Results tagged ‘ Tampa Bay Rays ’
If for nothing else, the Summer of 2014 is going to be known for ice cold buckets sloshing all over the heads, upper bodies and shoes of people from all walks of life. What’s a little H2O when it can be done for a great cause, and to also call out for friends, family, co-workers and maybe that one person you always wanted to get a little revenge on…..now is your chance.
The challenge is actually quite easy in thought: you get a full bucket of icy cold water, dump it over your head, record the action, post the video out and about on any or all of your social media outlets and then loudly call out or challenge anyone and everyone to also take the plunge and make a donation to the ALS Association.
I mean tons of famous and also non-famous people have already gotten their cold shiver on with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I mean athletes and celebrities like pro golfer Greg Norman, actress Elisha Cuthbert, Toronto Maple Leaf Dion Phaneuf, Household goddess Martha Stewart and even the Tampa Bay Rays mascot Raymond have completed and sent out their own challenges to other to also compete and complete the icy adventure.
I am simply flabbergasted that the watery “Tag..Your it!” endeavor has risen to such high standards with hundreds and thousands of people through their social media pages and messages calling for the friends, followers and even family to take a cold one for ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Amazingly enough, the event has raised over $150,000. Already this year and before the first leaf falls could surpass a quarter of a million dollars just by people all over the social map calling out others to douse themselves and to extend the challenge to their select intended targets to also partake and donate, then keep the cycle going…possibly all summer long.
And this awesome fund raising challenge actually has a bit of a baseball foundation. Seems that this whole icy situation began back in 2012 in the Boston, Mass area and quickly began to gain a more wet footing as friends, relatives and former teammates of former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates who was diagnosed with ALS.
Pete’s close knit group of friends, family and others decided used the cool idea as a visual physical challenge to raise awareness about ALS. Frates, 29, has been living with ALS since 2012 and has worked for The ALS Association’s Massachusetts Chapter. Frates is a former Divion1 college baseball player for Boston College and is a tireless champion for the foundation and its awareness.
Recently Pete’s own parents, John and Nancy along with 200 assembled dry souls doused themselves in Copley Square. His parents state that the ice bucket challenge has done more to increase the understanding about ALS than anything else they have imagined over the past 2 years.
How much has this event helped the ALS Association?
ALS Association National President Barbara Newhouse said donations to the national office have surged during the last 10-day period that ended this past Thursday to about $160,000. From $14,480 during the same period a year ago. And you have to believe that local and community chapter offices have not been able to give their donation yet, so a figure of $250,000. Seems within reach just for a few moments of uncomfortable chills for a tremendous cause.
I have been the subject of a ALS Ice Bucket Challenge twice now (8/10/14 & 08/17/14) and have been honored to take that heavily laced bucket of ice chips and some water and dumped it over my Rays capped noggin. I completed my first challenge after being called out by a former Colts teammate on August 10th and completed my second tour of icy goodness on Sunday, August 17th after a challenge was issued to former Baylor football players. I also donated $100 each time with the second donation being presented in the name of my daughter Alex Hougham.
All I can tell you is thank goodness it is 90+ degree in St. Petersburg, Fl right now so the water not only cooled me down, but kept my feet and shorts cool for an hour or two afterwards as I did not bring spare clothes (Hint: remember spare clothes, at least flip flops).
I mean I have heard of some wild challenges already like the one completed by Boston Bruins stars Brad Marchand and Torey Krug who willingly dropped frozen ice (not from Boston Garden) on themselves and then promptly issued their own set of challenges to their intended water-logged friends.
So friends, family and old arch-enemies be aware, for soon I might be calling you out to also partake in the chilling but totally satisfying adventure of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Now if only my Nike’s would dry out…
Native Americans believe that nine different spirit animals or totems are connected to us throughout our lives acting as guides to steer us towards events or occurrences that will define our lives. They believe these nine animals are with us for life and even as they all have their purpose, one is the lead animal that will show the way and provide moments of clarity and awareness. We now know that the opossum has to be one of the Oakland Athletic’s nine focal spirit animals. And possibly with this white-faced creature showing itself to the assembled masses last night in the bottom of the 10th inning of a tied contest between the Tampa Bay Rays and the home town A’s, his presence had to be the deciding element to sway the energies last night and provide a victory. It’s the only logical reasoning for the way the bottom of the 10th inning played out for the Tampa Rays last night. For the Opossum spirit animal is a deceiver, a strategist and an animal that uses deception to his advantage now both on and off the baseball diamond. Whatever else could have caused such a rapid and defining chain of events that led to the A’s snapping the Rays road winning streak with this very peculiar stage of events? I mean the Rays had the fiery ex-Athletic, current Rays reliever Grant Balfour growling on the hill, but somehow the elements did not favor the Aussie one tonight as he saw not one, but 2 consecutive hitters get out of the 0-2 hole and find solace upon the base paths. The first Oakland hitter Alberto Callaspo saw 4 pitches before lining out to left for the first out of the inning. The inning started to look a bit uneventful for the A’s. Then all bets seemed to be off as our opossum made his appearance strutting down the outfield wall in left field to his favorite cubbyhole just after Balfour’s first pitch to someone the O-town locals call “Super Sam” ( wonder where they got that name) Fuld. Possibly the opossum occurrence inspired Fuld who was down 0-2 at the moment on 2 straight called strikes. Fuld then found his pitch and deposited it into center field to become the A’s first base runner of the inning. Opossum 1, Rays 0. Then another former Rays, this time a chap named John Jaso swung mightily at 2 straight Balfour offerings as Balfour again had another A’s batter down 0-2 before Jaso, possibly through the vision of the opossum, gained a bit of serenity and somehow secured himself a free pass to First base via a walk. Opossum 2, Rays 0. The during the at bat by Oakland 3B Josh Donaldson we witnessed the usually steady defensive duo of Sean Rodriguez and Kevin Kiermaier somehow let a white sphere drop not in their gloves, but to the green turf down the left field line missing a golden opportunity to garner a much needed out from this A’s and keep them from victory. Wonder if S-Rod or the Outlaw saw a opossum out of the corner of their eye, or possibly seated in the stands? Donaldson’s at bat also produced a double whammy of not only reaching base by another walk by Balfour, but also via a deceived fourth ball that got Rays Manager Joe Maddon all ballistic and led to his eventual ejection from the contest by Home Plate Umpire Quinn Wolcott. Opossum 3, Rays 0. That set up a bases loaded situation with one out for the A’s next batter, Brandon Moss. Unfortunately Moss ended up striking out setting up the possible walk-off scenario for the next hitter, Derek Norris. Balfour quickly got Norris behind in the count 0-2 before Norris followed Fuld’s lead and hit a game-winning single into center field breaking the Rays road winning streak and sending the Aussie muttering to himself about lost opportunities. Sure the victory went to the A’s that night, but somewhere, under the stands I can just see Mr O. Possum doing the “Dougie” knowing he might have helped by diverting just enough attention to deceive a win.
How would you decide if it was your task to determine if your Major League Baseball squad was in “Buyer” or a “Seller” mode?
Would you compile a list of Pros and Cons onto an over-sized white board constantly striking out the illogical and mundane ideas while encircling the plausible and rational and in the end combining them neatly into a realistic orderly outline hoping they have the explosive measures to strike down any additional counterpoints.
Would you air on the surreal side of whimsy and instead flips a coin hoping that this twirling silver-plated marvel can secure you a viable answer, or take you down a long road of regretful actions. Taking the gamblers’ way and letting the bone decide you, your team and your continued careers path.
Or would you rely on the perception of scientific reasoning and radical decision management by resigning to the feasible factions of conducive tinkering of statistics and numerical normality’s to hedge the risks and rewards of anyone or everyone on your roster, including some of your previously off-limits top tier prospects.
Could you conclude without a shadow of a doubt orchestrate the perfect transaction scenario, isolate a primary trade package down to the last detail and complete the action before the last tick of the Trade Deadline clock without regret or second-guessing?
But that is the reality of the next couple of days until the sounding of that last tick of the clock on Thursday, August 31, 2014.
All 30 G.M.’s, Vice-Presidents and even Team ownership groups will have to make public via their voices or their players’ their final decree of being “Buyers” or “Sellers” as we approach the last few months of the season.
This is a time when a team can possibly regain their winning ways, forge into uncharted playoff glory or resort to the reality they do not have the horses to realistically make a final charge for any of the Wild Card or Division title slots.
For this brief moment in time so many will evoke the ever-changing thought processes of a Vegas gambler who decide within moments with instinct, a brush of Lady Luck or blind odds that the direction their team, and quite possibly their selected careers paths will be deemed failure or success by a unhuman 6-sided entity.
Every year some team rolls them bones and gets pieces that accumulate into a winning moments of glory accented by a joyous parade, while others over-pay, over-evaluate and commit career Hari-Kari as their selected seasonal saviors, needed for that last push towards a postseason dream come crumbling down upon themselves when an injury or unprovoked slump finally derails the most honest of intentions.
Some of these soles will have to decide the personnel value of a player or what number of bodies or wealth will be needed to secure their services, even if only for the short-term. The same players these franchise leaders shake hands with, joke with and see on a daily basis will be assigned a monetary stamp that other suitors will see affixed to them as that team’s negotiable first bartering price.
In that instant contact moment each M L B G.M. will have visions of future yearly salaries, arbitration raises and years of control numbers dancing in their heads.
Medical charts will be viewed with fine toothed combs, decision made on-the-fly concerning their compatibility to their present team’s chemistry and if the move has merits beyond just the 2014 final postseason push.
Yep, this is the time of year I’m glad I do not work in one of the 30 M L B offices as daily the pendulum can swing from “buyer” to “seller” with each sway of the arm over the final push of the Trade Deadline.
But then again, there is ample time between now and this Thursday for mistakes to be made, triumphs to be planned and careers to see set aflame.
Who knows what disasters and blockbusters await us over the next few days. How many bottle of the pink stuff and Tum’s will be consumed, and if someone’s cell phone provider’s minutes will be exceeded for the common good of their team.
Only on Friday morning after the final smoke clears will there be prognosticator assessments as to if there are clear winners or losers and if the “Buyers” this year should have really been aware.
Somewhere in the Far East there is a Tampa Bay Rays fan, or at least he is a super fan of the funky and classic dances moves of Rays Mascot coordinator Willis Harris.
Most Rays fans have seen Harris performing during the break when the Rays Grounds crew drag the clay surface and replace the orange-spotted bases during the bottom of the 4th inning during Rays home contests.
You knew the Rays dancing and highly flexible moving and grooving crew member had a following because of the many videos posted to Youtube or mentions in new articles or blog posts over his tenure with the team. But now his side-splits and gyrations have taken to the International stage as his persona has been jacked and become an instant hit or miss depending on your political views or geographic locale.
It seems someone has positioned the mighty mug of North Korean leader Kim Jong- Un upon the shoulder of Harris who dominates the first 38 seconds of the newly released dance track featuring the North Korean leader.
If you were wondering, the musical soundtrack is set to a Chinese pop hit by the Chopstick Brothers, which is pretty toe-tapping. The Korean online new source Chosun Ilbo says the video was the brainchild of a Chinese man surnamed Zhang from Suzhou who reportedly studied at Kyonggi University in South Korea.”
Here’s to hoping that Jung-Un has some sort of comedic bone in his body and can appreciate for a second that someone gave him righteous dance moves and even a great finishing move….but I have a feeling Jung Un is out for almighty revenge against anyone featured in the video, even if they did not send it or let their image be used in such a fashion.
Hopefully Harris will not come back to his Rays 4th floor office any time soon and find a ton of well fermented Kimchi stacked from the carpet to the ceiling tiles and a terse letter from the depot leader stuck to his door with a ceremonial Liaoning bronze dagger.
Whoever did post the video most certainly will be popped into the crosshairs of the infamous North Korean State Security Department in the near future. We know by the translated message on the video it was not sent or made within Tropicana Field, or by any member current or past within the Rays, but Harris will probably be guilty by association since someone brandished his trademark dance moves for all the World to enjoy.
Surely the video will play on every television news program for at least the next 24 hours…or more and Harris will get a bit more great free publicity on his antics during Rays games and hopefully will return to an office free of fermented veggies, Korean symbols and a bronze dagger.
Still, you got to love that the Rays also got some free publicity, few bytes of video antics as to the fun and entertainment you can be assured of at a Rays game.
So for now….Dance Willis, dance like the World is watching, because it is.
A Rays Groundskeeper video Encore featuring Korea’s Psy “Gangnam Style” :
In tropical regions like Florida, the Caribbean or the Dominican Republic, outdoor activities are anticipated and welcomed with each rising of the Sun. Doing things in our yards, beaches and even in our neighboring parks and backyards is a godsend of living in the splendor of this tropical oasis.
Even among our slices of paradise here within the Dominican Republic or in Tampa Bay where one of the smallest creatures, airborne by design could have possibly placed one of our own Tampa Bay Rays in harm’s way of possibly contracting a virus that could forecast months and possibly a lifetime of pain to Rays reliever Joel Peralta.
It is still simply amazing to me how something as small as a skitter (mosquito everywhere else in the World) could take down something 1,000 times larger than itself like a human. Even more amazing is the sheer minute possibility that a lone mosquito found Peralta during his stint back home in the Dominican during the recent All-Star break.
Peralta has been sent back to St. Petersburg, Fl to undergo a few more blood tests under the guidance of Rays Team Physician Dr. Michael Reilly to confirm that a lone mosquito might have given Peralta the infamous Chikungunya virus. Peralta’s blood work will also be reviewed and double-checked by the CDC and other governmental agencies tasked with investigating the virus within the United States.
Chikungunya was first discovered in the Caribbean back in late 2013. With the Dominican Republic being within that prime location within the tropical Americas island chains, it has been listed as a possible nesting point for the painful virus. Peralta believes he was either bitten once or twice while visiting his home back in the Dominican, but could he have possibly contacted the virus even before heading back to his home in Bonaro?
Florida where there have been 82 confirmed cases, including 2 victims locally who might have contracted the virus on their travels.
The virus is not considered initially life-threatening, but even if Peralta gets through the incubation period and gets through the symptoms with minor effects, it could saddle Peralta with arthritic joint pain that can be extremely painful, possibly lasting for weeks, or for a long time period.
The Rays did the right thing by erring on the side of caution and placed Peralta on the 15-day disabled list as he seeks treatment and a firm diagnosis of his fever, headache and joint pain. There was no mention of if Peralta was in the possible febrile or elevated body temp (possibly as high as 104 degrees) format of the virus, but this phase can last typically from 2-3 days before the onset of other symptoms.
Other symptoms can be a rash on the extremities or trunk region of the body and severe or nagging joint pains comparable to those felt by arthritis sufferers. Headaches, nausea, possible “pink eye”, eye sensitivity to light or even experiencing a loss of taste which could last as long as 5-7 days.
But until Peralta completes a battery of blood tests that will expose certain cell lines to samples of whole blood. He will also have his blood analyzed via RT-PCR can confirm a definite diagnosis of Peralta contracting the Chikungunya virus.
If Peralta did become infected, there are no approved vaccines available at this moment to fight the virus, but there is a phase II vaccine trial currently being tested that has provided a virus resistance in 98% of those tested after 28 days and 85% showing resistance after 1 years’ time. But the doctors could prescribe napoxen, paracetamol and fluids to his regiment.
Even if Peralta comes out of this with minimal time and effects there is a chance he could experience a extended bouts of joint pain. In some past cases, people who have contracted Chikungunya had joint pain symptoms as long as 2 years after their initial diagnosis.
The worst thing that could happen within all of this is the fact that any prolonged arthritic or joint stiffness after completion of his required rehab could possibly derail Peralta’s baseball career.
I’m personally hoping that a simple bite from a mosquito cannot and will not ultimately change Peralta’s physical gifts and allow him to further fulfill his baseball dreams .
“I’m sure it can, but talk to Stu Sternberg.”
Quite a statement made by out-going Major League Baseball Czar Bud Selig today to the media masses assembled during the Baseball Writers of America Association(BBWAA) briefing.
I’m not used to hearing a civil tone concerning our region in regards to Selig, and it kinds of scared me at first. Most of the rhetoric pointed towards this region be it Spring or Fall has been pointed disapproval or admonishment towards the are not embracing baseball with both hands, but Selig today in his oracle seemed calm almost to the point of finding his point of Zen towards the whole Rays stadium situation.
Selig acknowledged the viability of baseball within the Tampa Bay market, but he also seemed to show more serenity towards the enduring saga than in the past.
The quotes uttered by Selig today seemed a more transitional than omnipotent outbursts displaying his discontent and disappointment of the region’s snail-like pace towards clearing at least one achievable hurdle in the race for the Tampa Bay Rays to find a new profitable hacienda.
It almost seemed as if we were not talking to the same man who 364 days ago during the 2013 All-Star break seemed to be plotting the ultimate revival or hostile removal of any baseball hopes or dreams within the Tampa Bay area.
This was the same M L B icon who in 2013 profoundly voiced his displeasure and loss of patience with this region of Florida stating: ”You cannot ask a franchise to continue, when they have been so competitive and really, really done a marvelous job, in a situation that is economically not tolerable.”
What a difference a year makes……or does it?
In 2013 Selig seemed to be bringing a double-edged message to the Tampa Bay community on the one sharp edge by voicing the stern narrative addressing the Rays dismal home game attendance numbers while at the same time using the dull edge of his blade to stroke the Rays leadership’s excellent job of putting a competitive product on the field within their limited revenue streams.
The 2013 edition of Selig sounded off like a disapproving leader who was about to summon Rays owner Sternberg to his chambers and lock the doors until a viable and achievable plan could be at least penned to paper.
The 2014 edition…..not so much.
Today Selig expressed some faith in the Tampa Bay market and seemed to be giving the reins solely at this moment to Sternberg. Selig also threw out a curve ball morsel today in that there could be a breakthrough in the Rays slowly-moving stadium evolution before he leaves office in January.
Some logic might point to the change in St Petersburg’s leadership within the Mayor’s office to being more open to letting the team at least chat region-wide about another locale, but it might come at a cost. But no matter what, you can bet any announcement will be made after the Rays finish playing in 2014, that has been the “Rays Way” stadium-wise since Sternberg took the helm.
And for one of the first times in my memory, Selig threw out an unforced compliment to the region that the “demographics in the market are good”. But when asked later if his comment was possibly an endorsement that baseball in the region could work, the baseball czar just as quickly slammed the lid on the Tampa Bay Pandora’s box added, “I’m sure it can, but talk to Stuart Stenberg.”
Selig is set to leave his baseball throne this January, and with the recent reversal of the Oakland A’s stadium situation, the Rays remain one of his only projects that might not see fruition before he leaves his M L B post.
Possibly Sternberg has a master plan that has been viewed by Selig and has gotten a head-tilt to move in that direction with no current intimidation or threats from the top tier of baseball. At least not until a successor has gotten a feel for M L B’s top job, then all bets might be off.
So maybe Selig is letting Sternberg have the chance during the second half and into the Winter of 2014 to make some headway. Possibly Selig is providing a little distance between himself and the Rays stadium situation to afford the illusion of trust and respect the job will be done by Sternberg and his team without interference of the outgoing czar.
Guess only time will tell if this distance remains and if the confidence doesn’t cease come October.
But maybe Selig did take one last parting shot over the Tampa Bay bow when he spoke highly of the Montreal market as a possibly being revisited as an M L B franchise. “I wish them well. And I think they would be an excellent candidate in the future, no question about it.”
But Selig, the 2014-edition, remained steady and on point when asked repeatedly about his concerns with the Rays stadium debacle. “Stu Sternberg is working hard on that, and that should be his problem. I’m here to help him and he knows that. But it is a judgment call he has to make.”
Yep, what a difference a year makes.
This type of cluster-frack occasionally happens during this trade whisper time of the season when someone want to get that elusive scoop and be the primary media source as we go screaming towards the July 31st M L B non-waiver Trade Deadline.
It caught me totally off-guard in reference to an early Sunday rumor that the Cincinnati Reds were in some sort of discussions with the Tampa Bay Rays about possibly acquiring Rays hurler David Price.
A supposedly eagle-eyed individual saw something they felt dictated a informed and accurate Tweet/status update about a certain Reds slugger’s clean locker and they seemed to take a gambler’s chance that his hunch was a “solid fact”.
He was oh so wrong.
I quickly had 3 facts come into my own mind that struck down this trade rumor concerning Price and Votto. But around the M L B the rumor gained speedy legs and sprinted around the web not unlike Reds speedster Billy Hamilton around the G A B P diamond.
“Strike 1″: Votto is not entirely recovered from his early season quad situation. It might not be a daily occurrence or mild bother to him, but because of it any trade partner would want a 100% healthy player evaluation from their team medical staff before signing off on a player of Votto’s stature becoming their concern.
“Strike 2″: Votto has a ironclad no-trade clause in his contract and even if he was to change team colors, you might expect he would entertain a possible contract extension or fiscal reward from his new team to waive his no-trade, even if he was going to a contender for a possible 2014 World Series title.
“Strike 3″: This style of trade is not within the Rays usual wheelhouse of trade notions and baring the fact the team in January signed their current 1B James Loney to a 3-yr, $21 million contract, it lacks feasible plausibility unless Loney also was a trade piece heading to Cincy along with Price.
What should have been an honest visual to all is someone forgot the pure fact that Reds First Baseman Joey Votto is a minimalist and keeps a neat and tidy “work space”, especially during days when his Reds Manager Dusty Baker gives the Cincy mainstay the “day off”.
I know for a fact playing sports up into my mid-20’s, a fair amount of athletes do not have the “neat and tidy” gene within their game day clubhouse rituals.
In the end both “clean facts” were just a pair of trash trade rumors. How fast do you think they hit “delete” on their social media sites, then pulled down their Reds cap a little closer to their brow today.
Moral of this story: “Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy is your best friend when wanting to print anything, especially the truth”.
That and possibly thinking twice before hitting the “send” button.
Editorial Note: I could of posted all the Twitter posts that brought about this debacle, but decided they were already possibly being punished enough by other bloggers smelling their blood in the water.
I love this new idea that has surfaced from the promotional minds of the Tampa Bay Rays. Bringing out one of a kind, Limited Edition bobbles to commemorate these hot and humid Florida months was a genius plan because we, as Rays fans crave special and unique items for our home collections.And the first offering of this special Rays bobblehead collection starts off with one truly hip and purrfect cat…DJ Kitty. That’s right, the Rays have started their collection with a bang and brought out a DJ Kitty 4th July bobble to begin all the collectors salivating and reaching for the unique item.
The Rays only produced 222 individual bobble for each month and they can only be purchased at the Tropicana Field Team Store or the downtown Tampa Team Store location while supplies last.
I bought 2 of the D J Kitty offering today via phone from the Tampa Team Store location and they will ship my little furry/sculptured creations to my home. Sure I did incur a shipping charge, but considering the cost of gas, my time and finding a parking space in downtown Tampa during business hours, the charge was not only reasonable, but the perfect option.
I did hear back from the Tampa Team Store as DJ Kitty will be a little bit different than the attached rendering as he will not be sporting a red and white striped cap as the manufacturer left the white stars option on the cap, but the whole top hat is red.
No biggie, that just makes them more of a collector’s item just like the Rays Jason Tyner bobble that was an instant collectible hit. Plus, the American League All-Star caps during the Home Run Derby will be red so DJ Kitty is showing some extra spirit for the AL squad in the Mid-Summer Classic.
As I mentioned before, the Rays will also offer 222 more Limited Edition bobble in August and September. Taking a wild guess by the outlines on the advert, I’m guessing August will be a water or surfing bobble possibly featuring our favorite hot dog eating mascot Raymond.
As soon as my fine feline statues get to my humble abode, I will post an additional photo of the DJ Kitty 4th of July bobble along with some updated information as to their size…….Hurry up Mr. parcel guy…I need my DJ Kitty fix.
Hurry only 220 DJ Kitty Limited Edition bobbles left….I got my bookend set!
It is the World’s game. Only in our country does the sport heard ‘round the World take second, third or maybe not even a fifth fiddle. The globe embraces the sport of football, or as we Americans have dubbed it, Soccer.
With our own United States men soccer team showing their grit and glory by winning their first matchup against Ghana in this year’s World Cup last night, I thought it might be fun to pencil in my own Rays World Cup squad based on the current members of the Rays 25-Man roster.
Instantly most of you would wonder why a Baseball blogger would want to write and create a Soccer squad. From the age of 10 to 21 I played either as a Sweeper or on the left-side of the turf on local Men’s leagues (FSSL), on the All-South select U-17 travel teams and spent my 16th summer in Malmo, Sweden working out with that vistas reserves team.
Heck if you look over at the blog photo on right you will see a photo of me playing indoor soccer, so I have the knowledge and know what it takes to play the game.
Of course the Club Rays team’s Managers slot is already taken as you cannot discount the philosophical and game day rhetoric of Joe Maddon. Heck in a lot of ways he might even be a better communicator and guru to young minds than the current USA Manager Jurgen Kilinsman.
I decided this Rays Club needs to play a 4-3-3 alignment which is 4 defenders, 3 midfielders and 3 forwards. We all know the Rays claim to fame in the last few years have been defense, so a line with a left, center, right fullbacks and a sweeper manning the gaps seems as a perfect lineup to help keep games close and with minimal scoring (hopefully).
So let’s start at the last line of defense, the goalkeeper position first. I am going to pick Ryan Hanigan as he has shown he has the ability to block balls in the dirt, move around with grace under pressure and will come out of goal and sacrifice his body for the team. Most people would think I might pick Jose Molina as a back-up, but I chose Alex Cobb as much for his leadership as for his attention to the little things and would be a great communicator back there.
That being said, my defense will also have a few wily Rays vets manning key spots, and even a few surprises to some people. My left fullback has to be someone committed to defense as well as have good sprinting speed to defend an opposing winger who is usually the fastest guy on the team with the ball.
For some reason Jake McGee fits that spot for me. He is a big body guy who should be able to keep his shoulder square to the ball and ride a winger off the ball if he wants to proceed towards the touchlines or the goal box. On the right side I’m going with a gut feeling that Yunel Escobar will be a mirror image of McGee and keep the crosses from getting to the goal mouth and has the closing speed to thwart long passes into the box.
Center fullback is a tough one. I want to get a big body in there, but more in height than in weight. For that reason I chose Grant Balfour who at 6’2” has a bit of a nasty streak, highly competitive and if he chats to the ball, that might scare a few opposing forwards from going up the middle of the pitch. As long as he keeps his back to the goal, I think the snarling Aussie should shut down any middle of the field dribbling and long range shots.
As for the sweeper position I wanted to give that slot to someone who can be both an offensive and defensive weapon. Someone who can be that 4th utility defender as well as crash up into the offensive zone for corner kicks, help take free kicks and set a few boomers toward the goal. Perfect weapon for this Rays Club squad would be Sean Rodriguez.
Now onto midfield, or the engine room of this team. We already know Evan Longoria will wear the Captain’s band and has the grit and stamina to man the center midfield slot and his ability to give out orders and command respect will have opposing defenders marking him tight, so I want my outside midfielders to have a burst of speed and great ball skills.
My selection for left mid will be James Loney. I picked him as much for consistency as for his bursts of power which on free kicks or fouls way outside the box his kicks could free Longoria and the forwards to jockey for inside position on the opposing defense. My right midfielder would have to be Ben Zobrist. I do not know if Zorilla is ambidextrous on the soccer field, but if he was he would be a great fit to the usual attacking side of the field and could center passes or do flanking moves or U-runs down the line for crosses into box.
That leaves the forwards line. Here I’m going for the tall man in the box and shifty runners down the outsides or who can change directions and do crafty diagonals into the box for short chips, passes or provide ball in the air for headers.
So with me wanting to capitalize on speed, it is no secret the left wing has to be Kevin Kiermaier who seems to have a sixth sense to getting into position for the right play and who is one of those players who brings a new level of excitement to the team.
Right wing has to be another speedster as I pencil in Desmond Jennings for this slot and will call upon his quick first burst for great offensive moves and set plays. Add to the fact Jennings did play in that other brand of football, I think he will be a great target in the air for headers and taking a defender out of his position for scoring opportunities at the top of the goal box.
That only leaves the center spot. I had to go with someone here who has leadership, respect and plays on a different level at times. The obvious and clear choice for this spot was David Price. One of the glaring reasons is his 6’6” frame can rise a good 3-4 inches above most defenders for headers and I think he has the foot skills and dexterity to pull off picture perfect passes and provide 110% throughout the contest.
Of course this Rays team will have great and skilled substitutes on the bench like Chris Archer, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Joel Peralta, and I might add Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi to the mix as we all need a true “enforcer” on our soccer team.
I know there will be debate about my choices, but I think this squad could do some real damage on the pitch, provide some spectacular scoring chances and picture perfect goals as well as keep the score low and within reach of the Rays offensive unit. Well it’s time for me to set the ball on the middle dot and get this Rays Club team going. Besides, you can always vent your thought at Rays Soccer Night Friday, June 20th.
What? I wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines and watch this team, I would make the perfect Referee plus I want to see this match at ground zero, not in the stands. And besides, St. Petersburg,Florida like the Rays is home to the 2-time North American Soccer League Champions, the Tampa Bay Rowdies who play on the Rays old Spring home. Florida Progress/Al Lang Field.
Now if I can just get the linesmen to keep Jonny Gomes from running onto the turf, we would be golden.