Results tagged ‘ Sean Liston ’
Steve Nesius / AP
No Re-joycing in Rightfield
With the activation of Tamp Bay Rays Designated Hitter Pat Burrell right after the game last night, the team made the corresponding roster move of sending young rightfielder Matt Joyce back down to the Triple-A Durham Bulls. The press release was still hot and wet when the Rays Radio Network broke the news right after the game in their post-game segment. At first this news hit me kind of like a ton of bricks because I truly thought the kid was going to make the transition up here the rest of the season.
Sure he started out like he was going to take names and change minds after hitting two quick hoe runs to make people, think it was “Re-Joyce Time” in rightfield. Even the fact he got two hits off a left-handed pitcher spoke volumes that he had done a bit of the work the Rays asked him to do when he went down first to Durham after spending the first five game up with the Rays while B J Upton was rehabbing after his off-season shoulder surgery. Upon the start of the Sunday game in Baltimore on April 12th he was on his way back to the Triple-A squad ready to work on things and make his way back to Tampa Bay in 2009. Joyce was upset but understood the situation perfectly and vowed to again be patrolling the outfield in the Trop sometime in 2009.
So when the Rays went to Durham and again brought up Joyce on May 30th, it was a sign to the fans that maybe the team was finally considering giving the kid a fair shake in winning the rightfield job during the season. And he did come on like gangbusters hitting the ball his first few games before finally going through a 0 for 15 slide before he was sent out to the Bulls. He was upset about the news, but took it in stride as he told the St. Petersburg Times last night.””Any time you get sent down, it’s not a good feeling. So you just go back to the drawing board, go back down and scratch and claw your way back up.” Coming into the Angels series, Joyce was 0 for 20 lifetime against the team.
Joyce is heading back to the Durham squad with the intention of “tear it up again” in Durham, and “force them to bring you back up.” And that is the kind of reaction you really want to hear from a young star who knows he will again shine bright among the lights of Tropicana field. This is not the last time we will see him in 2009, and you can bet the next time he is up here he will try and make it an extremely difficult decision to send him back down again. Joyce was given some advice and things to work on by Rays Manager Joe Maddon before he left the Rays Clubhouse following their series win against the Los Angels Angels last night.
Joyce will go down to the minors and work a bit on his overall game, including his defense and hopes to again get a chance to make a huge impression this season. During a few games in the Trop., he seemed to have a problem identifying the ball off the roof in the dome and that might have led to a few defensive problems during his time up here. He did not read the ball well off the bat a few times and the ball made it into the Right-Centerfield gap for extra bases.
That is a simple adjustment and recognition program that can be completed easily in the minors. But Joyce has been totally supportive of the decision and is looking forward to more playing time and to prove he belongs here with the Rays. Before he was promoted at the end of May, he was hitting .315 with 5 HR and 27 RBI for the Bulls. He had compiled a 1.000 OPS against right-handed pitching, and a .727 against left-handers.
Pedro Martinez as a Ray?
Oh how Gerald Williams must be all tied up in knots knowing that the Rays might be watching former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez throwing in the Dominican Republic yesterday. How it must be burning in his stomach that the guy who caused such a ruckus with the Rays back in 200 might even be considered for a pitching option. There are numerous reports that not only have the Rays checked out the aging pitcher, but some monetary figures have been exchanged between the two parties.
According to Nick Carfardo of The Boston Globe, Martinez had both the Chicago Cubs and the Rays both exploring what it might take to sign the aging pitcher to their rosters. During his workout the former fireballer was throwing about 94 MPH, which is a nice increase in velocity compared to his pre-surgery speed. Mark Lancaster of the Tampa Tribune said,”I’ve heard that one of the Rays’ officials in the Dominican who has known Pedro for a while just watched him work out, but it doesn’t sound like the team expects anything to come of it.”
A local Tampa Bay television station even commented on their Twitter page that someone was checking out Martinez. And a pretty credible Rays blog,www.RaysIndex.com was reporting that the team did schedule a second workout for Martinez, which is usually a sign of interest. When the World Baseball classic tenure of the Dominican Republic team was over during MLB’s Spring Training, it was reported that Martinez was basically seeking a single year deal in the $5 million range. With the MLB season nearing the 62nd game, that request might have been cut in half to about the $ 2.5 million dollar figure.
Some might say that the aging pitcher would be a great fit in the Rays Bullpen in some capacity. But considering he would supplant someone currently in that unit, it might be a difficult sell to Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Pitching Coach Jim Hickey right now. But even if the Rays have always kept things like this close to their vest pocket, the history with Martinez might not sit well with long standing Rays fans. For the same reason most fans were skeptical of Curt Shilling basically saying he would play for the Rays years ago, Martinez might not be a great fit here. Martinez and Don Zimmer also have their own history, but Zim contends that it is ” by the wayside and ancient history.”
The guys still has the desire and the spunk to pitch in the majors, which is great for him. But the guy might not be a great fit into the Rays bullpen, and definitely can not be seen as a starter right now. Things could happen fast and he will be out of the Rays sights and this all will be dust in the wind. But the idea of adding him to our team kind of upsets my stomach. I admire the girt and the determination, but seeing him brawl on our home field, and throw Zim to the ground is enough for me to print a “VOTE NO FOR PEDRO” t-shirt. Somethings even time can not heal.
Boot Scootin’ Nelson
*** With the Rays getting ready soon to head on out for another road trip, Maddon has picked a “western theme” for the trip out to Colorado to begin their 6-game Inter-League road trip. I am not sure what most of the guys are going to be outfitted in before they board the plane, but hopefully they know that six shooters are not allowed on the plane.
Seriously though, I spoke with Rays reliever Joe Nelson yesterday on what style he was going to pull off for the western theme. He said he was going with the “Yul Brenner circa The Magnificent Seven look”. Nelson already has the hairstyle, and I can see him in the black shirt and maybe even black leather pants, but I am really going to be surprised if he can find a great back cowboy hat to pull it all together. Maybe he can call Keith Millar, who is with the Toronto Blue Jays for a primer on how to “Cowboy Up” before the trip. I personally thought Nelson might go for the Yul Brenner look from Westworld where he played a gunslinging robot, but after the picture, I can see him in a black hat for some reason.Season Ticket Gate Upgrade
The Rays instituted a new Season Ticket holder entrance near Gate 3 earlier this season. There is great news that an awning has been purchased that will expand out from the current gate to shelter fans waiting in that line for enter the stadium hopefully around the All-Star break. This new entrance brings you in right at the service desk at Gate 3 for easy access for signing up for the many contests, or getting with a Season Ticket Representative within a few feet of the doors.
I have used the entrance a few times in the past few months and it is quicker and faster than the present system at Gate 1 where most of the current Season Ticket holders enter the Trop. This also might be a great alternative during the Boston or Yankee series later this year when the general standing area outside Gate 1 gets so crowded and heated at times. It is also a great alternative for the “giveaway” days as the lines will be smaller and less confusion.
RRCollections Familiar Faces in the Videos
If you are in Tropicana Field before the game and look up at the Jumbotron before the game and think you might have seen me on the big screen during the opening minute of the “Ground Rules”, you are correct. As a member of the “Maddon’s Maniacs”, I was invited for a taping before opening day this year to complete a fan version of the typical baseball rules explanation played 81 times a year in Tropicana Field. I got lucky enough to be in the first segments of the new video both in the first clip where you see me banging my over sized black cowbell ( which is now broken almost in half) and during the first two rules of the video.
I have to give props to the Rays vision crew who did most of the stand-in spots in the video and also had the changes and segmented video shoots done fast and professional at all times. Also have to give some acknowledgments to Eric Weisberg, Darcy Raymond and Sean Liston from the Rays Fan Experience department for their ideas to include the Maniacs in this years action. It was a great time, and I did get in a bit of a pickle about two pictures, but all is good in Rays-land. I hope you see a few of your friends in the video and be sure to stop us and say hello. We will be more than happy to chat with you about the “Maddon’s Maniacs” club or just about our hometown Rays.
Now you really want to know why having a guy of this height on your roster is a positive thing, just look at current San Francisco Giant pitcher Randy Johnson. Because of his powerful fastball coming in at a downward angle, bot his power and breaking pitches seem to have a bit moire bite to them at the plate. The intimidation factor is big for a pitcher. And when you are tall and can seem to almost reach out and touch the batter in just your wind-up, it can be a huge mental edge going into a game. I think that Niemann doesn’t have the most powerful stuff on the Rays staff, but he does have the advantage of that downward flow to the plate, which should keep some guys deep in the batters box on him to begin the season.
Now, I addressed a bit of this issue earlier in the blog, but the real guy who is the winner of the Hammel trade is actually reliever Lance Cormier. Just like last season, the last roster spot of the Spring went to a reliever. Last year it was the battle between Grant Balfour and Scott Dohmann, that surprisingly took Balfour to Triple-A to begin the season. But Balfour went down with a chip on his shoulder and actually worked harder than in Spring Training to again get back up to the major league level. This year, Cormier had some fantastic moments on the mound and looked to just be the odd-man out in the Bullpen.
But with Hammel’s trade, it not only opened a long-reliever slot for him, but will give him more time to convince the Rays that he is the man to keep once Jason Isringhausen is ready to make his Rays debut on the roster later in the month. So it will be a short period of time that Cormier will have to convince the Rays to keep him and maybe throw another reliever on the hot seat, or even trade them to keep his arm on the staff. During this spring, Cormier made only 10 appearances for 16.2 innings, but his 1.62 ERA was the highest totals by a Rays reliever this spring. his control was also spot-on all spring, which is evident by his 12 strikeouts and 2 walks. He was the only true reliever to post double digit strikeouts this spring for the Rays. Balfour was just one short with 9 for the Spring.
Rays Watch Parties for Red Sox Series
Fresh off the Internet after midnight tonight I got word from the Rays Fan Experience Coordinator Sean Liston, that the team has finalized plans for watch parties during the Rays Opening series in Boston. These events will also have some samples on hand to check out that will be given out in the home stand starting on April 14th. Among those items on display at the events will be the replica A L Championship ring, the World Series Cowbell, and the mini A L Championship trophy.
But that is not all, on hand before the game will be Mr “Magical Season” himself, Rich Herrera with the Rays pregame and post game shows live at the location. Liston mentions on his email that he want the Maniacs and other Rays fans to shout and cheer so loud the “Rays announcer Rich Herrera can’t hear himself think.” All locations will be in the Tampa and St Petersburg region this series, with additional watch parties to be announced in other areas of Tampa Bay in the future. So be sure to come out and support the Rays, and maybe make some new Rays friends at any of these three locations during the Red Sox versus the Rays series from Fenway Park.
Tuesday, April 7th:
Lee Roy Selmon’s Restaurant, 4301 West Boy Scout Blvd. Tampa Florida ( 813) 871-3287. This location is right across the road from the entrance to the International Mall complex off Sligh Avenue just east of the Tampa International airport. Rich Herrera will begin his Pregame show at 3:30 pm LIVE on WDAE 620 AM radio.
Wednesday, April 8th:
Smokey Bones Restaurant, 8020 Citrus Park Drive, Tampa, Florida ( 813)920-9434. This location is located just west of the Veterans Expressway ( Toll) at the Gunn Highway Exit. Rich Herrera will start the pregame at 6:30 pm LIVE on WDAE 620 AM radio.
Thursday, April 9th:
Hooter’s Restaurant 10400 Roosevelt Blvd, St. Petersburg, Florida ( 727) 568-0685. This restaurant is located off Roosevelt Blvd just east of 9th street North between 4th Street North. It is hidden a bit off the road just to the east of the Walgreens in the shopping plaza. Rich Herrera will begin his pregame show at 6:30 pm LIVE on WDAE 620 AM radio.
Ex-Ray Gomes Does Everything but sells popcorn for Reds
With the final rosters having to be submitted to Major League Baseball by 3 pm on Sunday, one former Rays player did not make his respective teams 25-man rosters for the 2009 season. This one was a complete surprise, because of the comments and posturing of his manager in recent discussions about the player. Jonny Gomes not making the final Reds roster was a bit of a surprise since he seemed to have hit the ball well and was very active in the field during his spring training tryout with the Cincinnati Reds as a non-roster invitee. He started off real strong in the beginning of Spring Training, but did tail off a bit and ended up hitting .244, with a team high 4 homers and 12 RBI’s. Red’s blogs the last few days have voiced their opinions loud and clear as to the demotion and sending of Gomes to the minor leagues. Cincy GM Walt Jocketty told Cincinnati.com that he hopes that Gomes accepts the minor league designation.
But Gomes was trying to do everything in his power to make this squad, even trying to take reps at a position he has not played a lot during his major league career. This spring, Gomes was trying to be the back-up plan that first base for the Reds, but now that he is not on the squad, that duty will fall to current catcher Ramon Hernandez, who has played the position only 7 times during his own MLB career. Gomes was jobless from Dec. 13, when the Tampa Bay Rays, the only organization he had played for, announced they wouldn’t offer him a contract, to Jan. 19, when he signed with the Reds. “I wouldn’t recommend getting non-tendered to any ballplayer,” Gomes said. “But it’s a way to get you ready for spring training. I just came in ready for anything. You never know what you’re going to be asked.”
In Gomes’ case, that has included learning a new position. Gomes has done all the Reds have asked and more. You pretty much completely discount early spring training stats – unless you’re in Gomes’ position. He knew he had to get off to a decent start to remain in the running for the left field/extra outfielder spot. But how did Gomes think he did during this spring to make it a tough decision for the Red not to sue him this year. “Not being on the 40-man, minor-league invite. When it comes down to cut time, you don’t have a good argument when you have 21 at-bats Gomes told me the other night. “I had to come in here ready, physically, mentally, all of the above. I felt I have.”
Gomes’ situation is not completely foreign to him. He spent some time on the fringe of the roster with Tampa Bay. “I know how that feels,” he said. “Coming up through the minor leagues without establishing myself as a big leaguer, I played winter ball a lot. A few seasons, I was into early February playing winter ball still. I always felt that was an advantage for me. This year, not being on a roster, I just felt I couldn’t risk going down there and getting hurt. I had to do my own work in the cage. You do what you’ve got to do.” Well, personally Jonny, I hope they see the errors of their ways and get you back into a Reds uniform soon. You are the type of player every team needs in their dugout, and in their clubhouse. I know I would play you on my squad if I was a manager.
As usual, Sean Liston, who is officially listed in the Rays front office description as the Coordinator of Fan Experience, could best be described as the wildest front office member in the MLB. I actually mean that in a good way. He reminded me of myself at 24, you might remember the feeling open to the world’s sarcastic and wild notions of fairness and irony, but also naive enough to know life can be a roller coaster with great results. I miss those times. As he usually does when we first get together, he was instrumental in getting us motivated for the upcoming shoot, and also made sure we knew the process we were about to embark on, and that it will be time consuming to say the least.
So because of this impending painting adventure, we had to walk around towards Gate 4, which is located at the SW corner of the stadium to enter without disturbing any painting or prep work on the floors. As we walked through the stadium exterior, we got to see the players’ cars down in the South lot, and a few people were trying to figure out who cars were in the lot. I knew who drove two of the cars, and pointed them out to a few people as we walked around the dome. When we finally reached the building entrance, we strolled in to a entrance way that was already decked out in the new colors and designs. Walking behind the home plate suites and party areas, we could see that they also were getting some renovations and paint changes this off season. But the wild part was the awesome paint design of the Rays blue followed by a yellow striping on the stadium entrance hallways that seemed to draw you into the stadium bowl.
Once inside the bowl, you got that giddy anticipation of excitement and anxiousness of the impending fun. We all walked down towards the bottom of the section that was located right behind the Visitor’s Bullpen area and took our seats in the first 6 rows of the section. I did not even notice the number of the section, but I am going to guess we were in the 127-129 section of the seating bowl. Again Liston was in there leading a few Rays cheers and getting the crowd worked up into a lather for the “Ground Rules” producer and staff waiting on us to all get seated for the shooting. It was then that I began to take in a wild view of the entire re-works and updates to the stadium since we last saw it after Game 2 of the 2008 World Series.
So as we sat there wondering how we might be utilized for the video we got word that this segment will be played before every home game in 2009. The video group that does the in-stadium entertainment for the games has only been with the Rays now for two seasons, but they have proven in the past to be a great addition to the Rays entertainment value with their awesome skits and video shorts during the 2008 season and playoff run. About this time we also learned that the Rays were trying to formalize a Rays fans viewer party at a local wing joint. As we sat there, we were reminded that it might not be finalized today, but if it is, we would get information about it after the shoot. ( No news yet, but I will get it right to you if it breaks this weekend).
I am not going to bore you with all the rules we shot today, but a few of them are really funny, and I will have a few close-ups since they put me in the front row for the first segments of video shots. They also decided to give me a close-up during a foul ball segment based on my glove coming up, and the female director loved my blue eyes. Ahh, the Cal Ripken Jr. eyes do it again for the third year in a row. the Rays invited a local youth baseball league ( the Burg League ) to also be used as young fans and also give themselves some great publicity during the shoots. But I have to tell you, that is why I was never a counselor at a camp or youth academy as a kid. Having 40 kids running around behind us all yelling for Raymond, who decided to pop out and show off his 2009 style and mannerisms to us today.
But in the end, after 4 hours of kids shuffling in their seats and multiple takes and angles on the video segments, we got to take a take our leave of this great stadium. As I was walking out we did the last take on a video segement to be sued during the ” Emergency” segment. But as I strolled out into the concourse, I was greeted by a huge Foggdog-type decal of B J Upton on the stadium inner walls. It seems that the Rays have placed these huge wall sized photo decals of their star players all over the blue wall of the stadium for the fans enjoyment this year. I loved seeing some of the great additions and the grounds keeping crew beginning to put the touches on the infield clay and foul lines.
But the wildest adventure of the year is the formal announcement that the “Maddon’s Maniacs” are now an official club of the Rays. From that first meeting with maybe 50-75 of us crammed in the upper area of what is now the second floor of the Ted William’s Museum, we have grown and grown daily to now take on guidance and leadership from MLB Advanced Media. That is the true test that you have made it, when the New York office of baseball leads your around the stumbles and the tumbles of becoming a great arm of the fan experience.
So before the games when they begin to play the “Ground Rules” up before the crowd in the stadium, I know I will get nervous every game. Now I have been a a few of these videos over the years, plus on the “First Pitch” cover, but now my big mug will be up there every game for the entire year/ I hope I do not embarrass the Rays or the “Maniacs” with my quirky looks and sarcastic expressions. But what I am most proud of is the fact that this small group of devoted fans has grown and grown so much that the team now had formulated them into a formal club like the “Golden Rays” or “Rays Rookies” organizations. It makes me so proud to know that the spirit and the passion of the fan’s has seen such an increase in the last 3 years. The sky is the limit, but knowing that the club is now officially a part of Rays baseball forever is the greatest gift for some of us today. The video is just icing on the cake, and I love cake!
Photo credits: All photos are by RRCollections today.