Results tagged ‘ Trop ’
So as we begin the journey on Day 1 of a whirlwind 180-day Major League Baseball adventure that will wind and spiral through the pits and summits of another season of baseball, nothing feels better right now than the warm embrace and joyful noise the Rays Republic has bestowed on our Tampa Bay Rays, even before the line-ups have been announced. No matter if you are wearing pinstripes or that shining Rays sunburst, baseball is back, and it is simply a grand and glorious day.
I have had the honor of witnessing 15 Opening Day celebrations with the Rays, and something tells me this one, the 15th season, will produce more thrills, occasional spills and a great surprise. From the vibrations that seem to be rocking the fabric of the Trop today, I have a feeling the Rays might just make it to a hallowed November date.
From an MLB schedule that reads more like an endurance racer’s worst nightmare, to the tears of joy and accomplishment as the Rays players help hoist another banner into the Trop’s rafters, baseball again graces this side of the Sunshine State, and the light beaming from both young and old Rays Republicans smiles tells us special thing await this team. Sure I might wax poetic today, but that is what pomp and circumstance is all about. To show the grace of the moment as well as salute what is in front of you as well as what struggles you have successfully completed and set aside.
Way before the Rays and Yankees take their spots along the foul lines, even before DJ Kitty and Raymond delight the assembled sell-out crowd, the atmosphere and positive vibes simple set this place a wash in an orange glow. Even before Rays fans and staffers man the huge flag that will almost stretch from foul pole-to-foul pole, the unification of baseball love in this community is evident, and should be noted. Today is a multiple celebration of honoring the past by hoisting another banner, while the 2012 Rays squad sits with pen in hand to write their own historic events and chapters throughout these 180 days.
For so long this Winter we all were anxious and wanting of the warm embrace and comfort the game gives us internally. Distractions like the Rays future stadium, political and legal ramblings that boggle the mind and heart issues, plus a boatload of possible Rays roster additions and subtraction that seemed to pout our heads and hearts into a blend destined for the puree cycle clouded our judgments and opinions, but today we are free again to openly confess our love for this great game, and it all starts with a child saying those immortal words….”Play Ball!”
Got to hurry up and go see a man about a foot long. Welcome back baseball, hope you stay around longer this season.
Over the last 30 years during my roadtrips on I-275 over the Howard Franklin Bridge towards Pinellas County/St. Petersburg, my eyes have always been drawn towards a particular densely swampy parcel of land just opposite of the long abandoned Florida Welcome Center.
Could someone have really envisioned so far into the future that this same parcel could one day be the site of a great architectural symbol of the Tampa Bay region built upon its sandy soil and forever be known throughout the World for its construction on this very site?
It is simply unimaginable that at this very location lies within a few feet of this region’s highest traveled throughfares, with great infrastructural groundwork already being done to improve the area’s roads and room for possible additional external ramps for the future.
The Pinellas County choice is simply ideal as it is situated within a critical epicenter of the cross-county area to give more access to Tampa residents and upper Pinellas and Pasco-Hernando county citizens, but might prove a bit of a additional driving burden for people traveling North from Sarasota or Manatee Counties.
Next time you rush down Ulmerton Road on your way home from Tampa, look to the northwest and check out this parcel of land and see if you can see what I envision on that parcel….
This stadium debate can no longer remain silent or continue with each side of the bay proclaiming to the heavens that their stadium site location has some thin sliver of an advantage. This one site fulfills a lot of the criteria, is centerally located, and has breathtaking scenic nature views into the eustary that is Tampa Bay.
With Minnesota opening Target Field in 2010 and forever leaving the Metrodome, the Trop will be the last of a dying breed of domed stadiums within Major League Baseball. So maybe it was some sort of divine intervention that left this parcel vacant for so long and loudly screams “baseball stadium” to me.
Oh now that was fun. That was the kind of series I have been waiting for the entire year. You know the kind of three game set that shows you the grit, determination and the moxy that is still beating in all 25 members of the Rays roster during a three game festival of ray-dom. Sure you might say that it took a few extra innings to get one of those wins, and it took some last inning heroics to get another, but isn’t that considered a character-building moment that you dream you team would have before they make a run at their division’s top chair?
And so after the Rays sweep of their divisional menace the last few season, the pesky Blue Jays, we have another fly coming in tonight that could buzz the Rays tower a few times and make for another extremely exciting series, the Oakland A’s. And do not be disillusioned, there is an elephant on their team logo for a reason. This is another team that never forgets, never lets down, and is carrying a hot hitting Adam Kennedy at third base right now. Hmmmmm, didn’t that guy used to wear a Rays jersey? Oh yeah, before we traded him for the Dillon-aire.
But getting back to the last three cardiac-filled series, the Toronto-Tampa Bay series again showed who wants this right now, and who is about to have a drastic Fire Sale to maybe unload some older talent ( Rolen) or mis-guided youth that is not hitting, fielding or might already be dead inside ( Rios). I have to admit, after the power outage, the kid invasion of the Trop., and the constant numbing pain in my index finger from submitting votes in the All Star Game Sprint Final Vote ( last free ad promo of the year) I almost missed an ace coming of age finally.
Sure we saw the best pitcher in the American League take the mound in the bottom of the first inning in Roy Halladay, but we also got to see some of the magic and excitement that David Price will have in store for us for the next……… well, a long time. Seriously people, the kid showed why we have so hyped up about him getting here this year. He cut back dramatically on his walks yesterday, which is a great aspect all in its own little world. One solo stroll to first is all that King David gave up to those eyeballing Jays. Oh, and they did try and test him a few times, but the strikezone was his real friend yesterday afternoon.
And that will put a smile on even the most frugal and cold-hearted Rays fan. But people forget, we have had promising young hurlers before who have dissolved in front of our eyes. And even this season we have seen the trio that helped us land our first playoff berth go a bit south with no run production, or untimely meltdown of an inning or two and cost us a chance to see the orange lit dome from the Sunshine Skyway bridge to the Howard Franklin. Just because the team is having their second best record ever is not enough right now.
But seeing Price embrace and go back to some old thinking, like not even over emphasizing the scouting reports but going out there and throwing “his” game, it might have been a major break through for him at this level. We all know the kid has a million dollar arm, but like “Nuke” LaLoosh in “Bull Durham”, we were starting to think he might have a bit of a ten cent head on the mound. I am glad he proved us wrong. He needs to keep proving us wrong the rest of the way through the season, or at least for the next 5 years.
But it was no passing of the torch moment people. Halladay just doesn’t have the energy in his arm and body right now to beat the Rays. You seem to forget that he is 10-3 this season, and two of those great losses have come to the guys with the sunburst on their jerseys. And that is a major coup for the Rays. Beating the best is the way to regain this division and also set the tone for people to think twice before playing us right now. And that might be a better weapon for the Rays right now. The fact that team have begun to again question this team in a positive way is an indication that maybe we are finally over the hump and striving for the top of the hill again.
The last three games have given me this renewed feeling of the team getting it at the right time. Think about it here. Going into the break it was a disaster in 2008 after a 7-game losing streak to the Yankees and the Indians, people all around baseball were questioning the Rays staying power and mental toughness. Well, if we can gain some great ground in the next 3 games, with some help of either New York or Boston slipping a bit, we could be within 3 games of the top spot just coming out of the All Star break.
And with a possible 6-game winning streak still on the stove, it would make them one of the hottest teams in baseball since the end of April. Did you know that we are only one win off the top spot since April 30th for wins in the entire MLB. From that date until today the Rays 39 wins are only second to the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers 40 wins apiece. That mean the Rays have fought from their 8-14 record on April 29th to a stellar 39-25 mark as of today. Let’s see, a 31-11 mark and we are worried about this team.
Heck, maybe we are wearing those dark-colored glasses a bit too tight on our faces. There are 27 other teams that are envious of that mark. Even the Boston Red Sox have only gone 37-17 since the end of April. With the Yankees finally catching the Red Sox, you can bet some of their eye glances will not be towards the Rays scores right now, but to see what the pinstripes are posting. That is a great thing for the Rays. We snuck up on the Jays and then put them in a vise and they lost 5 out of 6 against us in the last few weeks.
That thrust them down below us to wallow with the worry that the Orioles might get hot and pass them for the cellar spot. But do not get lost in the fact that two of the Rays recent win have come in Walk-off fashion, which is an emotional rollercoaster of its own here. The Rays have done it by timely hitting by Pat Burrell, Carlos Pena and Ben Zobrist. The three guys they need to get hot again to make any charge at the top spot again in 2009. But then again, maybe this team is starting to believe in themselves again.
Some times I find that hard to believe, but as Rays Manager Joe Maddon likes them to think about a game for 10 minutes after it is over, maybe the mindset is finally drilled into their brains to not cherish a win, or discount a loss into bits and are finally “living in the moment” of the games. That can be a great weapon, that tool of selective memory and association. It can make you put your best food forward and forget the past within moments. It instills a eagerness to fight as if it was the last game, plus gives you the added confidence of not holding onto the past.
Ahhhhh, The last few games have had a certain scent to them that reminds me of something. It has that tart bitterness of realization, the after aroma of blood,sweat and tears left on the turf and the sweet sme
ll of victory. But to go along with all of that is certainly the aspect of winning their eighth straight game at home in yesterday’s matinee. Yes, that is it, that smell of Dome Field Advantage. The knowing and yearning of going to a contest and having that flowing fragrance of a possible blow-out or one-run win in the atmosphere even before the First Pitch.
The Rays have manufactured the second longest winning streak at home right now behind the 11-game streak set April 22-May13th of 2008. In all, they have won 22 of their last 27 in the confines of the dome, which translates to the best record again in the MLB at home passing both the Dodgers and the Red Sox with yesterday’s win. The smell rising off that 29-13 record is again the basis of the Rays winning streaks, but it is also a indication that their earlier falls from grace when they played most of their games on the road were just figments of the real Rays team.
Most people when they come to a baseball game smell the freshly made popcorn, the meaty aroma of hot dogs roasting on circular rollers. Me, I smell something else. I can smell the faint odor of fear right now in the visiting teams. The anticipation in their sweat of a long night with cowbells and loud vocal responses from the crowd. I love the smell of a ballpark. Not for the human smells or the food, but for that perfumed air of winning and confidence can just intoxicate you like a few $ 9 beers, but doesn’t leave you with the mental pain the next day of hops and barley.
It is the smell of victory, and it is still just on the tip of my tongue. It has no aftertaste or even a hint of regret. Like the 1980′s icons Kiss said so effectively in one of their great songs, I just want to “lick it up” and come back for more. Maybe this three game series against the A’s will also intoxicate you, and want you to again feast at the Rays table. Hopefully he does, and if not, we will get you soon enough…..trust me.
Chris O’Meara / AP
Red Sox Amnesia
Is it me, or did it seem like the Boston Red Sox came into this series forgetting about the recent history between these two polar opposite record teams. Did the mighty Red Sox forget that before coming in on Monday, the last time they stood in Tropicana Field was to watch the Rays celebrate their advancement to the World Series. It close but no cigar for the Red Sox. So as Red Sox Nation is now throwing their hands up in the air wondering what is wrong with their team, the answer is quite simple and easy to digest. These two teams have scouted each other to the point they know what breakfast cereal to have in the clubhouse. They might even know the collective birthdays and anniversaries of every one on the two teams staffs too.
Chris O’Meara / AP
Rays are being Pests Again
I was amused last night when a Red Sox fan behind me was jawing about the Rays and their base runners annoying the Boston starter Justin Masterson. I find it really humorous that he was sitting their complaining that our guys were trying to steal bases and not just take what the defense is giving them at the plate. I wanted to turn around and just give it to him by stating that it is an aggressive style of baseball that your own Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedoria love to play, but they have to be on base to get steals. Instead I just glanced up at the scoreboard and saw that beautiful 6-2 score shining bright.
The aggressive style will either help or hinder you, but so far in 2009, the arrow is pointing more into the help column. Coming into tonight’s game, the Rays have a combined 189 stolen bases. That is currently tops in the American League, but there are teams nipping at their heels like the Texas Rangers ( 187 ) and the Cleveland Indians ( 184 ). The rays aggressive system has caught the eyes of other teams too now, and they are adapting their own set of parameters to their own offensive battle plans. Even the Florida Marlins, who are tied with the Rays for the MLB lead with 189 stolen base have adjusted their game to include aggressive base policies. This is the style of play that is evolving in baseball. Small ball is back in a big way, and the Rays are the leader of the pack.
Consider in the last two nights, both starting pitchers have been taking extra time and slowed their wind-ups and throws to the plate hoping to catch the speedy Rays out of position and get some easy outs and erase base runners. For the most part, it is not working, but they are getting their chances. In Thursday nights game, only once did the Rays attempt to steal a base of Josh Beckett. Carl Crawford, the Rays head theft took third base off of Beckett and back-up catcher George Kottaras in the bottom of the fourth inning. It was all made possible by a double by Crawford. The aggressive nature of the Rays is not going away, and teams are beginning to experiment with ways to combat these pests on the base paths.
In their game of base larceny, you do get caught some times.
Chris O’Meara / AP
Does Tim Tebow Wear Longoria Underwear?
I found it funny the first time I heard that line that superman wears Tim Tebow underwear. The Florida Gator quarterback seems to be able to do what ever he feels like it in a game. I am getting the same vibe about Evan Longoria this season. He has just finished the fourth best April batting average by a second year player who won the Rookie of the Year award by belting a grand slam off the Boston Red Sox to send Red Sox fans either to the beer stand, or home. But people seem to forget that Boston put him in that position. If Masterson has been able to get the inning over with quickly, there would be no “Longo” chants bellowing in the Trop. Heck, if he had been able to do his job, there would not be a “6″ spot on the scoreboard. But the second year player is quickly putting himself up there with some great names to be considered again for dominance at the plate and in the field.
Chris O’Meara / AP
Sonny is not Sure Money
Last year at this time Andy Sonnanstine was sitting pretty with a 3-1 record and a 5.28 ERA. He had begun the season as the number three starter and was making his sixth start of the year on April 30, 2008. He would win that contest and become the first Rays pitcher to even win four games in April, plus tie the mark for the best record of any month by a Rays pitcher. Life was looking grand for Sonny. But what a difference a year can make in a pitchers’ life. It is not that he is throwing the ball any different, or even is off the mark by a wide margin. small little things have seem to plague him this season.