Results tagged ‘ Rays Tampa Bay Rays ’

Davey Baseball is Rays Baseball

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So here we are Day 1 A J (After Joe).

The sky is still that beautiful shade of blue, the Sun still an amazing orange mass in the sky and not a dark cloud to be seen.

20141025_134855The Zombies did not attack, the Trop is still a tilted cap, and for now, the Tampa Bay Rays might want to retrofit and possibly introduce once again their 2007 “Under Construction” motif. For the Rays will most definitely be in a bit of a rebuilding mode both in talent and confidence heading into the Spring of 2015.

Sure some of that once solid Rays Way foundation that Maddon created so elegantly during his tenure is going to show some cracks with his unexpected exit stage right, but they can and will be fixed.

Problem is while most of the Tampa Bay fan base are still in a bit of shock and bewilderment, the Rays front office has to be swift and plug the Rays current void in leadership as fast as a well-placed 2-seamer. 

Matt Silverman, who some says might have hastened Maddon’s exit when he advised him of his opt-out option after Andrew Friedman’s departure for the pastures of Los Angeles needs to now fill this managerial void while the wound is still fresh.

download (7)He needs to strap on those “big boy” pants, take the lead with authority in finding Maddon’s replacement and pop him into place before the wound has time to fester and the fan base loses anymore confidence in the Rays want to stay here in Tampa Bay at all.

Names are already swirling around the circular roof of Tropicana Field. Some have a MLB pedigree while others might be unknown to us, but the MLB establishment know their talents and are eager to add their expertise to their franchises.

I mean yesterday on a local Tampa Bay radio station it even seemed for a moment like the Rays current Pitching Coach Jim Hickey was throwing his hat in the ring, but he might have the talent and the respect of the Rays pitching staff, but he is not who the Rays should be focused on if they truly want to seek an internal choice for their next Manager.

Honestly right now a lot of the Rays Republic is feeling a bit vulnerable with 2 key elements of their past success peeling rubber out of the Trop parking lot for more financial vistas.  Right now this whole scenario has to be Silverman’s to fix, and if he does due diligence and a dash of due diligence he will notice the right fit is already located under the Teflon roof of the Trop.

Screw the extended interview process.

download (1)Dave Martinez, who began his Coaching ascent as an unpaid outfield consultant and rose to be mentored and molded by Maddon to be his right-hand Lt is the guy who should be given the keys to the Rays Clubhouse.

The same Martinez that stood on the Tropicana Field Firs Base chalk line on March 31, 1998 during the first D-Rays player introductions and was a mainstay in Right Field until his departure in 2000. The same Davey Baseball who has worn #4 both as a player and Coach of the Rays.

An interesting trivia note is not only did Martinez start the Rays first contest ever, but he also recorded the Rays first hit, a 3rd inning single off Tigers starter Justin Thompson that also during its flight, struck the First Base bag.

images (7)Martinez, like Maddon is a baseball lifer. 2015 will be Martinez’s 30th year in professional baseball with all 7 of his years coaching under the tutelage and guidance of Maddon. 

That by itself should be a perfect pedigree for a team to hire Martinez as he has training in the modernization of baseball tactics and strategies spent alongside the true professor who challenged the old school thought processes of the game and initiated innovation and strategic upgrades in thought and situational decision-making during contests.

Sure Martinez doesn’t have a lot of resume material as the head honcho of the Rays, but has been near Maddon’s side since the spring of 2006 has been responsible for the Rays base running and bunting strategies which were responsible for more than a few Rays victories.

Has post season experience having been to the post season 4 times in the last 7 years as a Rays Coach after only going to the playoffs once as a player in 16 years.

images (9)At any moment during a Rays game you could of glanced into the Rays dugout and seen Martinez and Maddon locked into their statistical matchups, situational probabilities and voicing their valid opinions or preferred preferences. That by itself is a hard thing for two people to coordinate on a regular basis, Maddon and Martinez proceeded in their conversations like they were second nature.

I mean look at the fairy tale storyline that could emulate with Martinez as the Rays skipper. He played in and provided the first hit ever for this franchise, became a consultant with the team and rose through the ranks to become Maddon’s confidante and trusted ally.

images (6)Heck, the players, staff and the Rays front office already know he is personable, is a Rays fan favorite and if we could elect a new Manager, Martinez could possibly win the post in a landslide. He has been a positive Rays fixture, a mentor, an M L B Draft day participant and always willing and able to speak, listen or help anyone within the organization at a moment’s notice.

He has roots in this area and even had his son drafted by the Rays in the MLB Draft (31st Round) back in 2013. If anyone not only deserved a shot at the Rays helm, but seemed destined for the spot, it is Martinez.  

I understand fully that the Rays truly need to do now is find the right fit, the right guy to not only move upward again, but truly mange the Rays ship with integrity and command instant respect from bow to stern.

images (3)In my opinion the right guy has been standing next to Maddon and not only has the respect of this team already, but the confidence in them and himself that he can take this team to another level, and quite possibly further than they have ventured before.

Come on Matt, you know he has the league cred and knows the Rays inherently infectious team philosophy and has all the qualities to be the Rays main guy.

Now all Martinez needs is the chance to show all those other teams why they should of hired him, or why he quite possibly waited in the wings for just this perfect hometown opportunity.

Davey Baseball is Rays baseball.

 

More Rays Decisions on the Horizon

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With just 20 days left in the 2014 season for the Tampa Bay Rays, you can expect an abundance of decision, changes and shifts in their usual format in regard to pitching, fielding assignments and possibly the last shuffle of players after the Durham Bulls complete their drive to try and retain the Governor’s Cup.

thYXLXH91BWe have saw one decision rear its ugly head on Tuesday as the Rays decided they would shut down starter Drew Smyly. The Rays only leftie currently in their rotation will be replaced by right-hander Nathan Karns who was to pitch on Thursday in Game 4 of the Governor’s Cup series, but will now toe the rubber for the Rays in Yankee Stadium for their last contest against the Yankee in 2014.

Even though the Rays have not been formally declared out of the post season, the shutting down of Smyly who has been a bright spot in the latter stages of the season signals the Rays looking ahead to 2015.

Now that doesn’t mean the Rays will re-invent themselves over the next 3 weeks, but the usual line-ups and match ups might go a little left and right and the Rays experiment and try out some new combos or fielding assignment to test their current corps of rostered players.

The first of these movements towards the future might be in feeling out the limitations or flexibility of Brandon Guyer. We all know Guyer has the heart and soul to play with this team, but if he shows a little more flexibility and resourceful use, possibly in Center Field, the Rays might extend their hands and provide Guyer with ample opportunity before the last contest in Cleveland.

thS5U101GFOver the next few weeks I suspect we might see a few tinkers with the lineup seeing if other players can adapt, convert and possibly excel at other spots in the 1-9 slot of the Rays lineup card. We could see a few new names attached to Third Base giving Evan Longoria a few more reps at DH.

Quite possibly we could also see if the Rays value certain player who have been established as 2015 options, or possible trade fodder this winter. One name I think you might want to watch close is the ways the Rays use Matt Joyce over the final games.

Joyce is still under team control in 2015, but I truly thought 2014 was his year to shine or submerge and quite possibly the Rays might be on that same wave length. It is kind of a pity Joyce seemed to have drawn the long straw when Wil Myers went down. I thought the team would try and expand on Joyce’s worthiness through more at bats against lefties, but instead the team went to the minor league system and have made Kevin Kiermaier a new Tampa Bay household name.

The emergence of Kiermaier might makes Joyce expendable this winter, and an affordable name for another team to scoop up at a bargain. And with the Rays possibly experimenting with different outfield setups, names like Ben Zobrist, David DeJesus and Desmond Jennings might find a few teams calling about their availability this winter too.

thC0O2Q3OAAnother decision much like Smyly is on the horizon for the Rays as starters Jake Odorizzi has thrown for 154.2 innings and Chris Archer has 173.2 innings. Taking two fixtures out of the rotation might not happen, but seeing as current Durham starters Alex Colome has only 86 innings on the book before his next Governor’s Cup start, he could be a viable option for the Rays after Durham finishes their playoff run.

But not in Colome’s favor might be the pure fact that would give the Rays 5 starters who all throw from the right side of the rubber. The Rays could go with the option of bringing up 2 different lefties after the Durham playoff run, or promote another right-hander, Merrill Kelly as he only has 114 innings on his arm this season.

If the Rays did want to go the duo lefty option, Mike Montgomery and Enny Romero both have about 126 innings on their stats this year and could possibly be an option for 1-2 starts each to finish off 2014 plus give the team a real time evaluation on if they might be MLB ready in 2015.

th7BV3QC8DInfield wise I could see the Rays possibly bring up Hak-Ju Lee or maybe even Tim Beckham and throw them in Longoria’s spot at Third and test them on being viable future options or possible add-ons to a winter trade.

Who knows, maybe Rays can bring up a Ray…Olmedo to see if he could be a piece of the depth puzzle again next season either in Triple-A or with the Rays.

Everything is just speculation until certain things fall or are decided by the Rays. With the season winding down and the team all but .01% eliminated from any contention the Rays now only fear the calendar.

As soon as the Bulls complete their post season series I truly suspect a few of these name to appear quickly on the transaction wire.

Now if only the Bulls would hurry up and win the Governor’s Cup so we can really see what the Rays are thinking……for 2015.

 

Final Vote, Sminal Vote….McGee Deserved an All-Star Cap

JCG

I want to vote for one of the American League All-Star Final Vote candidates, but I’m not.

Some might say my reasoning is selfish as baseball is viewed as a team sport played by individuals and we should vote and select the finest talents in the land to represent our AL squad.

 But this season, I disagree with that train of thought.

400-thumb-450x337-2628681Call me a horse’s caboose if you want, but I’m boycotting this year’s selection because I can, as my vote matters (Or that is what every politician says). The main reason I’m not voting for any of the 5 qualified candidates is that I believe there should have been another Rays horse in the running for an A L All-Star slot.

I firmly would have voted as many times as possible on my many email addresses (work and personal) for Tampa Bay Rays RP Jake McGee to be added to the A L squad.

Most will bring me the argument that the A L already have enough talent on the left side of the rubber with the likes of A’s RP Sean Doolittle, Twins Glenn Perkins and 2008 All-Star game late inning reliever and game winner Scott Kazmir (who will represent the A’s) on their roster.

images (2)Add the additional lefty names of Boston’s Jon Lester and the Jays Mark Buehrle , plus the Rays lone selection David Price, and the A L team currently has 6 left-handed selections and the Final Vote could bring another.

I had a feeling Farrell was going to call the name of a southpaw from the Rays, but I did not think it would have been Price even though he has also put up some stellar stats considering his team’s hot and cold running offense at times this season. Maybe it was wishful thinking that Farrell might call on the soft-spoken McGee instead of Price, but I had hopes.

downloadBut it seems the All-Star game anymore is about the “hero factor”, or the guy who has that role model persona loud and proud and not the guy who has honed his craft and finally has all the pieces gathered to complete his M L B puzzle.

I truly thought this All-Star game would be McGee’s “coming out” party to show why the Rays have let him go from a great minor league starter to pulling the final strings at times in the Rays current closer-by-committee framework.

But as they say, let’s let the numbers (as of 7/9/14) speak for themselves.

*** McGee sports a 3-0 record with 6 saves this season, including a nail-biting, 4-out save last night.

*** Sports a 1.58 ERA in 42 appearances this season and surrendered a 14 straight scoreless appearance streak in last nights (7/8) Rays win over the Kansas City Royals.

***He allowed a run for only the 2nd time in his last 31 appearances, plus 39 of his 43 trips to the hill in 2014 have been scoreless appearances.

*** His fastball velocity, which averages 96.5 mph is the highest among leftie AL relievers.

*** His total appearances (42) ranks 2nd in the A L, and his stingy Opponents Slugging Percentage of .214 has him ranked 3rd in the AL.

*** He has pitched 49 consecutive homerless inning, the 3rd longest streak in the entire M L B. His last HR was on Sept 4, 2013 to LA Angel C Chris Iannetta.

***20 of his total 25 hits this season have been singles, and the other 5 have been doubles.

***McGee has stranded 24 of his 27 inherited base runners (88.9 %) this season and if his current formula runs true, should eclipse the Rays record of 88.6% set by former Rays Southpaw J P Howell in 2008.

So the numbers show McGee has the talents and the numbers to be considered a 2014 All-Star.

images (5)Some have said that since Price makes his last start before the break this Saturday that 3-days rest might not make him a viable pitching option for All-Star game.

Others have commented that Price could attend the All-Star game festivities in Minnesota and consult with Farrell possibly Sunday morning to recommend McGee as a viable option since Price would have a little more than 2-2 1/2 days rest before the contest. Some say Price passing the Rays All-Star game cap to McGee would be one of the most unselfish and deserving moves Price would ever do as a Ray. uniform

The move also could be viewed as a team-first move as not pitching in the All-Star game would put Price in line to pitch in the Rays first post All-Star game contest against the Twins on Friday, July 18th.

images (4)So you can snide me all you want that I’m not voting for another player not sporting a Rays uniform in the All-Star game final vote.

The players selected by M L B are deserving and merit consideration, but I got to stick with my gut on this and keep the home fires burning that McGee gets a call from Farrell before Tuesday’s All-Star game.

Sometimes you got to stick to your hometown convictions even if it doesn’t always jive with the majority.

With the Loss of Zim, A True Cornerstone of the Game is Gone

 

 

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I always hoped that if someone could live forever, it would be baseball icon Don Zimmer.

zinmmmmmmmmmmmmmSo as I was advised that the Rays Senior Advisor had passed away in his sleep tonight at only 83, I feel a bit empty inside right now.  Baseball has lost a true legend tonight. I truly believe that if I pulled a dictionary off my shelf and looked up the word “Legend” What do you get the guy who has witnessed over 66 years of baseball in his 83 years upon this great planet?

I can truly say without hesitation that when I have in past talked or shaken hands with Zimmer I was in the company of  baseball royalty. And to think of how many thousands of fans, generations of ball players, celebrities and political dignitaries have also gotten that honor boggles the mind.

This past January 17th, Zim celebrated his 83rd birthday and even as that evil viper age had begun to take some of his physical tools, his mind was always an awaiting steel trap. I mean who else in M L B history has had a bear made of his likeness…and been a Rays cherished keepsake twice!

sdfghjkl,mWe all know Zimmer made the Pinellas county area his home for most of his baseball life and was a citizen of the beach community of Treasure Island as far back as when they had a drawbridge and toll booths,  back when the old Jolly Roger figurine stood mighty along the hotels/motels on Gulf Blvd., and the streetcars made their route reversals at Park Street and Central Avenue before cruising on back down Central towards the then Million Dollar Pier. 

Zimmer  in his lifetime got to see the color barrier not only broken, but smashed to bit and witnessed firsthand the rugged path of teammate Jackie Robinson. From that historic moment Zimmer also got an upfront seat to a players strike, seeing Hank Aaron pass another legend and see not one but many expansion club be awarded and begin play within the game.  

Zimmer was as much a Florida “native” and local institution to the Rays Republic as the Don Cesar Hotel, or even the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Of all the people who have been associated with this Rays franchise since its infancy, he reigns supreme with the highest obtainable levels of respect, dignity and honor from not only players, umpires and visiting teams, but the legions of baseball fans from sea to shining sea. 

'I’ve lite a candle tonight for Zim on a on-deck circle in front of my baseball collection to show my sincere want to honor a man who’s love of the game transcended uniforms, rivalries and whose lifetime love and devotion to this fine game shall never be forgotten.

If there truly is a “Field of Dreams” in heaven for I know Zim will be the first to take the field and start the chatter.  And I hope if such a place truly exists Zimmer gets a standing ovation by the players, fans and anyone within eyesight of the angelic field for if anyone ever deserved to play and witness the game for eternity, it is Popeye.

Personally, I want to thank you Zim. For the short moments, interesting chats and just being you…. a true gentleman of the clay and grass. 

 

Carlos Pena Open to Returning to the Rays


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I still remember the Friday afternoon in the Spring of 2007 when I got a voicemail from someone within the Tampa Bay Rays front office that Carlos Pena was originally going to sign a minor league deal to play for the Rays. Still remember the sudden rush of excitement I had bubbling within me that a guy with such awesome offensive and defensive potential was going to be positioned at First Base for this Rays team.


The Rays staffer who left the message on my phone played with Pena in the Summer Cape Cod League and knew firsthand Pena’s ability to bring strong and confident leadership qualities to this team along with the graceful power hidden within his maple bats. This Rays staffer had played beside Pena at second base and had seen for himself the uncanny grace of Pena’s defensive magic and the confidence and charm Pena emulates and could bring to a young Rays team both on and off the field.

So here we are 4 years later and Pena has seen his stock rise from a minor league player to potentially receiving the largest contract of his career this Winter. Even with his name now removed from the Rays 40-man roster as a Free Agent, Pena holds a deep love and affection for his old team. Pena’s impending actions this Winter must now speak louder than his eloquent words if he even remotely has a chance to again report to Port Charlotte, Florida on February16, 2011. Many times during the Rays 2010 season, with his impending Free Agency on the horizon, Pena spoke loud and clear of his want to stay with the Rays.

But it might come at a huge price. Pena is a sought after Free Agent that will have more than a few teams digging into his 2007-2010 Rays stats and videos to see if he can again raise that same level of magic both on and off the field with their teams. And with an vocal agent like Scott Boras, you can easily define that even attempting to facilitate Pena’s services for 2011 will come with a very stiff price tag.

Pena commanded the Rays top salary last season at $ 10.5 million salary and could command a increase in salary this Winter for the 2011 season. By itself, his possible salary level might sink his ultimate chances to reunite with his Rays teammates this Spring. It is curious as to why a player like Pena who can demand up to $ 10 million again for 2011 would be so publicly campaigning this past week in the local media to get another shot with the Rays when his salary might be unobtainable by the payroll stingy Rays?

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Pena knows the fiscal limitations of the Rays for 2011. And even with the fact Pena was very vocal during 2010 of possibly giving the Rays organization a “home” discount to retain his services, can the price be whittled down to be considered by the Rays? But even if Pena was to lower his 2010 salary to around the $7 million mark, would it be a bargain for the Rays? That kind of salary might still be on the upper cusp of what could be affordable by the Rays, but is it too low for Pena to consider?


Not to mention that if you sliced Pena’s 2010 salary in half it would only reach the projected upcoming arbitration salary mark of Rays starter Matt Garza, who is projected to gain a projected $ 5.25 million salary this Winter. Can you justify a larger salary amount closer to that $ 7 million mark being considered by the Rays and by Pena based on Pena’s long and devoted community service history and popularity with the Rays Republic.

Can you put a viable salary price on Pena’s unique personal charm and his grace both in public and with the media in showcasing himself as a role model and devoted member of this Tampa Bay community. Personally I think Pena has done more for the image of this Rays team and franchise than anyone else in the team’s short history, but can you put a price on that spirit and chemistry? Tampa Bay is the second largest Hispanic community in Florida and would retaining a popular icon like Pena be applauded by that community with increased ticket and merchandise revenues?

 
 
Off the field Pena is a giant supporter of the “Rays Way” and a shining beacon of inspiration and dedication to the youth of Tampa Bay that hard work and believing in your abilities can get you to the Major League level. Is it fair to even consider putting a price on such action when they were done from the heart. Pena is a past Rays reciprient of the Roberto Clemente Award for his involvement off the turf and grass of Tropicana Field.

Retaining someone of Pena’s stature in the community will be difficult, but can be achieved with the many young and talented players coming up through the Rays farm system. But can any of them command the respect and admiration of Pena with his poetic gestures to the Rays fans during the season, or his mystic that makes him loved by men and women alike in this community. I am not going to debate the trials and tribulation of his offensive makes on the Rays, but salute the drive and determination Pena has instilled upon the Rays fabric. You can sit here and debate his offensive and defensive skills for days and still not have a clear indication of his entire net worth to this Rays franchise without looking at his voice off the field.

Some players make vocal signals to the team’s fans as a gesture of saying “Goodbye” knowing that their future with the franchise is not in their hands. In this endeavor with Pena, it might be his willingness to accept less in salary to stay with a team he respects and admires above all others. The bonds of Pena within the Rays is deep and rooted, but it is his turn to show his willingness to want to stay here. A possible low salary with offensive incentives might be the key to enticing the Rays to continue their ongoing relationship with Pena.

 

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Right now I can not truly imagine a Spring without the likes of Pena strolling the sidelines or laughing in the dugout with his Rays teammates. I always thought he was more retainable this off season than outfielder Carl Crawford or even reliever Joaquin Benoit. For some reason, Pena has personified the Rays player for me since the first time I saw him on the fence line during the 2008 Spring Training signing a taco and then watching a fan eat it as a good luck omen.

Players like Pena leave an invisible mark on fans that always stays with us and makes us cheer or even clap for them years after they are gone. It has not sunk in yet that Pena will not possibly be there this Spring. That 2011 might be the first season without his smiling face and GQ fashions in the Rays clubhouse. Pena has already made his vocal admiration and want to stay here for 2011 known to all of us. Now it is time for Pena to back his up his many words and find a way to remain a Ray. I hope it can get done because I still feel Pena has a lot to offer this community.

Some Things in Life Can be FREE

 

 
Chris O’Meara/AP

I might not be the only one to tell you just how weird it felt to walk into Tropicana Field last night and already here the sound of thousands of people sitting in their FREE seats even before Batting Practice was over. Had a odd and strange aura to the stadium as I entered Section 138 and already 3/4ths of the seats had bodies in it.

Now do not get me wrong here, I applauded the fact Tampa Bay responded in such a positive way to come out last night for the Rays home finale, but I really also wanted to question each and every one of them and ask, “What took you so long to come out?” Sure, a FREE ticket probably got a few of the danglers from the fringes of the Rays Republic to take in another game, but did it really take offering 20,000 FREE tickets all around the stadium to get this kind of support.

If the Rays wanted a clear and definite response to “If we opened the doors, would they come” kind of questioning, then the Rays Front Office definitely got their answer. And I really hope that the Rays sold out of a few ballpark commodities last night, or at least I hope people spent at least $ 10 somewhere within the stadium either at the concessions stands, or possibly the Rays Team Store. You would hope a small minority of the people who received their FREE tickets would have least bought something cold to drink.

 
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And even with the FREE tickets, there were more than a few people who brought their tickets into Tropicana Field and looked for seat upgrades or even a better seating position even though their ballpark experience that night was being bought for them by two of the Rays rising stars.

Recent comments by Rays All Stars Evan Longoria and David Price on the lack of fan support actually backfired on the young duo, and to show their concern their message was sincere and not meant to alienate or act privileged, they worked with the Rays to provide a perfect storm, or sell-out possibility for the Rays last home game of this season.

 

Even if this “embarrassing” moment by either player was premeditated, or had any ulterior motives is mute now because the Tampa Bay community answered the call and filled the Trop to the upper rafters. Only thing that might have cemented a more positive future consideration by some of these 20,000 “guests” might have been a more colorful and exciting game accented by an orange roof and a victory cheer. But that is where the night might have fell a bit…towards the dark side.


But hopefully, the assembled crowd that might have not been usual Rays fans might have gotten a taste or even a nibble of wanting to come again, or possibly maybe even investing in multiple games or a ticket package for 2011. And behind all the common courtesy and all the FREE promotion this pulled in for the Rays, the end result might not be felt until April 2011. You have to wonder if you converted any of that FREE crowd into becoming members of the Rays Republic, or if they are one and done, never to step again into the confines of Tropicana Field.

But it was great to look up into the far reaches of the Trop last night and not see many empty seats just prior to game time. Was fantastic to see kids climbing over each other to get to Raymond, or yelling for BP baseballs from the Oriole’s players, or maybe even just sitting there with glove in hand waiting for the game. You want to hope, you want to actually dream that this could become a reality.

You wanted to envision in the not to distant future that Sections like 138 could be filled to the brim like this when the Oakland A’s roll into town, or during the weekday evening games we could pack the Trop like a can of sardines. But the generation that can make that happen nightly are currently yelling for cotton candy, trying to eat a big Kayem hot dog, or just so excited to see their idols playing line rather than home on their television.

 

Nights like this can happen in Tampa Bay where the Trop can be filled top to bottom and not a Red Sox or Yankee player on the field. Nothing against those teams, but this community needs to flock and pack this stadium on dates that do not include those two American League East rivals. It doesn’t have to be 36,000+ to show this team and the Rays Front Office that St. Petersburg, and the Tampa Bay region can be a massive baseball community.


Last night was a perfect example of the fact this town loves this Rays ball club, but sometimes things out of your own control can hide this communities true feelings. Hopefully this region can decide during this post season push just how much they care about this team and provide some sort of sign in the off season as to the future of this franchise. Either this community makes some sort of conscientious effort to show the Rays their commitment, or the only time our kids will see baseball will be on the television, and that surely would be a crime.

Welcome Train to the Trop in 2010

 

One of the great things about the Tampa Bay Rays regime since Stuart Sternberg and his group purchased the Rays is they way this management group brought out the different new and innovative ways to entice the many causal fans of Tampa Bay to come on out and experience both this fantastic young baseball team, and also take in some classic and different forms of entertainment. And I have to say, the Hess Express/Rays Saturday Night Concert Series might have been the best promotional idea ever devised by the Rays since their first year-end “Jerseys Off Their Backs” promotion.
 

Not only has the baseball game plus a concert concept brought more fans into Tropicana Field over the last few seasons to see this great team transform, but the Rays have also presented the Tampa Bay community with great up and coming bands, and also a few blasts from some of our past into their overall baseball entertainment options. And with only 5 of the 10 artists in this season’s line-up already announced (ZZ Top, The Go-Go’s, Hall & Oates, John Fogerty and Nelly), I have a new band to let you know about before the Rays “official” announcement in a few days. The rock band Train will be performing after the Rays versus Baltimore Orioles game on August 15,2010.
 

Most people have heard at least a little bit about the band Train who in 2009 emerged back into the limelight after a self-imposed hiatus for three years to again come out of the starting gate to present their version of rock and roll. The band will come to Tropicana Field after their fifth album release, and an International hit, “Hey Soul Sister” that is still on the Billboard charts and is currently the # 11 choice on last week’s VH-1 Top 20 Countdown.
 

Most people might not know the San Francisco-based band has actually been around since 1994. From the band’s core members including lead singer Pat Monahan , drummer Scott Underwood and lead guitarist Jimmy Stafford, the band is also known for other hits, such as classic ballad hits like “Hey Virginia” and “Drops of Jupiter”.
 

And before the late 2009 release of the single “Hey Soul Sister”, the music masses might have known the band more because of the success of their second album, the self-titled “Drops of Jupiter”, then by the bands name, or Monahan’s distinctive high resonant voice. The song “Drops of Jupiter r (Tell Me)” was the group’s first International hit, and won the trio two different 2002 Grammy Awards. And with the catchy “Hey Soul Sister” still rolling on the Billboard Top 100 charts, the band now has two solid Top 10 Hits to their credit. And their second burst at success since their ” time off” shows that Train is ready again to take their rock ballad roots mainstream again to perform throughout MLB venues in 2010.
 

Train was formed after Monahan left his Led Zepplin cover band back in Erie, PA in 1993 and ventured out to the California coast and met up with local musician/band member Rob Hotchkiss, who was a frequent performer in the numerous coffee houses and small clubs scene in the San Francisco Bay area. From the band’s beginning, Monahan has been the band’s lead vocalist, and after a short time together both Monahan and Hotchkiss decided to commit to a full scale band and both members eagerly brought Stafford, Charlie Colin and Underwood on board in 1994.
 

After an embarrassing rejection by Columbia Records of the group’s early music in 1996, Train decided to pool their fiscal resources and release their self-entitled CD independently of the long arm of the music industry. The band quickly gained local and regional fame for their new musical style and was finally added to the National touring schedule opening for such headlining bands like the Barenaked Ladies, Hootie and the Blowfish, Cracker and fellow Bay area band Counting Crows.
 

The self-produced, and distributed EP contained several well received songs that made their presence known quickly outside the San Francisco area. One instant hit with rock stations was the single “Free”, and another track off that $ 25,000 self produced EP turned into the Top 20 Billboard hit, “Meet Virginia”, which peaked at # 15 and brought national acclaim to Train.

The band’s fame rose quickly after the rise of “Meet Virginia” as concert goers word of mouth, and their opening tour gigs got Train a bigger rock audience base to see and hear the band perform other songs like the single ” I Am”, which also came from the $25,000 self produced EP album. The band’s image and solid rock ballad reputation quickly escalated and their debut album was certified platinum by RIAA during 1998. And because of their early success, their second album “Drops of Jupiter” debuted on the Billboard Top 100 list on March 10,2001 and spent over 53 weeks on the charts before falling out of the Top 100 list. This multi-platinum album became the band’s first top 10 album, which peaked at # 6 before a slow roll downhill.
 

But the many accolades for “Drops of Jupiter” just kept coming as the song won it’s first Grammy for “Best Rock Song” and Train also were presented an additional Grammy Award that night for “Best Arrangement” on the International hit. Train’s second album quickly rose on the United Kingdom’s Billboard charts and peaked at the 8th slot . A second song from that album “She’s On Fire” also made it onto the soundtrack of the Rob Schneider movie “the Animal”, but did have the kind of overflowing success generated by their single “Drops of Jupiter”.
 

But the album did give the band their first International platinum album in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. And with their new success, Train embarked on their first International Tour, the “Drops of Jupiter” Tour and produced a live DVD of their homecoming concert in San Francisco at The Warfield on May 21,2001.

 

The band’s reputation only grew as they were picked by the executives of MTV to do a cover of Aerosmith’s classic song “Dream On” for an episode of the MTV show “Icon” which was dedicated to the tremendous rock and roll success of Aerosmith. Soon after Train released their third album “My Private Nation” which produced the Top 20 hit “Calling All Angels” which was an instant hit on the Adult Contemporary charts. Train got their second chance to have their music featured in a film when their song “When I Look to the Sky” was featured in the film trailer for “Jersey Girl” in 2004.
 

Also that same year, Train had another song ” Ordinary” featured in the movie “Spiderman 2″, and because of that movie exposure the band got their first chance to include their music in another multi-media medium, television when the same song was included during the NBC show “Heroes”. But the so music video for “Ordinary” was played often by MTV during their video rotation but only had moderate success in the Adult Top 40 charts. But then another medium opened its doors to the band when Cingular also included the song “Ordinary” in their cell phone advertising commercials.
 

With the band’s sound now well known within the rock culture in the United States the went into the studio to began recording their fourth album in 2005 in Atlanta, Georgia. Train’s first single from that release was “Cab”, which hit the rock airwaves in November 2005. But the album “For Me, It’s You” did not have the wide spread commercial success of their previous album releases, and was the first album by Train not to receive an RIAA certification as a platinum album. Even though “Cab” did make it to the #9 position on the Adult Top 40 list, it only peaked at # 10 in the Top 200 Billboard charts.
 

This was the band’s first brush with falling from grace in the music industry and after a years of constant touring, Train’s members decided to take a “hiatus” from recording and touring to refocus and re-concentrate their efforts to again get back into the good graces of the music public. So in November 2005, Train began their 3-year sabbatical from performing and releasing music to the public. During that off time, Monahan recorded and released a solo album, but it did not fare well with the listening public.
 

Then last year on August 11,2009, Train released their first single in three years “Hey Soul Sister” on their fifth album “Save Me San Francisco”. This time people remarked positively on the renewed vigor and vitality in Monahan’s voice and how the hiatus might have saved the band and help re-energize the band’s intensity and drive to again. In January 2010, Train saw “Hey Soul Sister” skyrocket up the Billboard’s charts from # 23 to # 7 in one week due largely to an 81 percent increase in digital sales over that last seven days.

 

Train has gone through it’s own tale of the Phoenix since their first album back in 1998, but their fifth album definitely shows that the band is back with a rock and roll vengeance, and will be a solid addition to the Hess Express/Rays Saturday Night Concert line-up in 2010. I am looking forward to standing there singing along with the group and want to know….Will you be there?

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