Results tagged ‘ Rays Tampa Bay Rays ’

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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