Results tagged ‘ Tampa Bay Rays ’
Some say that is the first phrase uttered by those in denial or left wanting for an answer. Two words shouted to the heavens asking for some divine or intelligent intervention into how their beloved team could have fallen this far from their past grace and the lofty expectations transposed on this team even before they began play in April.
No one who follows, plays for or works with the Tampa Bay Rays could of possibly imagined this stark reality that would be evident about this team’s 2014 campaign 5 months later. No matter the Rays rise or fall during these terse 6 months, no one envisioned the team not playing for anything in the last 10-odd games of their season.
So maybe it is time to possibly throw out some opinions, rely on some facts and maybe come to terms with a season that sent us on a pure emotional rollercoaster ride to the greatest heavens and at time tumbling right back down to Earth with the stark realization that sweat, talent and confidence are not the sole catalysts to winning games.
Remember as you read this, it is only my personal guesswork and not a certification of the direction the team will take, should of taken or will entertain this winter….It is just my humble words thrown out for everyone to dissect into a million characters. Enjoy.
What if the Rays had signed free agent Nelson Cruz as their Designated Hitter? Would he have duplicated his 2014 season in Carolina Blue?
This was actually a question someone asked me on Sunday and it does have merit, but I think besides the steroid residue that would have followed Cruz here to Tampa Bay, the $8 million the Orioles paid Cruz might have been a bit steep for the Rays to handle financially. Plus the Rays Clubhouse culture might not have been a good fit for Cruz, but we also will never know if he could of adjusted and been a key component of this year’s squad.
Who knows, Cruz should be a free agent after the season, and with him showing he can still power the ball as well as be steroid free, the Rays would kick the tires, but even with Cruz’s current ‘14 resume of 39 HR and 106 RBI (as of 9/22) it might not be enough as a ‘15 salary seeking $ 9-10 million and someone wearing his favorite #23 jersey (Jake Odorizzi should quickly end the Rays interest.
What if Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb and Matt Moore had stayed injury free?
Wow! Without a shadow of a doubt this team would have been different. Would it have been enough change to possibly change the end of the season outcome…..Without a doubt, but I’m a card carrying optimist.
But that doesn’t mean I would be calling out another revival of rising to the Rays 2008 level, or anticipated the backward tumble of 2009. I hate to admit it, but a few good things did happen for the Rays rotation because of those setbacks.
We found out the true fire and nature of Chris Archer, Cobb when he got healthy took the reins and never let go possibly posting one of the 6 best ERA (with possibly 2 starts to go) in the American League….And we saw the maturation process that beset Jake Ordorizzi from rookie nerves and indecision to transforming into a true 5th starter for this team.
What if we had held onto David Price instead of trading him to Detroit?
This is a question that will take a few more seasons before we know the true essence of this trade. I am also one of those anxious to see how young prospect Willy Adames advances in the Rays farm system. Also a post Trade Deadline Price has produced a 3-4 record and a 4.09 ERA (possibly 2 more starts) since the trade, the Southpaw sent as a left-handed option for the Rays rotation has been pretty Price-like. Drew Smyly posted a 3-1 record with a 1.70 ERA while also putting up 44 K’s on 47.2 innings.
I think this trade worked in the Rays future favor as Smyly is a salary friendly option and Adames is already viewed by some as a future Rays SS and he is still at the Class-A level.
What if Wil Myers had not missed 81 games with his wrist injury?
My ESPN Fantasy League stats predictions for Myers showed him posting numbers like: 81 runs, 25 HR, 91 RBI and a .267 average. At the beginning of 2014 he was owned by a majority of the teams in the leagues, but today only 35.3% of people have stuck with Myers.
His offensive output was missed extremely by the Rays, but his absence also got us a great introduction to some future Rays “Outlaw” ways. If you had to find any shining moment out of Myers pain it was the pure fact we got to see over 103+ games with Kevin Kiermaier on the squad. With them both playing together here in the latter days of the season, we might be witnessing transformation of the Rays outfield to a bit more speed and aggression in 2015.
What if Grant Balfour had retained that same fire and not lost some of his edge?
When Balfour signed that 2-year contract everyone was on his bandwagon. After a few stellar years showing his stuff on the West Coast with the A’s, the Rays envisioned Balfour taking the back end of the Bullpen and stabilizing it while Jake McGee slowly moved his way to that spot.
Balfour’s falling from grace and possibly a bit of “dead arm” for a spell pushed McGee into the spotlight and for a guy doing the closer’s role for the first time, his game was more hit than miss. With Balfour taking a step back into a set-up role now I can see the Rays using him as bait to a team that might need a proven closer and potent rally killer. This is not to mean the Rays will accept small fish for Balfour, but he could easily be in another uniform if the right return can be found for him.
Okay, that is just a few of the “what If” trains of thought that were thrown my way during the last home stand. After these final 6 away games the Rays will conclude their season, return to the Trop and pack for home.
At that moment the questions will immediately change from “What if” to “What can we expect” as we begin another off season with question galore and many 2015 answers to ponder.
What direction can we expect the Rays to go?….T B D.
Rays “Man about the Stands” Todd Kalas has informed us all that with a Kansas City or Oakland win tonight (9/19/14), the Rays will be mathematically eliminated from any more post season banter in 2014.
With that in mind, it is time for the second installment of “Peering through the Rays Looking Glass” and focus today on the Rays pitching corps for 2015.
Going into the spring of 2015 this has to be one of the most secure spots within the Rays organization, but there are some changes that could, should or will happen before the boys again unpack their gear in Port Charlotte in February 2015.
So let’s start with the obvious first here. The Rays rotation might need a few tweaks, but there also might be an omission or deletion before the team again assembles for that yearly pre-Spring pep talk by Joe Ma on the green grass.
I definitely have been hearing great things on the progress of Matt Moore in his rehab and come spring, I consider him 1-L on the Rays starting rotation chart. Sure that might seem funny to some, but has been the case here in Tampa Bay for some time, there are 2 starters who deserve that # 1 position heading into 2015.
Of course I have already assigned one half of that equation to Moore, and it only seem appropriate and totally earned that Alex Cobb will be the Rays 1-R or top right-handed option heading into next season. I’m not going to attach either to a #1 or #2 slot basically because I’m not sure yet which kind of order the Rays Front Office and Rays Manager Joe Maddon and Rays Pitching Coach Jim Hickey envision to be the best fit.
That being said, these two names will be at the top of the chart no matter the decision, and that decision will also fully decide the 3-5 slots also.
Just as the Rays #1 and #2 Rays pitching matchups are probably months away from being in some sort of concrete mode, the Rays # 3 and #4 spots might also be a total guess work right now and are totally interchangeable at this moment.
But even with that in mind, Rays left-hander Drew Smyly and Chris Archer should definitely be more than penciled in as the Rays middle rotation guys with either taking the #3 or #4 slot possibly based on a L-R-L-R rotation mix or Maddon could go L-R-R-L giving the Rays possibly a southpaw in every series being blanketed by a tough right-hander.
Even though Jake Odorizzi produced a very respectable 2014 season and popped out great starts throughout 2004, I suspect he will face a nice dose of competition this spring to hold onto the Rays 5th rotation spot. I can easily imagine Merrill Kelly, Alex Colome and possibly a veteran being signed by the Rays on the cheap to battle it out in spring training for this last rotation slot.
As Maddon always says, “Pitching sets the tone” again in 2015 on just how far or how low the Rays end up early or late in the American League East standings.
You might notice I did not include Jeremy Hellickson this rotation list. I think that this winter the Rays will definitely offer him up as a trade piece not only because he seems a bit injury prone, but because his salary is only going to rise and he might not be the solid investment for the Rays he was just 2 seasons ago. I would not be surprised if a change of scenery sparks Hellboy back into a frenzy quite possibly to the heights experienced by former Rays P Scott Kazmir this year in Oakland.
Some have labeled 2014 a disaster year for the Rays because of their less than .500 overall record and their lack of offensive excellence, but the Rays found out in 2014 that this young staff will step up, will compete and will produce wins even with a less than desired run support by the field players.
But there is also another set of hurlers who will have a say in 2015 and just how far and fast the Rays can rebound again to regain their winning ways.
Leftie Jake McGee has more than shown us in 2014 that he has the right stuff to be our last line of defense, but some of the other pieces of the Rays Bullpen puzzle might have bigger question marks after lackluster 2014 seasons.
Bruce Boxberger’s pitching arm definitely will get him another shot in 2015 to stay at the M L B level, and if he can stay consistent, his spot on the Rays roster can only grow more secure with each great outing.
Even though Grant Balfour has another year on his contract with the Rays, he might be a nice piece of bait to wiggle out there for a team that needs a veteran closer who never lets his baseball fires burn out. I like Balfour and his fire, but the money spent on him could be used to bring in 2 relief pieces and with a team that will be pinching pennies ‘til they scream, Balfour is a cautiously expendable commodity that could be in high demand somewhere else this winter.
You might think the Rays might have an easy decision to make this winter on Joel Peralta, who has been a fine set-up piece for the team. Starting this winter, the Rays hold 3 different club options on Joel in 2015-17. I do not see Peralta going anywhere, but depending on the size of cuts the team will have to make on payroll heading into 2015, his worth to the Rays teeters more on the good side than bad.
Alex Colome, who is now out of minor league options could be key pieces to any 2015 realignment of the Rays bullpen. Colome could easily be either the Rays 5th starter, spot starter or just inherit the long reliever slot in the bullpen. Colome has at least 2 more starts in the Rays rotation in 2014, but an impressive 2015 spring could hoist his name easily as a 5th slot contender.
With young relievers like Steve Getz, Brandon Gomes, Jeff Beliveau, Cesar Ramos, Kirby Yate and even C J Riefenhauser getting time this year to impress the Rays in extended looks and chances in 2015, one of the Rays next waves of players being selected from the minors might have a definite reliever flavor.
Some might think the name of the Rays Reliever of the Year and current Durham Bulls closer Adam Liberatore should be pushed onto this list. Sure he will get a spring major league camp invite, but the Rays still have a hand full of minor league options on him and could bring him in more for seasoning and extended work with the M L B staff than promote him before quite possibly September 2015 or a more realistically during 2016.
Sure the Rays will sign a few veteran and even productive name to spring camp, but I do see the Rays current young and hungry relievers fighting them off tooth and nail to be a part of the Rays machine come late March 2015.
Each of the above relievers should get a chance in the latter stages of 2014 to make impressions and even get a longer look this upcoming spring in the major league camp and it would not surprise me if more than 3 of them break camp with a 25-man secured spot.
The pure unadulterated strength of the Rays heading into 2015 is their great pitching and the depth of said commodity in their farm system.
This is a time where the Rays could find more than a few intricate pieces of their 2015 puzzle with very affordable and team controlled contracts that could help the team survive and thrive through the lower payroll expectation of 2015.
It is possible the team might look to shave $20-30 million this winter and if that does come to reality, Hellickson, Balfour and quite possibly Peralta might be the viable and most costly options that get more than a few long and hard looks as to their worth in the Rays pitching corps.
“Offensively we’ve been challenged this year, but today their guy was that good. We have to be the 2007 Rockies the rest of the way”.
This pressure-filled quote was uttered by Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon after his squad let an extremely important win pop out of their grasp today against the Boston Red Sox.
I am all for pumping up the guys in the Rays Clubhouse right now, getting their juices flowing and honing their focus, but bringing up a team that won 21 of their final 22 games to clinch a post season slot.
With 25 games to go in the 2014 season and the Rays currently being 14 games back in their division, the fight for another American League East championship has sailed.
So with that seasonal goal firmly off the table, the team can realign their focus on gaining one of the two American League Wild Card slots. Another good trading point for Maddon is the ’07 Rockies captured the National League Wild Card slot that season, then magic began to happen.
But I know one thing Maddon will not remind the Rays players is the pure fact that Colorado finished the 2007 season a ½ game behind N L West Division winner, the Arizona Diamondbacks and won 90 games that season.
So possibly in comparing the Rays chances to the last season magic of that inspiring Colorado squad might be cutting the Rays odds a bit close to the razor’s edge, but if Maddon could pull this off in the same fashion as the Rockies, it might also be a slice of pure brilliance from the Rays skipper.
So that leaves a viable chance still for the Rays to make a few waves towards securing a AL Wild Card slot and the Rays are currently 8.5 games out in that race. To makes the waves even a bit harder to tame is the fact 2 AL East teams are in front of the Rays as well as a fired-up Seattle squad that is less than ½ game out of pushing Oakland behind them.
Even more interesting is the fact that the Cleveland Indians are also firmly in the hunt for October and they play the Rays in a season ending 3-games series in C-Town that could have more even more significance if the Rays surge, or the Indians stay tightly gripped to the Wild Card race and the Rays could play spoilers.
But let me throw a little more honesty out while I’m at it here. That same 2007 Colorado squad after winning 21 of those 22 games kept the winning charm alive by popping off 7 straight victories to eliminate the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS and their NL West rival D-Backs to claim the National League Championship.
And in the end, winning 28 of those 29 games didn’t help as they met a swirling buzz saw in the World Series. Boston didn’t want any part of the Rockies “Purple Haze” form of winning and quickly eliminated any Rockies revival by beating them in 4 straight to take the 2007 World Series.
As long as this Rays team still have even a 0.01 percent chance of garnering a post season dream, I’ll believe in the magic because the alternative is something I do not wish to imagine until it slaps me hard in the face.
But then again, Maddon is a bike guy and may just know how much pressure he can put on his Rays bike tire before it blows Guess we shall find out.
And so it begins.
The Texas Rangers are the first team that has been mathematically eliminated from any chance at a 2014 post season berth.
From this point on that number will grow constantly until the final 10 spots are secure and the celebration champagne flows around the league.
Sure I want to see the Tampa Bay Rays in that hunt until the end, and possibly get a chance to fight again even if it is Game 163 to claim that glistening trophy. If this team needs any visual reminder of how they are respected around baseball……just play the video above.
It sucks that once again the Rays are not included in clips showing spectacular game ending plays, walk-off heroics or even a hint of pitching brilliance. That video in itself would make me work a bit harder, grind a bit longer and produce a bay of salty sweat to grip another post season chance.
Sure time is passing quickly for any rise of the Rays to get within single digits of even a chance at an American League East title. But maybe, just maybe if this team can duplicate their recent road magical essence at home, they could easily erase a few competitors, start a righteous climb up the Wild Card ladder and grasp a chance of baseball in October.
This Rays home stand will decide if they travel upward or slide down further out of any contention.
. To add a little bit of spice and additional drama to the mix is the pure fact the Rays play 22 of these final 28 game against their A L East rivals.
That’s right, the Rays only have 2 sets of 3-game series against the Chicago White Sox (@ home) and the Cleveland Indians (in C-town) outside the confines of the A L East.
The Rays have will play Baltimore Orioles only 3 more time ( 3-Home) this season, the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees each 6 more times ( 3-Home, 3-Away) this season.
It is no longer about playing .500 ball over the rest of the season.
During their current AL East only home stand, the Rays might have to win 7-8 of these contests to make their future a bit brighter before they head on a 6-game New York, Toronto road trip.
Now is the time to win at all costs, it is truly time for this Rays squad to fully articulate and embrace that this home stand is the true essence of a proverbial “Put up or shut up” moment.
Now is the time for the Rays to truly leave it all on the field.
I am a huge dog and overall animal fan. I have on numerous occasions told people that my pure black German Shepherd Hansel was my DFF (Dog Friend Forever). Animals have dotted my entire life and sometimes I do get an affliction of treating them almost like another human.
So maybe it is just me, but I’m appalled at the recent video surfaced on August 21st showing a man with his dog on a leash basically beating discipline into his dog while traveling in a closed elevator while staying at a hotel in Vancouver, BC.
Sure we all have disciplined our pets, but not while they are seated on an elevator floor and by kicks to their middle regions or applying foot to hind quarters. For me it was a newspaper slight pop and putting their nose near their badly placed deposits. And neither of these actions were done out of anger, frustrations or even a hint of hurting my beloved pet.
Subsequently after the British Columbia SPCA viewed the actions a search warrant was issued for Desmond Hague the current CEO of Centerplate Inc., which is the largest food services vendor that provides food options for us locally at Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Lightning, Orlando Magic games and at many other major sports venues in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
Even though the investigation into the animal abuse case involving Hague is on-going, it will be interesting to see how this event will effect in-stadium sales for Centerplate for the rest of the baseball season and possibly hurt the conglomerate during the upcoming MLB post season.
Hague has issued an apology for his actions, but maybe it is a bit too late to possibly fend off the extremely negative effect such actions will have on devote animal loving fans and if the vendor will feel any significant financial pains while the case is open.
I can definitely see fans possibly making a choice in the coming weeks by possibly invoking an in-stadium silent protest and just stroll by the Centerplate booths instead buying their food items at Centerplate vendors located within your stadium or arena.
Centerplate also caters the Rays VIP areas like the suite area, Dex Imaging Home Plate Club, Hancock Bank Club, 162 Landing, Papa John’s Bullpen Box, Left Field Terrace, and new Back Porch group seating areas. They also provide food and beverage items for the Everglades Brewhouse and the Rays Press Club.
But even if you feel Centerplate should feel some sort of financial pain because of their CEO’s disregard, the vendor might not be the only one to feel less dollars in their pocket because of this animal abuse.
A lot of the charities or team organizations also run booths that have to use Centerplate food and drink items and they could also feel a significant pinch to their fundraising efforts if fans decide to boycott buying in-stadium food or beverage items.
Even worse, the beer, ice cream and cotton candy vendors who patrol both the bowl and upper deck areas are independent contractors who do not work for Centerplate but work on a commission basis when they sell you that cool beverage or neon-colored cotton candy. Such a protest could affect them.
So if you do plan a silent protest of Centerplate please be sure decide individually who you want to hurt the most.
You are permitted to bring outside food into Tropicana Field as long as they fit into these parameters. All items must be for individual or single family consumption. The items should be wrapped, bagged or contained in individual proportions in a soft-sided container not to exceed 16 in. by 16 in. by 8 inches. Only sealed water bottles no larger than 1 liter and child single-serving juice boxes are permitted into the stadium.
I’m a firm believer in discipline in your animals, but not by forcing fear of physical retaliation into their training or projecting violent interactions with an animal that can’t defend or speak for themselves.
My actions is in no way a negative reflection on the Rays overall organization, their staff and hope my stand is not viewed as a disapproval of their connection with Centerplate because no one could of seen this event coming without psychic ability.
But I feel strongly about this issue and have decided to partake in this action on my own, but if others want to follow my action……
As of this moment, and during the rest of the Rays 2014 season (which hopefully extends into October), I personally do not plan on buying a single food or drink item from a Centerplate operated stand.
I do however plan to show support for the volunteer fundraising organizations throughout the Trop. by donating to their cause via tips not food or drink purchases, the tips will never touch the hands of Centerplate and will be the sole monetary property of that organization.
The fundraising organizations should not be collateral damage for this event and hopefully will see a lot more tips coming their way.
I’m going to eat before I hit the stadium for a while and lug around a 1-liter bottle of Aquafina I purchased before entering Tropicana Field. It is as much in a sign of protest as it is cheaper on my wallet overall and will give me my own small sense of doing the right thing.
I worked with Centerplate for many years as their Pepsi representative and most of the employees, supervisors and managers are good people who would or could not do such actions privately.
I am venting my disgust upwards way beyond their pay grades to the highest level who has done the unthinkable in my opinion. I am not an active animal right activist, but I do believe in the fair treatment of all creatures not mosquito, brown recluse spider or cockroach, but that is just me.
Unfortunately I do not have the means or proper media influence to let the visiting fans coming into the Trop know about this event. But hopefully the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, Yankees and White Sox faithful are abreast of the Centerplate situation and will take their own actions.
Hopefully Hague will get what coming to him in the coming months, but even in Canada you can’t strike Hague in punishment with the same swiftness he hit his defenseless dog.
I learned earlier today that former Rays batboy and Toronto Blue Jay hurler Litsch had officially announced his retirement during an interview with Jeff Sammut on Sportsnet 590 The Fan.
I’m a bit sad right now.
It truly sucks to learn that one of my baseball friends has decided to hang up his spikes for good because I know the game will miss his energy, determination, comedic antics and well as his steadfast perseverance.
But I’m also extremely glad because those same traits makeup a firm foundation for a great teacher of the game’s nuances and skills. So it’s going to sting a bit knowing Litsch has thrown his final pitch as an MLB player, but I’m excited as he embarks on another journey possibly having the thrill of coaching another player towards their goal of pulling on a MLB jersey.
I respect and admire Jesse for his want to give back to the game that has given him so much. Not just in money, but in lasting friendships, great connections and a boatload of memories that will spill out forever when conversing with his baseball and non-baseball friends and future students.
He might never have known this, but I used to be one of the first people into the Trop back when Jesse was a batboy for the Tampa Bay Rays. Sometimes I would just sit there in my usual seat at the bottom of Section 138 and watched silently as Jesse took side tosses and suggestions from former Rays Pitching Coach Bill Fischer.
You could see in Jesse’s concentration he had that special form of girt and want to become a success. I have to tell you, even back then while still a young hurler at Dixie Hollins, he had a nice drop on his curve ball and seemed to be toying with a cutter.
So it was no surprise to me Jesse would be drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2004 MLB Draft. Then a little over 3 years later, on July 31, 2007, Jesse got to walk out to the Tropicana Field pitchers mound in his home town as his name bounced and echoed throughout the stadium.
I was there in the right field stands that night and remember well Litsch strolling to the mound in the bottom of the 1st inning and was on my feet to the dismay of some cheering for him as he made his exit after 6.2 innings of work.
I’m also glad to have gotten to know Litsch off the field as I attended his last 4 Jesse Litsch and Bechtel Financial Celebrity Golf Tournaments and got to witness another side of him that will only help him in his future endeavors.
Godspeed my friend.
I was especially proud and honored this past weekend to hear that Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon decided to honor the “American Legion” brand of baseball spirit.
American Legion unique style of baseball was first proposed during a speech by Major John L. Griffith (then collegiate commissioner of the Western Conference or called the Big Ten today) during a state convention in Milbank, South Dakota back in 1925. Griffith centered his comments towards the role athletics can play in the development of youth.
Griffith stated to the assembled American Legion members: “Athletic competition teaches courage and respect for others, fostering their growth into active citizens.”
The South Dakota convention agreed and passed a resolution urging the Legion to create an organized summer baseball league that started each June and ended with a World Championship series. American Legion’s 1925 National Commander James A Drain backed the resolution and was easily passed during that year’s National Convention in Omaha, Nebraska.
The American Legion held its first World Series in 1926 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where a team from Yonkers Post 321 defeated a squad from Pocatello, Idaho. A World Series was not held in 1927 due to the rising costs of attending the American Legion’s National Convention in Paris, France, but soon the Legion found a common ground benefactor to help nurture the development and funding of its young baseball program.
Early in 1928 the Legion’s Americanism Director Dan Sower had a plan to help keep the Legion baseball league solvent. Sowers attended an executive meeting of Major League Baseball hoping to catch a sympathetic ear of then Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The M L B Commissioner pledged a $50,000 annual donation and within 2 years’ time the Legion baseball program expanded to include teams from every state plus the District of Columbia.
During the lean years of the Great Depression, MLB had to rescind their $50,000 a year endowment, but as the economy rebounded so did their contribution that started again at $25,000 in 1935 and gradually worked its way back to the original donation amount. M L B now contributes about 3 % of the total budget.
Since its inception in 1925, the American Legion baseball program has grown tremendously to now sporting over 5,400 teams from all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Almost 100,000 young players ages 15-19 pull on American Legion jerseys annually. Nearly 60 % of all current college players are graduates of the Legion baseball program.
M L B has help fund American Legion baseball almost since its inception and Legion baseball has produced a huge bevy of M L B prospects. The amount of former Legion ballplayer who go onto the professional ranks increases with every season and it is estimated more than half of all current major leaguers have Legion roots.
From fresh-faced M L B rookies playing short season summer baseball to current M L B players and Baseball Hall of Fame members, many got their true starts towards a professional career by playing Legion ball.
Hall of Famer Yogi Berra played for the Fred W. Stockholm Post 245 in St. Louis, Mo and was once heard saying American Legion ball was” the most fun he ever had.” Ted Williams pulled on a Legion jersey for a post back in San Diego, California.
Frank Robinson helped lead his Oakland, Calif. Squad to the only back-to-back World Series win in Legion ball history.
Babe Ruth however never got a chance to play Legion baseball as he was too old to participate during its younger years but spent the final years of his life promoting the Legion program as its director of operations.
Even though Maddon chose Post 14 as his local Post, it is not one of the most prolific American Legion baseball programs in Tampa Bay. That honor goes to Post 248 in Tampa, Florida which produced such future M L B players as Luis Gonzalez, Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield.
American Legion baseball even has another great ambassador who played on the gridiron in Bob Griese who played for the Evansville, Indiana post who were the American Legion champs in 1964.
Here is just a small list of some of the current M L B players who have their baseball roots firmly planted within the American Legion program: Cliff Lee (Benton,Ark), Justin Verlander (Post 201), Drew Stubbs and Will Middlebrook (Texarkana), Craig Kimbrel (Post 15), Jason Motte (Post 152), Chad Billingsley (Post 300), Jackie Bradley Jr. (Post 146), Brian Wilson (Post 27), Madison Bumgarner (Post 29) and many, many more…..
American Legion baseball is something truly special and I was thrilled to be a part of it back in the late 70’s playing for Post 14. And even though Post 14 never advanced to the World Series while I was playing Third Base, it solidified my personal growth and life foundation through competition, unity of team and created experiences I have used throughout my life.
Playing Post ball helped mold me tighter and wiser as a person while also embracing the spirit of the organization and embracing as well as respecting and honoring for those who fought bravely for our freedoms.
Some people see the High Schools and college systems as the feeder systems towards a M L B career. I hope this post shows that the American Legion program has deep roots within the American game of baseball and its presence is only going to increase.
I am glad Maddon decided to embrace this past weekend as an American Legion weekend and that he rewarded those in attendance Friday night in Post 14 by picking up that night’s bar tab of over $550.
I wasn’t there that night but if I was, I would have raised my glass high and saluted Major Griffith for having the foresight to embrace a Legion baseball program and giving so many of us great Legion memories.
I mean as the banner said that was displayed in the Rays Clubhouse, Post 14 is “The Fun Post”.
(Jenn McKenney/Photo Credit)
The Trop pre-game fan rituals, they will be a-changing…..and not by our choice.
So if you are one of those eager young or old autograph hounds, or want a photo with your favorite Rays player, it just got a bit harder to accomplish this feat within an hour of game time.
Seems last night just after the conclusion of the New York Yankees BP, the Sentry security team which protects the field regions around Tropicana Field were informed pre-game to begin informing the amassed crowds of Rays fans who seem to migrate and linger within the Lower Bowl seating area that they will no longer have access to this area 1 hour before game time.
That means that this once prime autograph and photo real estate will be off-limits.
No longer will you be permitted to stand or await a Rays player on the rail or in the first row of seating after B P unless you possess a Rays ticket for a seat adjacent to that area. If you seem to be loitering or waiting in this area, no matter if you are young or old, you will be instructed to leave the area.
Gone will be that last ditch effort some have used to get a signed ball from a player before they head into the Clubhouse or stand for the National Anthem.
Now if you want to possibly get that “must have” autograph or have a conversation with your favorite player, you might have to be there as the gates open and hope and pray the player has not participated in the early rounds of BP and have head into the Clubhouse to get “game ready”.
The Rays will not change their usual gate opening times so during the week (Mon-Thurs) the gates will open 1 hour before First Pitch while on the weekends they will still open 2 hours before First Pitch.
With this rule hitting the fan base at the Trop., you can surely bet there will be a bigger grouping of fans over the Rays or visiting dugout during their Batting Practice sessions as this area might be the only viable way now to get a last second signature.
It is not only going to make the task of getting an wanted autograph harder for the fan who planned a weekend or unexpected trip to the ballpark to get that script, but he will be fighting a larger contingent of Rays fans now who know with an hour to go the Lower Bowl area will be off limits to them.
I truly think the pure test of if this rule can be truly effective will be on the Sunday games when fans are let into the Trop 2 hours before game time and usually there is no BP by either team on that day.
Some of the Rays Field players might wander out to toss a few on the turf before Sunday matinee games, but the largest contingency will be the Rays pitching staff who come out and do long-toss and possibly a side Bullpen session.
With Sunday also being the day we celebrate Family Fun Fest, larger numbers of small children will be on hand hoping to get a glimpse or noticed by a ballplayer, possibly ending with a genuine baseball or an autograph.
What is really going to suck is seeing a small child who used to be able to come down and get an autograph all the way up to the National Anthem be turned away because they do not have a ticket in that section of seating.
I understand totally that the Rays fan base has been spoiled by the great interaction between the Rays very out-going and personable players who have graced our roster. And a huge majority of the Rays fan base has respected the set boundaries between the players and fans, but who knows what happened to set this rule into motion.
Did someone make a wrong gesture or comment? Could someone have taken a liberty that offended someone on the Rays roster or staff? Might there have been a swift hand involved that took someone’s item as they signed? Or could the worst have happened, someone took a player’s glove, cap or something else?
I have tried to get some glimpse for the quick policy change from more than a few members of the Rays staff and the Sentry security staff, but we truly might never know if this rule change might not be just a security precaution or happened because of an event that transpired between a player and fan at the Trop.
This is a blow to that Rays unique sense of small degree of separation that the Rays fans had become accustom to since 1998. This team truly since its inception has been one of the most fan-friendly teams in sports…bar none, but now a slice of that acceptable pre-game ambiance that set the Rays apart has been eliminated.
Times they are a-changing within the Trop.
If you want that much anticipated autograph or photo you will have to get to the game sooner, post up in a valued spot along the rail or dugout and hope to garner both eye contact and voice recognition with your target before engaging towards fulfilling your goal.
Editor’s Note : I want to give Jen McKinney a shout out for awakening me to this new rule and for the 1st Photo……Thank You.
Anytime a young, potentially great athletic person like Tampa Bay Rays prospect Josh Sale takes the dark path it pisses me off to no end. The life expectancy of an athletic career is so short-termed that any and all of life’s hiccups can rob you of the precious opportunity to live out your sports dream.
You had hoped that Sale took it upon himself in his downtime via suspension to eradicate a few demons, found other positive outlets to alleviate the stresses of his career/ lifestyle choices and had found a positive path towards reviving his baseball career.
But little did we know that smile and external optimistic nuance was more fiction that factual as he again took a wrong turn towards darkness and this time had a 100-game penalty accessed against him for his deplorable drug usage.
Others will be adamant to point out that Sale did not take a life or impose harm on others, but I truly feel you are only half right here. The reality is that Sale basically injured himself, doing self-inflicted damage by sustaining another vital blow to his dream of being a professional baseball player by again falling prey to his weakness.
But what really gets me deep and stirs my editorial pot is when an athletic steps once again in the same vapid hole that devoured them the first time and find themselves once again at rock bottom and do not show shame or admonish their dark ways.
Right now in all honesty the Rays have to fix Sales the young man before any movement can be made to possible re-create Josh Sale, the baseball player.
Even as our world disposes of our less desirable things in life, throwing them instantly into the trash to be forgotten and disposed of, resurrecting another human being, bringing about a positive outcome as a heralded human reclamation project.
Sale has been suspended twice now for drug offenses. Tack on the fact the Rays organization in May 2013 suspended Sale indefinitely for “conduct detrimental to the organization” which resulted because of a bizarre incident in a strip club between some hurled quarters and a dancer.
Not only did Sale act immature in the club and in public, but he took to social media (Facebook) and bragged on the event further bringing shame and humiliation to others.
Worst yet, this action came 1 day after Sale was added to the Rays Single-A Port Charlotte Stone Crabs
Sometimes you just got to eradicate the cancerous evolution or degeneration of morality perpetrated by a person as they take another fall from grace as they blindly blow through the obligatory Stop signs of morality or ignore or heed the substance danger signals around them.
Certainly this second smack has to be the moment Sale is shocked back into a real reality and brevity of his actions. I sincerely hope that Sale heeds this last chance at any possible career or life redemption and takes to it with the same grit and determination he did his early baseball career.
Sale must now abide. He must admit and address the severity of what has happened to his personal and professional life and begin to again format a battle plan to combat his weaknesses or the only way Sale will ever get into a M L B stadium will be if he buys a ticket.