Results tagged ‘ Rays ’

Guest Blogger Haley Hits for the Cycle During an Interview with David Price

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I have never let someone else take the helm of my blog before, even on a one-time basis, but there is but one Haley Smilow.  So maybe it is time for me to do some “paying it forward” and provide a forum for a budding M L B beat reporter/ interview guru. I know Haley doesn’t need a lot of help as her accolades and accomplishments already at a young age simply blow my mind.

IMG_8561I always try and encourage writers both young and mature to find their own groove and take their time writing what they enjoy, or what might inform or entertain people. To paraphrase a old saying, “If you enjoy what you do, it will never be work”. I have a feeling Haley will never have to work a day in her life, only enjoy what she does with passion and joy.

So please welcome my first ever guest blogger the aspiring journalist Miss Haley as she gives us an inspiring and in-depth interview she did with Tampa Bay Rays  southpaw extraordinaire David Price in one of the that holiest place within Tropicana Field, the Rays dugout:

Do you have a favorite ballpark other than Tropicana and why?  And is there a ballpark where you feel you always play well in? 

DP: I like Target Field.  We usually stay close to the stadium, so we can walk there.  They have great food and I like the self-serve ice cream machine.  I feel like I play well at Fenway.  It is a good park for lefty pitching especially when facing a heavily stacked right handed team.

Do you have any nicknames that teammates call you? 

DP: The Latin guys call me “Precio” Spanish for Price, and Homeright.

Do you have any superstitions or rituals? 

DP: I would say more like routines.  I always wear the same green Tampa Bay shirt and cap to the stadium.  When we are on the road, I take guys out to eat and pay for lunch and cabs.  I feel like its good karma and that will come back to me.

Better Inning? 3 Pitches – 3 Outs or 9 Pitches – 3 Strike Outs? 

DP: Good question!!  I used to be really focused on getting the strike outs, but now I think 3 pitches/3 outs.  First pitch outs are the way to keep the pitch count down and to go deep in games.

Is there a batter you really don’t like to face? 

DP: Yes, Danny Valencia.  Lifetime he is 9 for 12 against me.  No matter what team he’s been on, he always hits me hard.  The last time we played the Orioles he went 2 for 3 with an RBI double, a single and a walk against me.

How did you prepare yourself for games and facing hitters? 

DP: I prepare by trying to execute my pitches.  I like to stick to my style of pitching and my strengths instead of trying to pitch to batter’s weaknesses.

First Round draft pick in 2007, starting pitcher for the 2010 All – Star game, winning the 2012 Cy Young and of course the cover of MLB 2K 13 what are some of your other accomplishments you are proud of? 

DP: I would have to say winning left handed pitcher of the year award in 2010 and Player’s Choice in 2012.  Player’s Choice in my opinion is more important than Cy Young because it is voted on by your peers.  It means a lot that my teammates and opponents think that highly of me and my pitching.

Where does your love of baseball come from? 

DP: My parents.  We always watched baseball together as a family.  I would come home from school, play baseball, eat dinner and then watch a game on TV.  It has been a part of my life always.

If you could go back in time who would you want to play baseball with? 

DP: Would have to say Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente.  I would also love to play with Dwight Gooden he was an incredible pitcher.  I think it would be fun to compete against them.

If I could change one thing about baseball it would be? 

DP: After a batter has two strikes, a foul should be strike three.  It would keep the game moving faster.

If you weren’t playing baseball what could you see yourself doing?  

DP: I would be a teacher and coach.  I love kids.

Favorite baseball movie?  

DP: “Sandlot”.  I have seen it so many times that if I just hear one line, I know its Sandlot.

 5 songs on your I pod that are on repeat?  

DP: Oh man, I just got asked that question the other day and it took me like 20 minutes to come up with three!!  I would have to say Young Jeezy “Hustler’s Ambition” and “Go Hard”, Lindsey Stirling and Coldplay.

What is your favorite thing to cook?

DP:  Spaghetti, it’s hard to mess up.  I don’t make my own sauce I just get the Prego.

Have you ever been Pranked? 

DP: Yes, Sean Rodriguez pranked James Shields and me on M L B Fan Cave.  Sean Rodriguez planned it and we had to do a couple “fake” promos.  For one segment I was supposed to scream in a high pitched voice and jump in Sean’s arms like a girl because of a shark.  They got me to do it like five times before they told me.  That was a good one.

One-thing fans don’t know about you?  

DP: I do not run my dog Astro’s twitter account.

What do you do for fun other then baseball?  

DP: Normal everyday things.  I play with my dog, hang out with my girlfriend Tiffany, and video games.  I like to do many things that kids like to do.  I don’t like to take extreme chances like skydiving or bungee jumping, just like to be as normal as possible.

What wouldn’t you leave your home without?  DP: My cell phone.  It’s how I keep in touch with friends and family.  I also run my twitter account through it.

Do you have any other favorite sports besides Baseball?

DP: I love basketball and golf.  I would like to play professional golf because you get to go to beautiful locals and the weather is always nice.  Not like pitching in 45 degrees in the rain.

What are some of your biggest challenges and how did you over come them?  

DP: Just staying focused and staying positive when you are struggling in a game.  I try to execute my pitches and keep my mentality positive.

What advice would you give to young players?  

DP: Have fun it’s a game.

 

Renegade: That was an awesome and insightful interview Haley! I know we all learned a bit more about the Rays premier southpaw.

I want to thank  Junior Baseball Magazine and Haley Smilow for this fantastic contribution.  If you wish you read more of Haley’s posts please click on this link and it will redirect you to her MLBlogs.com . If you want to be one of the army of Twitter followers, feel free to click here and it will take you to her Twitter feed. 

I truly look forward to Haley’s  future M L B adventures and her budding M L B beat reporter or columnist gig in the future.  Thank you again Haley!

 

Re-dressing the Proverbial Pig that is Rays Renegade

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I originally was going to write this post on April 1st, but in the past I’ve done posts on leaving the site, changing my team alliances and even a weird player trade that even had a few people call Tampa Bay Rays sources to see if it was official or just a bad rumor.

So I delayed this announcement for a day so that it would not be valued as an April Fool’s notation, but as a true to life change in my literary persona and a widen more broad approach to the game I love and cherish.

RR2Change is inedible in life. We see our surroundings, friends and even lives change within a wisp of wind. Such is about to happen here on my little slice of baseball heaven.

When I decided to some back and write again this past December, I knew I had to mix things up somehow since I felt I had become a bit predictable and downright focused only in one direction. Tunnel-vision can be a good thing and a bad thing for a writer. For me it seemed to be just like being caught flat-footed between the bases with a swift infielder trying to tag me out of the game.

So it was time for a thought process about a change. First I had to decide if my blog persona would stay intact or change with the rest of the black and white type renovation. I liked my handle “Rays Renegade”, and it has been whispered (at least a few times) within the tilted cap of the Trop or on various websites and I had to decide if I was going to start 100 percent fresh, or keep at least the persona I had built since September 2007.

The decision about the name was easy. I had built a literary personality and it for now will stay intact, but not written in stone.

So the next phase has been in the process for quite a while. I love the Rays and cherish every moment and victory the team has achieved since I first glanced towards the infield in 1998, but now my focus will be more resembling any team’s pre-game Batting Practice as balls will be going to all fields, high into the stands and well as screamers down the foul lines.

By opening my vision towards 29 other teams I can find more material, base opinions and provide a more compelling blog by using all fields instead of just trying to go to deep center with each and every pitch.

RR3I truly cherish this game and the people who make it special, and that will not change in any fashion. I will hope to bring a broader voice and basis of opinions and facts as to the game from coast-to-coast. Be it good or bad, I hope to bring my realistic views and notions to things going on around the M L B , but there will be moments where the Rays will hold my glance a bit longer.

That being said, it is time to begin the renovation, the change and the revision I have envisioned for a while but procrastinated until now.

Change in life is a good thing. We all do it be it our clothes, jobs or even revising our personalities or character to bring about a positive change in our lives. This blog to me was a uniform I wore, a cap I pulled down tight upon my brow and stared in at a hitter who wanted to place my pitch into the Rays Tank.

So begins the change that will resemble my time in Row C of Section 138 of Tropicana Field. At the bottom of the section, the seat on the field side of the row within a shout or anguished scream at a player or reaction to the game events…….I always loved to Bellow from the Bleachers to the field heckling or even encouraging players during the course of a game throughout a season.

Hmmm, maybe that would be a great name…

Yep, “Bellows from the Bleachers” it is. 

Creating a Baseball National Holiday takes a Called First Strike

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You kind of knew going into the idea of an M L B Opening Day national holiday might be more of a mythical swing for the fences or every baseball lover’s day dream of an impending 3-2 count bottom of the 9th with the bases fully juiced. 

th (6)Maybe I was really naïve and slightly delusional thinking that since we had a baseball loving President sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. we had a ace in the hole with our ideals.

Maybe it was a bit of too much emphasis on pushing the positives and thinking that our current Commander-in-Chief who ceremonially upheld that awesome Presidential Opening Day tradition on his home turf of Washington DC during the 2010 National’s home opener would stand tall and proud that one of his treasured sports wanted to be embraced like this on a national scale. 

th (9)Possibly I held too much hope that President Obama, who bolstered more of an athletic background and love for the game of baseball then in the first Presidential First Pitch moment back in 1910 by that famous spit-baller President William Taft. Maybe I was hoping President Obama who relish in the fact the Tampa Bay Rays own Raymond stood with members of the Red Sox Nation as Mr. Met joined arms-in-arms with Philly phanatics in wanting a special day of celebrating what is still rightfully, our national pastime.  

But what truly rocked me to the core is not just a personal or even cap tilt from the White House’s main occupant, but a well-versed but truly polish response to the M L B Petition submitted to make Baseball’s Opening Day a National holiday.

Sure the press release did come from the White House’s “Bullpen” via a mound visit/release by White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Ernest. In Ernest’s defense, he is a life-long Royals fan, so maybe I’m cutting him a bit of slack since he personally knows a bit about the awful feeling of feeling disappointment with regards to the game.

th (7)Ernest was quite earnest and frank indeed to show some empathy with the entire baseball nation as he stated in his brief: “While we are sympathetic to your pitch to make Opening Day a national holiday, it’s a little outside our strike zone: creating a permanent federal holidays is traditionally the purview of Congress. So it’s up to the men and women on Capitol Hill to decide whether to swing at this pitch.”

So quite possibly seems we, as a petitioning nation somehow misread the signals from our own Third Base Coach (M L B) on the transpiring play and were ultimately caught red-handed standing in “no-man’s land” between First and Second Base with our feet stuck in clay….an easy out for the White House as we consulted and petitioned the wrong governmental body to get some resolve to our want.

Hopefully next time we can get a clear second opinion or honest impression on the signals before striding off the bag and committing a mortal base-running sin. Giving a precious out even in the game of politics can be detrimental to any swing or aggressive actions at the plate or on the base paths and could result in an inning ending defensive recourse or a debilitating 5-4-3 double play.

Obama-to-throw-Nats-first-pitch_st_thSure I wanted a personal opinion or statement from our Chi-Sox loving Commander as to his future vision for this plan of making Opening Day a national celebration, but outside the aforementioned Press  Release, the Oval Office or for that matter the Rose Garden still doesn’t seem to have a keystone shaped Home Plate nestled within its carpet/grassy regions at this time.

I guess it is true that baseball makes all of us feel like youngsters, kids of all ages, and maybe it was truly naive to think that by gathering 100,000 signatures (mine included) would put this grand plan on firm ground for such an undertaking.

th (8)Maybe the same 100,000 people’s want to deport Justin Bieber delivered to this same prestigious address will be met with the same fate…..a hearty and pronounced bellowing from a black-clad Umpire screaming “Strike One!”

Sure we might have been caught flat-footed watching that ball break across the plate and we stood there groggily-eyed and mesmerized, but hopefully this experience did not only educate us, but made us pop a bit more pine tar on the barrel, grip the lumber a bit tighter and square off in the box hoping the “meat” throws that same old weak stuff again.

Maybe the reality is that by petitioning the White House we can as a baseball nation take the necessary steps to accelerate our plans advance through the political minor leagues to take a healthy step up the ladder to make ourselves truly noticed and possibly get that battlefield promotion to “The Show”.

We as a collective baseball-loving nation are now a bit wiser for this whole experience. From the initial gaining of the first petition’s signatures to the reassembling of the whole enchilada as our Bench decides our next game plan.

thBelieve me, next time we will not have a deer-in-the-headlights moment when we final get that call to the majors aka where surely someday get our shot with an at-bat against the high caliber Washington DC Bombers and even with a 0-1 count against us we will not show a hint of fear as we want and shall one day have a national day to rejoice our national pastime.

Washington forgets. A baseball game is never over until that 27th out, so we still got time, the energy and the will to provide a classic comeback moment. As that wise baseball philosopher John Fogerty once said: “Put me in Coach, I’m ready to play…today!” 

Excuse while I step personally back into the Batter’s Box after adding a bit more tar to my Louisville Slugger wearing my “WE the People” away baseball cap and jersey.  

Spring has Sprung, But Still no IsoBlox Caps

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Toronto’s J A Happ, Cincy’s Aroidis Chapman, Oakland’s Brandon McCarthy, Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb and recently teammate Matt Moore. A short list, but a list of impressive M L B caliber players who recently have taken rocket shots to their bodies courtesy of a “come-backer” while on the mound.

c4s_2moore032414_12825661_8colMoore’s tangle with a M L B approved white missle happened less than 24 hours ago as a ball came back at him and Moore was able to get his right glove up just enough to deflect the bulk of the energy coming furiously towards his face. Moore left that contest but was seen today having lunch today with Rays Manager Joe Maddon prior to the cancellation of this afternoon’s contest. Moore was extremely lucky and the only true sign of the event is a busted lip and some lingering jaw soreness.

Over the last 6 seasons 14 M L B pitchers have been plucked by batted line drives to their bodies.  Interesting enough earlier this spring M L B did announce a protective cap prototype that had their stamp of approval and had the “thumbs up” M L B P A and M L B executive vice president for labor relations Dan Halem.

“We’re excited to have a product that meets our safety criteria. M L B is committed to working with manufacturers to develop products that offer maximum protection to our players, and we’re not stopping at all.”

It was initially announced the approved cap made by 4Licensing Corporation subsidiary isoBlox would be in-house for all member club and their minor league affiliates to try this spring and be an optional protective item for players to try out and evaluate personally before the season began. I have talked to 2 different members of the Rays organization and so far no one in the Rays spring camp has seen such a cap in-house either as an example or test model.

 

The proposed protective cap is a bit more cumbersome than the traditional M L B cap as it will be a half inch fuller in the front region and an inch thicker near the temples and provide additional padding protection from a line drive of up to 90 mph to a hurlers frontal skull region and protection up to 85 mph for a side strike.

thIsoBlox states the protective material is a “plastic injection molded polymer combined with a foam substrate and is designed to diffuse energy upon impact through a combination of dispersion and absorption techniques.” Not in the release is the fact the new cap will be about 7 ounces while the usual New Era cap comes in at around 3-4 ounces. New Era is to be sent the protective element to be sewn into their M L B approved caps for regular seasonal use.

Wouldn’t you think the best viable way to test if such a protective cap could or would help curtail such injuries or down time for hurlers be in their hands so they could experiment, test it themselves and give feedback so M L B or isoBlox could facilitate a more universally accepted cap model that would appeal instantly to the M L B or minor league pitching masses.

Do we have to witness someone named Verlander, Price, Darvish or Hernandez plucked or possibly severely injured before people awaken fully to the dangers or the possible carnage that can be done by the ball revolving stiches and blunt trauma.  

aroldis_chapman_instagram_1This is just my opinion, but I think Happ, Cobb, Chapman, McCarthy and Moore are extremely valuable assets to their respective clubs and not only deserve but should be afforded every protective options available to them so the next time a ball comes screaming back at them we do not have to worry about their safety. I hated watching both Happ and Cobb put on stretchers and wheeled out of Tropicana Field last season. The recent injury to Chapman and his sub sequential surgery and time loss due to injury puts a further dark cloud above M L B to not only have these caps in-house soon, but before we witness another pitching disaster or possibly an ending of a great career.

 4 of 5 M L B pitchers struck since 2012 have been hit below the cap line. This isoBlox cap is a great step forward, but with it not in M L B Clubhouses this spring as announced, it might hamper the learning curve as some pitchers might have to make their adjustments to such a protective caps in non-game situation or bullpen sessions before trying it out live during a game…..

Sorry M L B, this is a E-10 to me, but can be corrected with just a simple delivery.

 

We Deserve a National Baseball Holiday

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Maybe it is time.

Maybe we are at a pivotal point in our gallant sports consciousness that we can finally take a firm first step in this journey. Make that initial swing towards the process of immortalizing this one special day ever year….. forever.

opening_day_2009_1280x1024-thumb-250x200-2776151Maybe this is the perfect time to get a few important political allies in line to push for possible binding legal legislation to make Major League Baseball’s Opening Day a Nationally recognized holiday.

I know a majority of us already use it as a stealth day of fun, even possibly at the expense of taking a sick day or calling into work with excuses with gaping holes like Swiss cheese. Maybe by making it an “official” day we can come out of the closet and profess our baseball love to the world without ridicule or penalty. Viva la Beisbol!

Is the want to make this day a more than just a symbolic holiday lost on the fact most of us take measures already to cease production, fake sickness or family matter to rush to the ballpark to see that first glorious pitch of the season in person. If it was a defined day on our yearly calendar, then possibly Human Resources Departments or Sales team could coordinate group outings to the ballpark in support of this great day. More fans celebrating this day means more excitement, more revenues, and more special memories

OD2009With a key “fan” of the game currently residing in the White House right now, who shares in our love/hate relationship with the game of our youth, possibly now is the perfect time to consider such an sports-oriented endeavor. Not only does our President, our Commander-in-Chief boldly salute his own deeply-rooted White Sox love, but his yearly invitation to meet the eventual World Champions is a symbol that the highest office in the land has a genuine sense of ultimate baseball respectability.

Now if we can just corral a minimum of 26 United States Senators who also possess the same passion and admiration for the game, we will be well on the way to securing historic legislation. As Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston) so adamantly screamed in “For The Love of the Game” when Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) was lying on an ER gurney after cutting his pitching hand profusely, “Is baseball not America’s game!”.

Congress needs to acknowledge officially that the American image is firmly planted with roots on the clay and grass baseball field of this Nation, not just subject to apple pie, hot dogs and Chevrolet.

Flag2009As a baseball community and as a Nation, we should embrace the active thought of a celebrated day solely devoted to “America’s favorite pastime” A sport that doesn’t discriminate on ability, sex, race or even physical limitations. From T-ball, Miracle Leagues all the way to “The Show”, the escalation of the game only breeds warmth and admiration along with the true essence of the American spirit.

We could then outwardly celebrate on this day and support a game that has taught so many of us the rules of teamwork and of binding and bonding together for a common goal. We could celebrate our finest youthful moments again on a yearly basis with a sea of new baseball friends.

Baseball already brings out their own brand of ceremonial pomp and circumstance on this day, but why not include the rest of the sports nation into the fold for a National celebratory moment.

Sure there is still NBA and NHL games on tap, but the first week of April is about the bat and the ball. Of a Spring season of change and possibilities closing with the anticipation of 162 games played between defined chalk lines on pristine grass and immaculately turned clay infields. A game fought with distinctive individual skills, But defined within the team concept. A perfect storm of sports competition.

It deserves a day all its own, red lettered and circled on every calendar in this Country.

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay RaysFor this country to celebrate a day dedicated to the sport we know has a long and historic alliance with the United States both at home and abroad, it is a testament to aspect of fair competition and the essence of the American dream. Sure it may be a child’s game played by adults making a boatload of cash, but the childlike expressions on the faces of the players show daily it is not only about the competition, the pride and the admiration of this simple but complex game of chance.

Starting tomorrow maybe we can all collectively voice our opinions on possibly immortalizing forever as a country, baseball’s Opening Day. The time is right for such a couragious venture. We have a President who adores the game. Members of the United States Congress who have either played the game as children, young adults or at the M L B level.

Ground level support is definitely there for all of us to individually and as a Nation showcase our own passion and respect we have for this game that celebrates strength, integrity and unity on the field. Be it Major League Baseball, minor league affiliate or even Independent Baseball, this glorious day should have the added spice of being officially announcing our continuous love for this game to the World.

The game has been exported around the World with leagues springing up during every imaginable season of the year devoted to this great game. It is time now to give a big chuck back to the game by getting it the recognition it should have had previously.

BDD_BO_allstar_71409_gett.jpgWe have the chance now with a President who flaunts his long distance alligence, even wearing his South Side Chicago squad’s colors at his current Washington DC address. In President Obama we have a firm example of loving the game from afar, keeping tradition strong no matter the miles or trails and tribulations, of supporting your “hometown” team openly and proudly, even in a polarizing town like Washington DC.

No matter if you are in the Northeast,Florida, Pacific Northwest or So Cal the passion for your team travels with you and you are open to express that love, even in enemy territory like a Yankee fan in Boston, or a Dodger fan expressing their love in San Francisco. The game transpires all kind of boundaries and deserves a day all its own.

Aubrey was right when she shouted that in “For The Love of the Game“. Baseball is America’s game and now it is time to put it firmly up on it’s pedestal where it belongs, as a National Treasure.

Ramos and his Versatility Deserves a Chance at Rays 5th Slot.

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Some would say throwing your ball cap into a ring with several other MLB caliber players is a “no-win” situation. That in doing so you might seem a bit of unsure of your part in the Tampa Bay Rays brain trusts ultimate plans for you, but I disagree with that train of thought.

I actually think the decision reached by southpaw reliever Cesar Ramos is not only bold but a calculated move and shows to the men who make these kind of decisions that he is willing to do whatever is necessary to put his name on a Rays 25-man spot come Opening Day, even if it means abandoning their pre-set agenda of him being the long guy out of the Rays Bullpen.

cr2It also shows to me Ramos wants to garner the same type of versatility and game situational thought process that makes a utility player like Sean Rodriguez an invaluable piece of the Rays game day puzzle. By Ramos going back and trying to stretch himself out again as a starter, it could give the Rays not only another leftie starter, it could ultimately solidify his slot as the Rays long innings eater out of the Pen as well as a spot starter without having to bring someone in from Triple-A Durham in an emergency scenario.

Making yourself an invaluable piece of the Rays machinery has led to a longer Rays tenure for Rodriguez, and it only seems natural for Ramos to also want to secure additional roles or situational ideas with his name imprinted upon Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s mind.  By wanting to take a chance on the Rays 5th rotation spot, even in the short term until Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson come back sometime in late May, Ramos is showing his versatility, willingness to take on challenges as well as show he wants the ball every 5th day this season.

Sure it might only be a gig for 7-8 starts then back into the Bullpen frame of mind, but it can project not only the confidence he has in his pitches, but if the Rays did elect to hand the ball to Ramos, it shows they too understand the commitment whether long term or short is one the leftie would accept again at a moment’s notice.

cr3And that kind of guy down in the Bullpen is needed. You never know when a guy might stiffen up, feel a tweak or just doesn’t have his stuff on a given day and with the Rays confident in Ramos, it makes the decision not only easier, but gives them confidence immediately Ramos will rise to the occasion and take the ball.

A great comparison to what Ramos is trying to achieve is the situation that fell to Andy Sonnanstine late in his Rays tenure.  Sonny was put into the Bullpen with the knowledge he not only has “starter’s stuff” in the way of preparation and stamina, but had the reliever’s mentality at the same time to get the job done in the least amount of pitches, with the least amount of damage until the Bullpen took over the late innings.

And not surprising today during his first Spring Training outing, Ramos survived 2.2 innings of work but did give up 4 hits and 2 runs while fellow 5th spot contenders Eric Bedard got the victory and Jake Odorizzi got his first ever M L B save. Still Ramos faced 12 batters and was added by a sniper-like throw by Evan Longoria to get shifty pinstripe Brett Gardner who was trying to stretch his single to left field into a double at Second Base.

Some might instantly say Ramos was lucky, but every M L B starter knows a little “luck” is more than welcomed during an outing.

cr4I kind of like the idea of Ramos fighting for the 5th rotation slot even if it might be on an interim and abbreviated basis. It puts another usable pitching cog into Maddon’s arsenal as well as doesn’t use up a minor league option on one of the Rays triple-A stars trying to bang their way into the majors. Now it’s up to Maddon and his brain trust to decide if Ramos, who is out of minor league options is their 5th guy until Hellickson hit the mound again, or remains in their long reliever role from this point on this Spring.

Hopefully Ramos will get a few more chances to not only change the minds of Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey and Maddon, but endear himself to all of us as not only Evan Longoria’s old roommate at Long Beach State, but as the versatile guy is truly is……..I hope Ramos get the shot because versatility especially in the pitching area is something special and should be rewarded. 

They are the Unofficial M L B Fraternity Better Known as Gamma (R) Alpha (A) Upsilon (Y) Zeta (Z)

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Recently when asked why he chose to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays instead of the Cleveland Indians, P Mark Lowe said it was the Rays “laid back environment” that made him take their minor league offer this winter. It is a environment that has been cultivated, nursed and pretty well resembles a Fraternity at time than a professional sports team, but in that is also the charm that has materialized into the Rays being the B.M.O.C.’s or Big Men on Campus right now among the Major League Baseball ranks.

tbr1I know that feeling well having been in 2 Fraternities (Delta Theta Chi and Sigma Chi) in my college hazy days. I mean think about it logically here for a second and you too can see the similarities between the two types of organizations and it will come to you that no matter how you slice it, the Rays are a brotherhood that goes beyond the boundaries of the chalk lines, clay and grass.

A lot of these guys bond together as teammates and their friendships go outside the comforts of the game to include golf tournaments, dinners, fishing or hunting expeditions and activities involving Xbox or PS 3 consoles. From the moment these guys first roll into the Rays Spring Training clubhouse to the moment they pack and get ready for time away from the game in the Fall, unity, respect and creating a firm bond on and off the field is paramount.

Another indication that the Rays could be a great fraternal order is they have an insanely creative Advisor/Manager in Joe Maddon (former Zeta Psi frat boy) .  Who else could of come up with penguins named Cliff, a python that is longer than the Rays Bullpen bench, or could get every single person, including his own game day staff and the PR Dept. to coordinate and participate in some wildly creative and highly photographed road trip ensembles.

nerddddsFrom the classic All-White event to their awesome Nerd renditions to dressing in PJ’s, this team laughs at itself and is proud of the sum of their parts from starters, reserves to staffers. All are embraced and celebrated during these road trip ideas, and we have the photos to prove it.  I mean seriously, anyone who has been to college has walked by those hallowed buildings and wondered what really goes on inside, well with the Rays all the hype and magic are open for the eyes to see or look away.

Another similarity is the Rays annual Rookie initiation (I will not call it hazing). There have been some pretty wild costumes ideas over the past from other teams within the M L B Clubhouse halls, but we here in Tampa Bay always search and want to see that year’s edition of rookies and new players parade out to the bus in their selected gear that sometimes you wish you could be unseen, but for some odd reason you can’t seem to look away.

But one of the greatest part of being within the fraternal system is service, and the Rays do that in spades. Every player within the Rays M L B Clubhouse has their special interests, pinpointed cause or a foundation to support the Tampa Bay community.

bgcSome thought that when B J Upton left for ATL only fellow Rays David Price would be left to carry on with the S. St. Petersburg Dugout Club group that instills the great characteristics of staying healthy, positive, and being involved in life while also striving to be role models would crumble. But it didn’t Price got other players like Matt Moore and Desmond Jennings to come on board and keep the spirit of the project alive and striving.

Evan Longoria will donate more than $1 million a season over the life of his contract to the Rays Baseball Foundation, and almost every player on the Rays has written into their contracts or offered voluntarily great contributions that will benefit the Rays charitable arm of the Rays that give out grants and sponsorship’s to those Tampa Bay organizations that need a “help up”, not a hand out. “Paying it forward”, showing civility and acts of service adorn every member of the squad and even to their spouses (Rays Wives organization).

You can ask almost any player who has worn the Rays uniform since Maddon took the torch and they have great and glowing comments on the Rays clubhouse character and the way they play the game of baseball and life.  

rutoroSome of that light can be attributed to Maddon, but other beams of that sunburst has to be shone on the Rays Front Office and their staff for bringing in great men who can contribute to the Rays ideals as well as expand on their foundations and establish new traditions, visual and physical tests to unite and inspire. Remember the gladiator masks, or even Chewy or the Gene Simmons masks of 2013.

Fraternities build a person up inside and out and those values might fade a bit, but they are with you for life after you experience them. I still see 2 of my former Frat brothers at Rays games. Larry is with security, and Clevin is with the St. Petersburg Police Dept. presence at Rays games. We are always glad to see each other and even today talk of some of the past monumental events that formed our Frat lives.

Say what you want about Fraternities. Some people have had bad events, maybe even wanting to forget that portion of their lives, but I relished it. I mean I think all of us can imagine Longoria adorned in a Grand Puba water buffalo helmet after dark on the Charlotte Sports Park boardwalk asking the assembled brood to “Recite after me….I, state your name, do hereby pledge allegiance to the Rays….”

Yep. If I had to give this band of baseball brothers a fraternity name it would have to be Gamma Alpha Upsilon Zeta, or RAYZ (no “S” in Greek Alphabet).  

I swear I hear that old Isley Brothers song “Shout” in the swirling wind here in Port Charlotte. 

 

 

Rays Photo Day Shows Both Sides of the Rays Personalities

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You never quite know what sensibilities are going to “play out” when the Tampa Bay Rays let photographers bring about their own illuminations on the team’s character, or is that characters. You only have to look back to the Feb. 25, 2010 Rays Photo Day shots where the photographer that day used the natural sunlight of Florida as sparkling and illumination points on the photos of that season squad.

2010Sure they were embarking on a new strand of light called the post season that spring and the Sun made more than a few spectacular effects in a variety of photos from that spring’s squad. Then in 2013 it seems the Rays photos were a bit more subdued than usual with some playful spots of individuality, but the photos overall seemed to illustrate a unison or harmony among the troops.

Of the 26 photos already released from the Rays 2014 Photo Day, there is again a underlying theme that clearly is visible and unique all to the Rays way of team chemistry. This spring photos show a calm, a essence of a more tranquil and centered squad of players who see that goal in the cross-hairs and calmly and professionally plan to be the team that “eats last” come November 2014.

eatslastYou see a more relaxed Papa Longoria with the Rays leadership crown solidly planted upon his head along with fellow Clubhouse General David Price presenting himself quite Zen-like in his photos awaiting the approaching Opening Day more with zeal than strife.

But then you have the other side of the Rays coin also displayed in the type of Gasparilla-infused notions and action of Rays reliever Josh Lueke both in his biting of a baseball, to juggling and possibly showing that some fun must come with all the stress of competing and delivering your goal.   

wjbjI enjoy seeing the fight and fire as well as the comedic notions that make up a M L B team. Not everyone can be serious all of the time and sometimes that moment of tongue-in-cheek humor or even dawning a gladiator’s mask can deliver more energy and fight into a group than any Knute Rockne oratory.

The Ying and Yang of this year’s released Photo Day shots also shows the ebb and flow that will ultimately exist within the Rays this year as leaders and jokers can come together tone their antics and abilities to the highest achievement levels and produce memories and events that we will speak about for years.

LLMEFrom the high points of  Longoria who with a consistent effort in 2014 should ultimately by-pass and become the sole Rays all-time leaders in such categories as HR, RBI, Extra Base Hits, doubles and Slugging Percentage before the end of 2014 to Myers who will again be called on provide the same kind of energy, production and raw unharnessed spirit that saw him take home an American League Rookie of the Year trophy, this team will rise and fall on both the chill moments and chaotic scrambles that make up a 162-game campaign.

pllbSure this is but only a 26 frame cross-section of the character and characters of that will become the heart and soul of the 2014 edition of the Rays, but if this is any indication of what we might have in store for us for a 162 game haul…..I’m ready to buckle in and take the rough with the fun for it’s almost time for the games to matter and I can’t wait for that last day in March………..But I don’t think Lueke will have to eat too many balls this year because this team looks and sounds hungry enough to push it to that last meal….and maybe have room for a champagne-infused dessert.

All photos taken by Zimbio.com photographers. They do so many other M L B teams photos each spring. Search their website for your team’s spring photos. I do have a Facebook link with the latest 26 and any additional Rays Photo Day shots I find past the submitting of this blog post.

Tasty 2014 Rays Media Guide Tidbits: Rays Rotation.

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I swear every season when it arrives either in web file form or a hard copy I seem to give off a squeal of joy like a little kid on Christmas morning. That’s right, the 2014 edition of the Tampa Bay Rays Media Guide is sitting in a file on my computer, and I just cannot wait to flip the pages and see what interesting and tasty morsels are hidden within its covers.

We all know it will have the historical pomp and circumstance of the Rays entire franchise’s history, be  a wealth of information on records, oddities and a listing of everyone who has worn a certain number in the team’s history. Wildest part with every year the pages expand just like our history and I truly cannot wait until I have a hard copy in my paws so I can savvy it like a fine chocolate and divide its many layers up throughout the season with little morsels of trivia tidbits for my social media followers (@TheRaysRenegade).

201310022311834681195So without further fanfare, let’s get down to business and make each of us a little smarter or knowledgeable on our team’s players and non-roster invitees this spring.

First off how about learning a tasty bit about our team’s come from behind proficiency in 2013:

The Rays 13 Walk-off victories in 2013 tied the club record set in 2011 and 11 different players recorded a walk-off RBI, most in team history. Only 2 Rays had multiple walk-off hits last season: Jose Lobaton and Desmond Jennings, whose 2-out single on May 27th vs the Miami Marlins drove in Kelly Johnson for a 7-6 win.

Let’s start off the factoid journey with guys who should make up the Rays starting rotation in 2014:

598357_10151201840588429_2142281771_nDavid Price:  David’s foundation, Project One Four had its best fundraising effort in 2013 and raised over $130,000. From its annual banquet, golf tournament and bowling events. On March 29th, in Tampa, Fl., Price will host his 3rd Annual Bowl for Kid’s Sake to benefit the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program. The event raised $27,000. In 2012 and $42,000 in 2013.

Price posted astronomical numbers to rank 1st in the M L B after his return from the DL by posting up 131.1 innings pitched with 4 complete games, 13.8 pitches per inning pitched and 0.89 BB/9 innings pitched. His 2.53 ERA and 9 wins also ranked 3rd in the A L.

th (1)Alex Cobb:  Cobb is a huge supporter of our military fans and with good reason.  His older brother R.J. is a commander in the 4th Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division of the U S Army and was awarded a Purple Heart after a Humvee explosion in Iraq, lodging shrapnel in his hands. His brother made a full recovery and served 16 months in Iraq and returned earlier this year after a short stint in Afghanistan.

Cobb showed superior resilience in 2013 after he posted a 5-1 record with a 2.41 ERA in 9 starts over the Rays final 6 weeks of the 2013 season after sitting out June 16th-August 14 following a concussion after taking a line drive off the bat against Kansas City in the Trop.  “Cobbster” also started in 2 of the Rays postseason victories with a win in the Wild Card game against the Cleveland Indians and Game 3 of the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox

Toby Hall ST Celebrity Golf Tourney 2013 064Matt Moore:  Matt stayed very active this past offseason in New Mexico mixing in bike rides, hot yoga and doing hikes up to 4 hours to extend his energy threshold. (I also know Matt swings a golf club right-handed and is pretty lethal with a putter).

Last season Moore tied for third with the most victories in the American League (17) and had the 2nd highest winning percentage in the AL with a .810 mark due in great part to his stellar 17-4 record.

thChris Archer: During the 2013 offseason in Clayton, NC, Archer was names Mr. Christmas and lit the lights of the city’s Christmas tree. At thanksgiving he handed out 100 Butterball turkeys to needy families.

Despite not arriving in St. Petersburg until the Rays 55th contest, Archer led all rookie hurlers in ERA (3.22), Opponent’s Average (.226), complete games (2), shutouts (2), and WHIP (1.13). He was also 2nd in innings pitched (128.2) and 3rd in wins (9).

Even though Jeremy Hellickson will miss 6-8 weeks of the 2014 early season due to injury, he has to be included as a major cog in the Rays machine in 2014. Time will only tell how long it takes Hellickson to return after having arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies in his pitching elbow.

th (2)Jeremy Hellickson: Hellboy has grown close to Des Moines, Iowa native Carson Cooper who is a 10 yr old who is fighting Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Jeremy along with family friends helped form Kids Living Brave this offseason to help support kids and their families with care packages as they battle cancer. Hellickson put on 2 “Pitch Perfect” baseball clinics this winter as a fundraiser for the organization.

In 2013, Hellickson was the only Rays to reach the 30 starts mark, but saw his ERA blossom to 5.17, the 3rd highest among major league qualifiers. To put this mark fully into prospective, coming into the 2013 season Hellickson had the Rays lowest career ERA at 3.06. Jeremy was 1 of only 2 M L B pitchers to post over 10 wins (12) and have an ERA over 5.00.

Let’s not forget a few facts on the bevy of pitchers who will fight it out this spring for a chance to get a few early season starts as Hellickson mends:

pageAlex Colome: Credits Triple-A Durham Bulls Pitching Coach Neil Allen for a significant change in his mechanics, making him more upright in his delivery. That was significant as Colome did not allow an earned run in his first 2 starts, the first pitcher to do that since San Francisco Giant pitcher Ryan Sadowski in 2009.

Nathan Karns: Made his M L B debut on May 28th in an InterLeague contest against Baltimore versus an Orioles starter who was only making his 2nd career start. Karns went 4.1 innings allowing 3 runs in the Nationals 9-3 victory.

Jake Odorrizo :  During spring training in Arizona a few years ago while in the Kansas City system, Jake and his agent had a close call in the desert when they got lost for 2 hours on four-wheelers as the Sun was setting. They had no water with them and finally found their way home after finding a road. 

Next post, trivia bits on players who should comprise the Rays 2014 Bullpen corps.

Rays Announce First 4 Rays Summer Concert Series Acts for 2014

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Today the Tampa Bay Rays announced the first 4 musical acts that will make up the 2014 Rays Concert Series schedule. As always each concert will be free with the purchase of a game ticket for that date, and the music will fill the tilted roof of the Trop after the conclusion of the game.

th5Z1HT8VOAs has been the tradition, Rays fans can also get a bit “up close and a little personal” with an additional charge for field access passes or wristbands that can be bought before the concert dates on raysbaseball.com/concerts for an additional fee .

thRNAGKX6JOne of the early highlights to the Rays 2014 Concert series schedule has to be the announcement of LA-band Weezer invading Tropicana Field after the Saturday, June 7th game against the Seattle Mariners (4:10 First Pitch). Weezer, who has produced and released 9 studio albums over their tenure will definitely have a “Sweater brigade” section down on the Trop’s turf due to their epic tune, “Undone-The Sweater Song”.

Not to be outdone, Weezer will also entertain the Rays faithful with their tunes “Island in the Sun”, Say it Ain’t So” and a crowd favorite “Beverly Hills”. Weezer has sold over 9 million copies worldwide since their inception in 1992.  The band has delivered iconic music since their debut release, “The Blue Album” to their 2010 triumph “Hurley” which debuted at #6 on the Billboard 200 chart which gave the band an unheard of 6th straight Top 10 album in a row.

But hold your horse, the Rays did not stop there also bringing in one of the best rhythm and Blues act to ever hit vinyl as the O’Jays will strut on the stage on Saturday, June 21st (4:10 First Pitch)after the Rays vs the Houston Astros matchup.

The O’Jays have been dancing into the heart of music lovers for over 40 years and have achieved 10 Gold albums with 9 hitting the Platinum level and have produced 10 #1 hits from the classic “Backstabbers”, “I Love Music”, “Love Train” and the song most people associate with the TV series, “The Apprentice”….”For the Love of Money”. The group also received one of music highest honors being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.

But the fun doesn’t all belong to the adults and tens this Summer, the Rays have also remembered their youngest supporters by bringing in two kid-eccentric musical groups that will definitely have more than a few fans hoping for a nap after their energetic sets and musical numbers.

thHUU6YLWPWithin the foursome of groups announced today one group, The Wiggles will join Z Z Top, Train and 3 Doors Down as a returning Rays musical act asked to return to the Tropicana Field turf on Sunday, September 7th after the end of the Rays and Baltimore Orioles (1:40 First Pitch) afternoon contest.

After being together for a remarkable 23 years together, The Wiggles, who have since their self-titled debut album in 1991. Different from their last visit to the Trop, the group realigned themselves in late 2012 and the former all-male line stepped aside and let another generation take over their kid-errfic fun production. Now you will see Anthony, Lachy, Simon and Emma doing the groups classic numbers and even a few more designed for the ensemble.

Amazingly, The Wiggles have performed over 6,000 show in their career and to put that into a wild perspective, the iconic band, The Rolling Stones have performed just over 1,000 shows in almost double the years as this energetic kid musical group.

But before the Wiggles invade the Trop in September, kids and those kids at heart will get a visit by the Imagination Movers on another Sunday Family Fun Day concert event on July 27th after the Rays and Jays (1:40 First Pitch) concludes. The game will embrace the Rays quest to celebrate Christmas in July with the humorous and all too familiar songs from their great Disney Junior TVas well as holiday classics hoping to transform Tropicana Field into a winter wonderland…for 1 afternoon.

thC6SGKI6QFor more than a decade the foursome has tried to emulate the iconic up-tempo stylings of rock legends the Red Hot Chili Peppers as they sing about healthy snacks, beating those bedtime fears and the baseball classic moment of playing catch. Band member Scott Smith said of their performance energy, “ We hope everyone leaves needing a nap”.

So we have the first 4 announced bans that will highlight an early release of the 2014 Rays Concert Series schedule with a few more to be announced at a later date. We can imagine 1 of those announcements will feature a 80’s band to coincide with the Rays August 2nd Saturday tussle with the Angels.

 All 4 band speak to different Ray’s Republic segments with some excited about Weezer, other wanting to see the legendary O’Jays and all kids young and young-at-heart eager to dance about to The Wiggles and Imagination Movers. This early announcement might not be a Home Run blast, but the team definitely produced a solid double with this foursome and possibly could score a run across Home Plate with another well placed band announcement in the future. I can’t wait.

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