes of the Red Sox and Yankees.  Will a losing streak silence the cowbells and hide the home made signs for the blue and white clad Rays, or will the fan base again convert  back to whoever is winning more games at the moment.

 


That is the problem with living in a region that boasts only 10 percent population over 30 years of age who were born in the area. Everyone is from somewhere else in the country, or the northeast. And with that move came a sense of tradition in following your old team no matter what. But just because you have a relative or even a parent who is entrusted to another team, do you feel obligated to support your new local team.

 


I have always wanted to ask any of the Boston or New York faithful who come here if they support any of the other local NFL or NHL teams. Do they still hold a traditional place in their hearts for the Rangers or Giants. Or maybe even the Jets and the Islanders if you are from the Gotham city. And do all Boston fans still cheer for the Bruins and Patriots even if they might have down seasons.

 


The pitiful thing here is I think the region is still polarized  and not committed to the Rays even after posting one of the best turnarounds in the annuals of baseball period. I hate to say it, but after years of other sports teams in the area not living up to expectations, could the Rays be bunched into that bushel of apathy after just a short time again. I think it is the Rays responsibility to keep a good product on the field and in the stands.

 


Fans will come for the games, but they also come for the entertainment before and after the contests in Tampa Bay. Some of the best attendance marks in 2008 came during the Concert Series on Sat night, when the team regularly sold out the entire Trop. so people could sing and dance in the aisle after the games. But do we have to be as gimmicky in 2009? I hate to say it, but we still have about a year before the rest of the Tampa Bay area can trust that the Rays are on the right path here.

 



I think a good barometer of the support factor might come in a few weeks at the Rays 2009 Fan Fest. That is usually a good sign of the type of support and the excitement about the upcoming season. But could that even be a bit more downplayed this year because of the team being based in Port Charlotte instead of here in St. Petersburg. It will be interesting to see how the distance and the Fan Fest will be changed because of the long commute for the event. 

 


I know, I know, what else does the team have to do to show it wants to be winners, well it does go beyond the field. In the next few months the Rays marketing department will have ample chances to remind and entice the area’s fan to again come and support the team. Now you know that the Opening Day game against the New York Yankees will be sold out, but is that because of the pennant raising before the game, or because of the Yankees.


 

 


Fans in this area may have to make a choice in 2009. They might have to decide if the bandwagon effect works for them, or they might just want to hop on board and be a full time supporter of the local team. Who knows what is going to happen in 2009, but you can bet the team will fight until the last out in October in the 2009 season. I  not expecting a huge turnaround in 1 season after our greatest success on the field to translate into huge attendance numbers.

 


The team might be expecting a large increase, but that will come with the team winning again. I hate to say this, but this region is like a lot of small market teams, there is a lot to do besides baseball on any given weekend or even weeknight. But if the support is there, the team will again do everything in it’s power to showcase themselves again as the team to beat. But the crowd as a 10th man has been instrumental in the past in making the difference late in a contest.

 


So as I am again getting ready to go cowbell shopping for 2009, and buying 2 dozen fresh white balls for the upcoming Fan Fest.  I truly think that 2009 will be a closer contested divisional series than ever before in the A L East. There are three team poised to fight for the title, and 1 sitting back and might jump over the heap if we forget about them. I am looking forward to the first game, and cheering for my hometown team again.

 

 


The boys’ played longer into the season in 2008 that ever before, and might still be a bit shell shocked at the result, but the area is proud of them and want to again show their spirit and energy to the team. 40-some days and the guessing game starts all over again. It seemed like just yesterday I was writing about the World Series match ups and the rain delays.  And the Rays and the Phillies get to relive it all again a few times during Spring Training, both in Clearwater, and in Philly.

 

Let’s Go Rays!!!

My Selections for Proposed Stadium Giveaways in 2009

 


Well, one of the great perks in being a Tampa Bay Rays Season Ticket holder is the fact that we are guaranteed some of the promotional items that the team gives out during the year. So if I do not want to wait in the long lines for a B J Upton figurine, I always know I will get one with my Season Ticket bag before the All Star break. It was even better years ago when we used to get everything that was offered during the year, even the kids items for our collections.

 



I have every lunchbox that the team has issued now for 10 years, except one that was recently damaged by my room mates 8 year old when he was throwing the basketball back in my office area. But that is fine, because I have them because of my love for the team, and as a retirement fall back plan. Now I am not thinking that it will fetch even $30 dollars in 15 years, but it might be a nice collectible for Ebay someday for me to post and sell to an avid buyer.


 

But that is what a lot of Rays season ticket holder do with their stashes. After our bi-yearly cache of promotional items are given out, I have seen a influx of items posted on Ebay and selective sites for collectibles. Considering the rise in people wanting to collect these both as keepsakes and as assets for the future, the market is growing for Rays merchandise. But not everyone buys them to sell them. You have people like myself and a friend, Jeff McKinney, who has one of the biggest  Rays collections of signed players baseball  and collectibles in the entire Rays kingdom.

 


Some people collect because of their obsession and their love of the game. That is why I collect them and the autographs. Heck, I even have a used 2000- 2004 Rays on-deck circle in my house that I was given right after the 2004 season ended by a Rays employee. I also have a B J Upton figurine that says “Bossman Junior”, instead of  “B J Upton” on the base. I do not know how many of those are in circulation, but I do know it is rare and I plan on keeping that until my death.then someone can sell it.

 


So with this new crop of 2009 promotional items still up in the air for the Rays, they sent out our yearly survey to the Season Ticket mongrels and asked what promotional items we might desire to see in 2009. I decided to give the public an insight into the items that the team is considering for 2009. The items that I voted for will be put onto the list in RED type  so you can see where my mind is on these items. So let’s check out the types of things that the Rays marketing arm is considering for the fans in 2009.

 


I actually believe that this presentation, or turnkey survey I completed was a tool of the MLB Advanced Media section of MLB, and not the front office survey of the Tampa Bay Rays. But it really doesn’t matter who did it, or why, it is important that we get a chance to decide what we might see at stadium giveaways in 2009.

 

 

Here is the first grouping of items that the team has asked us to pick from in 2009:


Replica Championship ring

Commemorative DVD of 2008 season

World Series Cowbell

Replica of Championship Flag ( smaller version of AL Pennant flag to be hoisted on 4/13/2009.)

License Plate holder

Championship Scroll.

 


Quite an interesting list here. I can imagine buying the license plate holder on my own, and what is with the idea of a championship scroll? Are we now competing in the ancient Greek division of baseball?  The Replica flag of the Championship Banner is a close second for me, and I got a free World Series cowbell during the playoffs thank you very much. But the Replica Championship ring is something I would love to see. I have seen several other items like this that other teams have done in the past, and it would be a nice collectible, and maybe even a great party conversational item to have, even if it is a knock-off of the original ring.

 



The team then asked about children related items containing the likeness of our favorite overgrown smurf/ seadog Raymond. Here are the items for consideration for Raymond related giveaways for 2009:

Raymond Mr. Potatohead Doll

Raymond Hand Puppet

Stuffed Raymond Doll

Kid’s size T-shirt

Nesting Doll ( 3 egg shaped inner sections to complete one large sized doll)

Raymond small Pillow

Raymond Cereal Bowl

 

Wow, another fine mess of items for us to think long and hard about for 2009. I think the team had their hand enough up in Raymond this year and we do not need a hand puppet. The stuffed Raymond might be a great idea, but there are still 1,000’s of them in the Rays Team Store for sale and might corner the market on them.

 

 

A T-shirt is usually a easy way out of anything. People make T-shirts for simple and cheap advertising of their products ans services.  Even Raymond is worth more than a simple T-shirt. The pillow is an interesting item, but might be a bad item if you get a kid who might have allergies because of the stuffing or materials. Unless the pillow is 100 percent hypo-allergenic, it might pose a small public relations night mare on the backside of it.



The cereal bowl is another close tie for second here. Who would not want to eat a bowl of cereal and see Raymond’s big nose poking out after you eat all the Raisin Bran in the morning. But the one item that truly caught my interest is the nesting doll. I got one a few years ago of Ichiro when I was in Seattle for a Rays series. It has been a great conversation starter because no one has even seen one before in Tampa Bay. It is mostly a Far Eastern influenced item, but I love my Ichiro one to death. 

 


But the Raymond Mr Potato Head is by and far the best item for the kids. I can see someone’s kid playing with it in the stands during the game, or even in the car on the way to the ballpark and it take s a huge amount of stress off the parent at the time. I have attended the game with a group of 4 kids ranging in ages from 5 to 12 , and the attention span of those kids is about less than 1 full inning of play. Thank God for Nintendo DS.

 

 


The next section that they wanted us to consider was “Rays” branded items. This would include anything that would have the “Rays” logo or symbol on it, or be realted to any MLB award or property. Here is the list of items that were presented to us:


Carlos Pena Gold Glove

Dioner Navarro Mini Catcher’s Mask

Evan Longoria Rookie of the Year figurine

James Shields Magic Set

Carlos Pena Catwalk Pinball Machine

Carl Crawford Wind-up Toy

 


Talk about a wild set of items. Just look at this list and you will see a total gambit of items that might amaze and confuse you.  Now the Carlos Pena Gold Glove item was an instant hit in my book because of the significance of it being the team’s first Gold Glove ever awarded to a player. This is one section where I thought two items should be picked, with the Gold Glove item tying for my selection.

 


The Dioner Navarro mini catcher’s mask was a wild item, but mostly a secondary item to me. It might be a better item in 2010, after he has established himself a bit more in the minds and eyes of the MLB and the Rays faithful. The Carl Crawford wind-up toy is just not right. Seriously here, I would be ashamed if I had to present that toy to a kid. It would be broken in 5 minutes and then you have a crying kid in the stands and an upset parent……..Bad choice from top to bottom here.

 

Carlos Pena Catwalk pinball machine certainly sounds like a wild game, but how can you configure the Trop’s catwalks into a game and still have some sort of motion and flippers in the game?  This might be a wild item to see firsthand, then a better decision can be reached about it. Now when did James Shields become a magic guy? This is another one that puzzles me. Is Shields a closet magic guy who has a top hat and a rabbit at home?  I actually think this won would be better to make itself disappear before we even see it for the first time.


But the Evan Longoria Rookie of the Year figurine should be on the list of 2009 promotional items period. This is a no-brainer. The guy might be our first “Rays” home grown Hall of Famer by the time he is done playing baseball. This is a fantastic item for a super guy who exceeded expectations and rode the victory train all the way to the World Series with the team. To say this team should not be on the list of giveaways would be a true crime.

 



The next section is probably the most popular items given out during the year by the Rays. The figurines are considered the holy grail of stadium giveaways, and the team has a great set of names to consider for 2009.

 

Evan Longoria  

Jason Bartlett

Joe Maddon                     ( 2 ) 

Matt Garza                       ( 3 )

David Price                      ( 1 )

Dioner Navarro               ( 4 )

 

Considering the team usually gives out 4 of these a year, I picked my top 4 choices above. The selection of these is not too hard considering the type of year each of the selections had in 2008. But some of the selections might also be a bit premature for 2009. I truly think that Jason Bartlett did an amazing job helping us upgrade our defense in 2008, but I also feel he is not the main reason, and by posting more errors than any other time in his career doesn’t give a guy a bobble head.

 

Dioner Navarro would be a great choice. He had grown a lot in 2008 to become the type of catcher the team can count on for years down the line. He is also becoming a team leader in the clubhouse and behind the plate and is fulfilling his destiny when he was drafted in the 1st round by the New York Yankees.

 


Matt Garza as a bobble head would be a great and fitting salute to his confidence and his strength in the playoffs for the Rays.  Garza rose above and beyond in 2008 after having a few bumps in the road to become a superstar pitcher in the making for the Rays. Maybe a bobble head with him clutching the ALCS MVP award would be perfect.

 


Both Joe Maddon and David Price deserve a bobble head/figurine. When Maddon was first selected as the Rays Manager, I was not in the group who was totally happy with the selection. But in the first few months of the season, I got to see how the guy worked and how he ran his team and he got my respect and I have been a true believer in his system.  His low key approach has worked for him because his players’ and his staff have total confidence and respect in the way he runs his ship.

 

David Price, what can you say about this guy. He said in the Spring of 2008, that he expected to be with the team by the end of the year. He also said he was going to work hard and make the decision hard for them not to bring him up sometime during the season. He also stated he loves the pressure and strives on it. All three  statement became what came to believe was David Price.

He went above and beyond on the diamond, and was a pleasure to talk with and see interact with fans on the sidelines during the 2008 season. He is going to be a the pre-season favorite for the 2009 Rookie of the Year award, and it just might be his to lose during the season. But the former Vanderbilt star is also smart enough to know that anything can happen a a 162 game schedule……but he should have his own figurine late in 2009.

You notice I did not even consider Evan Longoria for this figurine section because I am confident the Rays will do a Rookie of the Year bobble head/ figurine. If for some reason, the team doesn’t take into consideration that Longoria is our first representative to win the ROY, then maybe they are missing the entire boat here on any of these items for 2009.  If the Rays do not include a Longoria figure somewhere in the 2009 promotional schedule, it will be a error of judgment by the team’s front office and marketing department in a big way.


 

 


The last selection section that the survey asked us to consider was the Rays brand items.  This has always been a selection of flags, caps and even coozies in the past. But the selections offered for 2009 ran a wide variety of items from the usual to the unusual. Here is the final list we were asked to pick from in 2009:

 

Rays logo License Plate Holder

Remote Control holder

Welcome Mat

Retro Team Card

Animal House  style College T-shirt

2009 Team Card Set

Fan Designed T-shirt

Rays Calendar

 

I have to say that was another wild selection  process. The first item, the Rays license plat holder was just a plain item that we could pick up anywhere during 2009. I think we need a bit more imagination in 2009.  With that in mind, the remote control holder was a new idea and just might be a great item. I guess you have to see it first to consider it for the list. Is it a slip on “Rays-themed” holder, or something a bit more elegant.

 


I can’t believe I used the word elegant with the Rays.  The welcome mat also seemed like a great idea, but might be a secondary item to be given out during the Boston series. I know, that would be cruel, but hey, We did sweep them 2 times in out house for the first time ever in 2008. The retro card set might be a great kid’s item, but not in this category.

 


The Animal House style T-shirt is a great idea. I would wear it, but then again I am a DTX fraternity brother.  It would all depend on the design of the T-shirt as to if it would be a hit or miss in 2009. With hit or miss in mind here, the team card set and the calendar would either be a plus or a minus depending on the individual fan.  Some people would love the idea, while others would see it as a lame excuse for a stadium giveaway and toss it in the trash or leave it in the stands after the game. It is a gamble either way on these items.

 


But the idea of letting fan submit a design for a T-shirt is actually a bit of a great P R  move. Think about it, you would have both professional designers and even kids doing double time to present a prototype of the shirt to be distributed to the masses in the stands. How proud would a fan be that his print was selected either by the team or the fans as the item to be given out during the “Fandemonium” celebration during the last home stand of the season.

 


You could make the selection process for the design to be done online or even an in-stadium display maybe by Gate 3 with voting and balloting done during 3 home stands in the season. You could also then let the winning fan not only get credit for producing the work of art, but maybe do a Ceremonial First Pitch or an autograph signing during the day it is distributed to the Rays fans. You could make someone life by showing their talents and their abilities for everyone in the stadium to enjoy.

 


Well, here you go. the above was all the items that the Rays and MLB Advanced Media asked the Rays season Ticket holder to  consider for promotional item for stadium giveaways in 2009.  What is really amazing is the way that these items have changed over the seasons. Most Rays fans will remember the small 4 inch tall bobble heads given out years ago, or the floppy hats and trucker hats extended to the Rays’ mass population in the past.

 

 


Such stadium giveaways are special, and should be treated as such by the Rays management. Not only is it free advertising for the sponsor of the event, but for the team in the Tampa Bay area. Must we forget that when Rays Manager Joe Maddon was on his honeymoon in Italy, he actually saw and took a picture of a Rays fan overseas from the bay area. The team might never hit the plateau of some of our American League East brethren in total uniform and promotional sales, but we can start a trend where the Rays are no longer the bottom feeders in merchandise in the MLB.

Raymond’s Game Day Gal Let Go by Rays

 

 

 I have learned from a very reliable source that Kelly Frank, who has been with the Tampa Bay Rays in the capacity of Raymond, or  Raymond D Ray has been let go by the Rays after 5 years with the club.

 

Frank has been instrumental in the last few years in making the fuzzy  mascot, Raymond more fan friendly and less aggressive in nature. Frank has been working in the Rays office for several years doing some marketing planning,  repairing her costume and  doing all the daily operations of running the local mascot icon.

 

Rays fans have witnessed Frank’s inventive side in the costume and clothing options of Raymond over the last few years. Frank was the head designer and creative sources of such classics as the Super Raymond,  the Spidy-Ray costume and the  special game day attire or outer wear that Raymond has worn over the years. 

 

Frank said she was praised as recently as three weeks ago, when her supervisors told her she out-enthused the Philadelphia Phillies mascot, the Phillie Phanatic, during the World Series. But on Monday, she was told she would no longer be Raymond.  

 

                         

 

Frank has also been responsible for the number of Youtube videos using Raymond as a key figure. It was an inventive and highly popular series of videos using mascots from throughtout the major sports of the United States. I particularly love the one with Wally the Green Monster of the Boston Red Sox with the background music, ” Why Can’t We Be Friends.” It was an instant classic.

 

“Peanut Butter Jelly Time” was also a very popular video featuring the oversized Banana and a Blow-up Gorilla duirng the 7th inning stretches at Rays games. Over the years, Raymond’s birthday party was another event that attracted other team’s mascots from all over the country to the Trop. to celebrate with the highly popular mascot.

 

Please go to www.Youtube.com and check out some of the original videos featuring the Rays versatile mascot.

 

 

This year’s promotion entitled, “Mascot Mania” attracted team mascots from as far as San Francisco,Arlington Texas, Denver and Toronto to the Trop to celebrate with Raymond.  Frequent visitors throughout the year have been the mascots of the Orioles, Blue Jays and the Florida Panthers.

 

It is a great loss to lose a valuable member of the Rays organization. If you feel this dismissal is not in the best interest of the ballclub, you can email Matt Silverman, the Rays President at msilverman@raysbaseball.com , or you can place a call to the organization at (727) 825-3137.

 

Or maybe you might want to take it all the way to the top of the organization and send an email to the primary owner, Stuart Sternberg. He can be reached at: ssternberg@raysbaseball.com.

 

 

 I am trying to get an interview with Frank, after the situation has died down and  things sort themselves out on both sides.  The popular Raymond webpage on Myspace.com will be removed in a few days because of the situation. Frank was the author of the page and submitted the great  Youtube videos and blog postings on the page. I am not sure if the Raymond subscribtion page will still be accessible on www.Youtube.com after this week.

 

The Rays have lost a true icon to the image of the team in this dismissal. Frank was the third person to don the Raymond costume. Frank said she will continue her side business making mascots for professional sports teams, including the University of Florida Gators and the Denver Nuggets.

 

 I wish Kelly Frank a bright and energetic future, and hope to see her again in the role of support and promotion of a mascot in the MLB or beyond.  Break a leg Kelly.

 

 

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