Results tagged ‘ Tropicana Field ’

Tonight I Anticipate Something Special

I don’t care what you are doing tonight, cancel it and get down to Tropical Field. On tap tonight should be a classic pitcher’s match-up between two completely different style of starters who could put on a nice pitching clinic tonight that could be the eventual precursor to either of them getting a possible shot to hit the dirt first at this season’s All Star Game in Kansas City.

If a total of 17 combined wins between New York Mets hurler R A Dickey and Tampa Bay Rays southpaw starter David Price can not get you excited about this contest, you had better go have your pulse checked, because you might be dead. On tap tonight could be the premier InterLeague pitching match-up of not only this week, but the entire InterLeague sliver of the 2012 season, and it all will be played out under the tilted cap in St. Petersburg.

If that is not enough to make you pile into the jalopy and putter on down to 1 Tropicana Drive, in town for this limited engagement is a team that used to hold their annual Spring Training locally here in the ‘Burg, and is making their first trek into their old Spring home turf in 11 years. Member when the Mets used to come here every Spring from 1962 to1987 holding court over in the fields near the Jungle Prada section of the city.


I mean personally, I’m totally curious to see what a “hard knuckleball” looks like coming in at possibly 80 mph in comparison to the butterfly slow velocity knuckler thrown by former Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield. I am truly eager to see not only how Dickey can adjust and pitch against this struggling Rays offense, but will keep a keen eye on the Mets catcher to see just how you can keep that fluttering white sphere in your glove. Looking at the opposite side of the spectrum, it should be another chance for Price to again show some of his tricks of the trade via a blazing fastball combined with a newly refined curve and change-up to keep the Mets bats honest.

Surely this contest is billed as a “pitcher’s duel” with the unique possibility of a 1-0 or 2-1 score deciding this contest. But do not forget, these two hurlers have also posted 148 K’s and each sports an impressive ERAs between 2.40 (Price) and 2.44 (Dickey) this season. They also both have held opposing batters to stellar opposition batting average that are just a tick South of .236 mark and both have 1 shutout and complete game to their credit this season.

Heck, the only blip on either pitcher’s radar to show any weakness might be the fact Price only went 5 innings in his last start against the Yankees in New York. You would have to dig all the way back to Price’s start on April 13th in Boston to find any sub 5 inning start by the consistent southpaws this season. Dickey also suffered his only sub 5 inning stint about the same time this season when he only lasted 4.2 innings on April 18th in a contest in Atlanta against the Braves. Both have been consistent in going into the late innings of games, with powerful pitches at their disposal.


Tonight it is a mano-on-mano match-up. Classic hard-nose power pitching against the crafty and frustrating ball that can come in hard, or flutter like a firefly under the dome’s lights. If you like the Chess match that can turn into a baseball game, this is the game for you. So, why aren’t you here already? This game has all the earmarks of possibly turning into an instant classic 2012 baseball moment.

I’ll save you a seat. 

LL Cool J Charmed The Trop

Renegade Note: I apologize for this blog not getting its fair share of views on Sunday through today. For some reason my Laptop is not smarter than me and did not read my mind and push “Publish” as I wanted. Just goes to show you technology is only as smart as the guy who is pushing the keys down.

 I can honestly say without a shadow of a doubt last night’s Tampa Bay Rays concert artist LL Cool J knocked out Mommas, Pappas and maybe even a few Baby bears with his classic tunes. I truly felt like time pressed backwards with the first beats from the turntable and I found myself again in the early days of Hip Hop watching someone live tonight who’s tunes and tales blared not only back in those younger days through my own car’s speakers, but still finds play time even today.

 Heck, “Going back to Cali” and “Mama Said Knock You Out” are still on my travel I-pod tunes list because even today it can get me to press that accelerator a bit, possibly bringing out the bad boy in me (which is not hard to to do). I was standing there is the photo pit eager to get a shot of the longtime Hip Hop marvel, but I got mesmerized by the beats coming from the turntable and almost forgot what I was there for. But that is what great music does to you, it transforms you out of your comfort zone and into a state of harmonious bliss.

 From the moment LL Cool J hit the stage until his final note, this was one concert if you loved early Hip Hop and its root artist you truly did not want to miss. It was a perfect mix of old and new tunes with some special moments, especially for a few lucky fans. I was up front for his first venture into Tropicana Field complete with roses and smiles for the ladies, heck got trampled when he threw one just behind me and the massive army of arms went for the delicate flower.

 LL Cool J fans have always known the laid-back singer/ actor to be cool, calm and a bit of a charmer, but who in their right mind would have guessed he would actually take the glistening lollipop charm from around his neck and pluck it into the sea of eager hands and into the fingertips of one lucky soul. LL Cool J took the gold chain from around his neck complete with a lollipop charm designed by Mrs J (Simone I. Smith) and flicked it into the crowd on the right side of the stage. I know you want to know more about this charm, so here we go….

 The fashion statement in question was actually a part of her “ A Sweet Touch of Hope” collection that she created with the help of The American Cancer Society. Simone, a cancer survivor herself created this stylish lollipop charm in crystal and jeweled enamel in the 12 birthstone colors. Simone’s collection also includes earrings and bracelets, but on this night…it was all about the lollipop. I am not sure which of her awesome designs was around her husband’s neck on that faithful day, but here is a link to her website in case you also would love to have a lollipop, bracelet or buy something to support the American Cancer Society in California.

 It was wild early evening as LL Cool J began to wind down his concert, and in that period of time I saw an old Fraternity brother and ex-roommate who would have been dancing and grooving physically to the beats if not for him wearing his uniform. He came over to me and was adamantly excited to see someone on stage we both listened to in our cars back then, and who was about in our age bracket, but still performing like he did all those years ago.


It was one of those nostalgic moments you wanted to be thrust upon you so you could remember a day when music had not only a message, but artists who put it all out there within the boundaries and crosses so many cultural boundaries with their message and beats. I remember seeing LL Cool J as he was seated in the gold cart and about to be escorted across the AstroTurf of the Trop. backstage to a Meet and Greet session. He just tilted his head and gave me a nod again showing me he was as cool a cat on the stage as he was in real life. Can’t wait until he comes back again….Maybe in 2016?

LL Cool J Concert Photo Portfolio

 

Are You Ready for Zilla-Mania!

All day long I have had Blue Oyster Cult’s classic “Godzilla” repeating on my truck CD player. Over and over the lyrics and words have amped me up to a point of mystic reality that a human “Godzilla” and the swallowing International entourage that encompasses his MLB mystic via frenzied Japanese media, a sudden influx of Asian fans with personalized and cryptic homemade signs around Tropicana Field.

You can bet the moment it was announced that the human version of “Godzillawas on his way to the hamlet of St. Petersburg, Florida, the Rays Communications Department’s cellphones and email addresses have been bombarded with requests both for video and photo of the historic first appearance of Hideki Matsui in a Rays uniform. I did not get into the Trop. early today to witness the explosion when Matsui finally ascended the dugout steps and into the media gasping and camera clicking frenzy.

Simply put, this might be one of the biggest moves the Rays have made in a while that could turn their Designated Hitter position into a true powerhouse spot in the nightly line-up. It is going to be extremely interesting to see how Rays Manager Joe Maddon juggles the animated Wolverine/ Luke Scott and Matsui in and out of the Rays line-up, especially since both smash the ball from the left side of the plate.

But think about this all for an extended second, with the addition of Matsui who is a finessed professional hitter, the Rays finally have a guy who Maddon can be put behind anyone from Desmond Jennings (when he returns from the D L) to Matt Joyce, Evan Longoria or Carlos Pena and they will automatically see more pitches that they might be able to clobber themselves. Matsui might finally be able to help elevate the DH position for the Rays the way we hoped Manny Ramirez would have in 2011 before his own personal substance debacle.

Even the idea of Matsui playing in the field is not far-fetched especially during the Inter-League slate of games in National League parks. With the idea Scott might play a bit of First Base or the outfield plus Matsui drawing time in the outfield too, it might take the usually lighting-quick Rays outfield and make it a bit more…positioned to keep the big play from dominating the inning.

Even though Matsui has 9 years in the major leagues, it has taken its toll on his knees, but with him missing almost 2 months of the grit and grind of baseball, his knees and health might be timed perfectly to get him through the Inter-League schedule, then DH and be a valuable pinch-hit weapon for Maddon.

Of course Maddon and the Rays will not elevate the call-up of Matsui and anything “special”, but the moment the whisper was first uttered he was destined for the MLB before June, people have been lying in wait for just his arrival. Of course he will have to get used to a new band of baseball brothers, who tend to keep their clubhouse loose and free of the media drama that unfortunately follows Matsui from his homeland.

But there is a hidden gem here some people have not realized yet, but they will as soon as the MLB and Rays Team site begin to see a run on personalized Matsui # 35 jerseys and any collectible that tends to fall the way of E-bay or the Rays Baseball Foundation’s charity online auctions. Instantly the Rays will get extra press and free advertising back to the television sets in the Far East nightly as video replays and Matsui box scores and highlights hit the Web.

Do not be surprised if you see more Japanese advertisements being showcased on FSN/Sun Sports during Rays telecasts, especially on the MLB Network where fans in Japan can watch the game at almost anytime, even in the middle of the night as they get their fill of Matsui. Don’t be surprised if the blue screen to the right of Home Plate gets a few more swirling Matsui-inspired signs that will rotate as Hideki digs into the left-hand side of the Batter’s Box.

This is a big thing people. Not only does the call-up of Matsui possibly give us a profession power hitting bit of muscle, but it will open a new segment of Rays marketing, far out-reaching into the Asian baseball market as well as bring some new faces and excited fans into the Trop. Going to be amazing tonight if Matsui gets a hold of a hanging curveball and deposits it into the right field stands. Do not be surprised if the Raysvision crew already have their own “Godzilla” inspired video clip keyed up and ready to go full ballistic on the Jumbotron at the crack of the bat. 

Tropicana Field’s Tract has an Unfortunate History, but Maybe Not “Cursed”.

When people asked me if Tropicana Field is cursed, I sometimes do not know what to tell them. I guess it depends on what you consider a “curse”, and what you consider a flaw in judgment or design. Either way, I think the tilted cap in St. Petersburg, Florida has had it run of bad luck, obscure historical factions, and maybe a few disgruntled former residents both in and out of the dirt.

The word “cursed” to me definitely bring out negative energy, and with the rash of recent injuries, some downright insane, I can see the logic for people thinking this place might need a exorcism or sage cleansing ritual. Cursed is a powerful word. One that drums up evil intentions and vibrations that can come from both above or below the sandy soil of this region. For that matter, possibly the Trop is cursed per se, but only because of the past inhabitants or procedures done on this site before the stadium was erected.

People forget the long history of the corner of 16th Street and First Avenue South. Before the city of St. Petersburg decided to erect this futuristic arena to attract the eye of a Major League Baseball tenant to come play among the filtered Sun streams in 72 degree splendor, there was plenty of prior notion and movement that could have conjured up hostile spirits both dead and alive.

Some tales say a resident of a Caribbean nation practiced rituals condemning the new construction on the site of her former low-cost housing development bulldozed down after city officials ruled it was in the way of the progress of baseball. Whispers went through the wind that such rituals were performed on the construction grounds and might be the basis of any curse.


Still even earlier before the housing unit was even a figment in anyone’s mind, 3 different cemeteries called this area their final resting places. Oakland, Evergreen and Moffet occupied the rolling acreage that is now home to the cars, trucks of those gathering to watch Tampa Bay Rays games. These cemeteries held the final resting places of Civil War veterans, founding community leaders of this city, and was the local burial ground for the Sugar Hill and Gas Plant district long before the city spread out towards the Gulf waters.

In 1958, some 150 interned souls from the Moffet,225 from Evergreen were suppose to be transferred to the local Lincoln Cemetery to make way for the impending low-cost housing community. There is little or no reference to what might have happened to the souls who occupied plots in the Oakland Cemetery, even after the construction started on the Laurel Park housing complex. Ironically, this was the same complex razed in 1990 to make way for the new stadium.

People forget this site used to be the City of St. Petersburg’s Gas Plant site in which two steel towers supported massive natural gas cylinders that towered over the region long before the downtown development went skywards. The aftermath of this contamination left by the residue of decades of gas deposits made the soil more like muck and it’s leakage down into the soil cost the St. Petersburg taxpayer’s a large sum of money to clean this area up enough to build a stadium without health concerns now or in the future.

Even as construction began on the 175 off-ramp from I-275 in February 1976, a construction crew found old leg,arm and a ribcage while doing road prep. Old coffins, gravestones and even a human skull were discovered by road crews preparing the surfaces for the impending Interstate finger into the heart of the town. All within a Carlos Pena Home Run distance from the Trop’s Rotunda. Some even say unmarked graves, and their residents might still be scattered 6 feet under in and around the Trop’s location. But even if these interned souls linger under the asphalt and cement, this doesn’t make the Trop or the Rays “cursed”.

Sure bad vibes could still be lingering from past souls, displaced families and resident of Laurel Park, but that probably doesn’t have any relationship to the recent odd happenings with this team or its players. Will Rhymes fainting into the arms of First Base Coach George Hendricks did not show or maintain possession features. Jeff Keppinger getting blasted in his right foot by a foul ball while sitting in the Rays dugout doesn’t portray demonic intentions or a “curse” interaction.

Sometimes the action of someone saying a place is “cursed”, filled with negative energy or evil intent can spread like wildfire and then some begin to believe not only the hype, but the past lore that pre-dated this stadium. The recent run of bad luck or cursed behavior witnessed by the Rays players and their fans is more psychological than physical right now. Sure injuries are happening, but is the spirit of St. Petersburg founder John Williams causing them. Could a Civil War veteran be the cause of all this recent injuries, or is it just the plain fact this team has been riding a lucky star for so long, a little mis-guided mojo gets referred to as a curse.

It all depends on your beliefs on if the past leads us during our present, or if we are deemed to repeat the past complete with good, evil and occasional accidents guided by prior events or entities. I guess the reality is that each of us has to decide for themselves their own conclusions, reasonings or justifications for the recent injury plague. Whatever you final conclusion be it a curse, coincidence or just plain bad mojo, Tropicana Field will always have distractors, haters and people who want to conjure up this stadium’s evil catwalks, demonic light fixtures and the horrific sight of Raymond’s blue fur. Everyone has their opinion, but I do not think this team is cursed or even damned…….anymore.

Get Well Soon Zim, We Miss You

When I think of the Tampa Bay Rays, he always comes to my mind. From his customized golf cart at Spring Training camp, to his presence at Rays fund-raisers and any baseball function, his presence just makes you feel royalty has embraced the cause. He has never gone to the plate or hurled a pitch in a game for this franchise, but he has forever been engraved as a icon of this club. To me Rays Senior Advisor Don Zimmer might have forgotten more baseball than any of us will ever know, but the man is eternally the Grand Puba of baseball in my mind.

It still amazes me the years that have flown by for Zimmer since his first days as a Dodger via Brooklyn not Los Angeles. From taking his spot at shortstop to manning a spot on the bench or rail as a Manager or Coach, Zimmer has been inspirational to generations of ballplayers and fans alike. He truly has lived the perfect baseball life, and still is a vital cog in the Rays baseball machine. The man is a 2-time author, definitely an inspirational speaker and can tell you baseball tales and events that can make you bask at his words like a child no matter you age. He is the quintessential MLB storyteller. They definitely do not make them anymore like “the Zim”.

Sometimes I think of him more as an immortal baseball god than a human, and possibly that is why when I recently heard Zimmer had been absent from his customary seat in the Trop. since right after the first home series against the New York Yankees, I became nervous and anxious. I have come to find out Zimmer has been has been hospitalized in the last week with a kidney condition and will soon begin the dialysis process. I came to find out “The Zim” has been hospitalized 3 times in the last 5 weeks for diabetic related ailments, possibly Father Time finally found Zimmer and threw him a inside curve ball Zim could not make solid contact with.

So I am asking the Rays Republic to all not only say some blessing and good vibes towards Zimmer today, but to raise your Cowbells high and ring them like never before as the Rays take the field today. Stand, clap, ring the clapper until it ends up detached and 5 rows in front of you, move that turkey wing of your in such a manner you need Tommy John’s, remember the things we love about Zim, and why is so endeared and beloved by fans both in Tampa Bay and in other hamlets around the baseball World.

I have not brought out my big black Cowbell in 4 years, but today I will get a new drumstick, position myself accordingly and bash that thing until it bends again from the force and effort. That is how much this one iconic member of the Rays means to me. From the first time I met him when I put Premium Pure Oil gasoline in his car, to countless moments just saying hello in the stands and around the Rays complex, this man has become one of the most respected people I know, or ever want to know.

Zimmer’s son Tom offered a nugget of future hope today when talking about Zim again taking his rightful spot again in Tropicana Field. “Once his Father gets comfortable with the dialysis schedule and routine he should be back with the Rays”. I truly hope so, the man means more to this franchise and the guys in the clubhouse than most fans can imagine. I remember seeing him sit down and talk to former Rays P Scott Kazmir once during Batting Practice and Kaz was beaming from ear-to-ear listening intently to the knowledge and wisdom that came out of Zim’s mouth.

He might have never stepped on the field as a player, never struck the sweet spot or hurled a missile during infield practice, but name me one other Rays who commands instant respect, get noticed the moment he walks into a room and is embraced by the Rays and the rest of the baseball world. Can’t wait to see Zimmer back in his seat. That will be an emotional moment, I hope we all do not flood the Trop on that day.

“Oh No….Longo!”

I swear at that moment I saw the cloth fabric of Tropicana Field move like a sudden wind gust had enveloped it. The collective gasp and exhale after a botched stolen base attempt by Tampa Bay Rays 3B Evan Longoria made the Trop. silent as we watched Rays Head Trainer Ron Porterfield and Rays skipper Joe Maddon trot out to Longo. I immediately let out a long drawn out moan of “Oh No! Longo!” that made a few people laugh as it sounded more like the old SNL Mr Bill character than my usual voice, but it hit me like a rock that suddenly one of the true keystones of this amazing run by the Rays stood favoring his left knee and we all wanted it to heal instantly.

This season Longoria seemed to want to be the “go-to” guy, he wanted the pressure, the stress and the responsibilities that go along with being the player constantly in the spotlight for both praise and criticism. It is always a good sign for a player to leave the field on his own power, but when it is a central figure standing there trying to keep his weight off his sore and aching knee, the Rays Republic could only think the worst. Even before Longo hit the Rays dugout steps the dulled whispers and a active hum hit the stadium.

The early prognosis is that Longoria is suffering a bit of soreness in his left knee region, but then we heard the three letter that instantly horrified us all..M..R..I. That doesn’t mean as much today as it would 3-4 years ago as every athlete even with a minor aliment gets this imaging test nowadays as a precaution more than a insight to injury. Still, this one test can see deeper into the situation, and possibly bring to the surface our darkest fears, a extended bench vacation for the Rays offensive weapon.

That would put a deep crease in the Rays offensive machine as Longoria was a key figure in the Rays 5th ranked American League offense, and was experiencing a great start in 2012. Going into this match-up against Seattle, Longoria himself boasted a .550 average with runners in scoring position, which lead the majors. To put it into deeper prospective in Longo’s last 12 plate appearances with runners in scoring position before Monday night’s contest, he was an astronomical 9-for-10 with 2 doubles, 2HR, 2 walks and 11 RBI. Instantly by this you can see a major clog in the Rays machine has a sudden health issue.

Let’s expand a bit more into the offensive presence of Longo for this 2012 Rays squad. He already has 19 RBI in 95 plate appearances in 22 games. That is a huge improvement over 2011 when it took Longoria 151 plate appearances to hit the same mark. Longoria had 15 RBI in 13 road games this season as well as since last June, his 105 RBI in 120 games leads the entire tier of sluggers in Major League Baseball.

If Longoria spends any significant time off the field it hits the Rays in a multitude of areas. It takes a huge piece of the Rays hitting factor our of their 2012 equation as well as a team on-the-field General and leader. Even with his fumble-itus recently at the Hot Corner, his experience and solid foundation at Third Base will open a huge hole with only utility guy Elliot Johnson and possibly Jeff Keppinger currently on the Rays roster who can play the spot with any consistency. It would also throw a huge monkey wrench into the Rays winning formula that has already sparked an impressive 8-2 record over their last 10 contests.

It is too early to think negatively. Longo maybe needs a day or two off his feet in the field, possibly resting and icing the knee. I do not want to fathom the thought of 30 days or longer without the Rays spark plug at the Hot Corner, I would rather think of this as a short vaca to do some much needed R&R.

Possibly as early as this afternoon or tonight we will know more, so I will keep the negative Nelly stuff deep within me, hoping the MRI shows minimal or no significant damage. I know the Rays Republic are sending positive vibes and emotions to Longo, hopefully they have the power to heal and bandage this evolving Rays situation. I truly did have the shivers last night watching the event, and it was hard to stay positive. Hopefully Maddon will be the bearer of great news later today.

“When In Doubt, Let It Be”

(head tilt  Corky Gaines)

You hear the crack off the bat and instantly see the ball in the air as it spins and orbits towards you. Everything else suddenly fades away as you are stuck mesmerized watching that white sphere as it heads straight to you. It is almost like you are transpose into another surreal realm where it is just you and that little white orb doing it’s little dance as it nears your hands/glove. You go into an astute form of concentration where any surrounding noise vacates your mind, even the screams and pleas of fans around you can not beckon you back to reality in time.

 Just as you are about to reap the rewards and bring that sphere into your grasp you are suddenly snapped back into the present possibly by the deafening sound of footsteps as one of the field players also yearns for your prize. You think you are in the right, but without regret you reach for the ball and it slips through both your grasps, falling to the ground, skipping away from you as you look into the player’s eyes and instantly regret and shame come crashing down upon you even before the showers of boos and catcalls.

 You have interfered with a ball near the field of play effectively knocking it from his projected path and bringing the total focus of the action towards you as you realize the error of your ways. You instantly become entangled and bewildered by the loud chorus of boos making your actions even more deplorable as the seconds tick away. Even the act of trying to apologize, rationalize the previous moments falls on deaf ears around you, for you have committed a baseball mortal sin. You have interfered with a ball in the air that could of produced an out for your home team.

 It is one of the horrific things that can happen as you sit in those expensive seats between the dugouts and the Bullpen seating areas. You see the ball in the air as it rambles towards your seat, think for a moment you have a right to it then pounce, but instead you take a clears chance at ending an inning early with your actions. More and more we are seeing fan interference at Tampa Bay Rays games. It is human nature to want to catch a foul ball, thrust it into the air like a Roman Gladiator the hand it like a treasured jewel to your child. Instead you become an instant scapegoat, a pariah for wanting that white sphere for your own.

I would like to think some of most of this flashed through the mind of ex-NBA player and true Rays fan Matt Geiger as he came down the steps towards his seats on Sunday watching the ball spin towards his seating area with all intentions of being out of the reach of anyone, even Rays First Baseman Carlos Pena.  But Geiger forgot the cardinal rule at that moment like so many of us would of if the situation were reversed. 

And it is true, you do kind of get lost in the rotation of the ball, possibly forgetting that Rays First Baseman Carlos Pena also see the same prize within his grasp and wants it as much as you. We all know how the story ended, with Geiger putting his hands to his face is disbelief not for missing the ball, but for becoming the latest fan scapegoat within Tropicana Field.

 I know Tampa Bay Talk Radio trashed this incident involving Geiger to death on Monday, but I refrained from getting into the shark frenzy. Unlike two of the Home Run controversies during the Rays and New York Yankee series, Geiger did not reach over and pluck the ball out of the air or in front of that mysterious painted yellow line to rob the Rays of potential runs. Geiger did cost the Rays a clear out, but it came with minimal damage, and a few extra pitches.

 Geiger got caught up in the moment, of wanting a actual game used ball for his young son but instead got the wrath and attention for doing something really uncharacteristic for him. He projected himself into the game. The ridicule and harsh comments bellowed towards him as he was escorted from his expensive seat as Geiger’s interaction within the game was being reviewed and it was concluded he did not reach into the field of play, his big mitts just were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

 This just goes to show you, anyone can get caught up in the moment, even someone as experienced as Geiger. This incident just goes to show you the consequences of your actions when you sit down close, next to the rail or lean over for a ball can dictate and turn the momentum of a game, plus you might get an early exit from the ballpark.

I guess it is best to go by this simple rule: If you are sitting in a region that a ball can be deemed interfered with, when in doubt, let it be. Simple words until you hear the crack of the bat and see that spinning white sphere coming towards you.

 

Cap tilt to Rays Index/Corky Gaines for the fine in-game freeze frame images.

 

Who Knew “The Longo” Would Endure

What is it about our society and crazes. Every time I turn around it seems there is a new and hip movement or direction being thrust upon us to either decide if we want to be hip or square. When we were young it was having the right tin lunch box and thermos ( mine was Gilligan’s Island) to today doing a one motion pose that is sweeping the baseball nation.

Yes, I’m talking about the phenom we know in Tampa Bay as “The Longo”. I got a chuckle recently from a fellow Rays blogger (Corky Gaines) who said “ it was like Tebowing, but had less religiously”. We have developed into a social animal that mimics, interprets and constantly repeats motions and things like human parrots. But that is not always a bad thing.

How much you want to bet there will be a between innings contest tonight to see who does the best “Longo” instead of dancing against the Rays mascot Raymond. I could easily see a group, an individual or maybe even an entire seating section down the Trop’s First Base region rising to their feet, thrust their arms and fingers at a 58 degree angle and do the addicting maneuver. Heck, who needs the Chik Filet cows tonight, give those 100′s of
Rays fan a free chicken sandwich for doing the latest visual craze since…..doing the Tebow.

I like doing “The Longo”, heck if I would have known a simple motion of thrusting my arms and fingers to the heavens would have done such for my “cool” stature, I would have done it in the late 70′s. I mean I did do a rendition of former Red Sox Carlton Fisk where I used my body to groove a ball fair, but it went unnoticed and was viewed by my baseball coach more as showboating than showing an air of respect to a baseball player.

How our society has evolved that we can embrace, simulate and take pride in an emotional reaction to a life and game altering moment like Longo’s blast to bring the Rays to the 2011 October party. If you really watch Longo on that play I truly expected him to turn towards the Rays dugout on the way to first and do that famous “Crash “ Davis move of pulling his hands to his face in form a moment of disbelief as the dugout does the Wave. But instead we have an emotionally charged moment as the ball clears the outfield yellow line then pandemonium not only breaks out in St. Petersburg, but I think a few hearts wept in New York City.

Not since KC and the Sunshine Band did their patented “shake your booty” move has Florida embraced a physical move like this. I have seen photos roll in from a class full of kids doing “The Longo”, to High School baseball teams in the clubhouse, numerous members of the Rays Republic doing it all around this community, to a simple figurine and glorious T-shirt so many fans will adorn and treasure tonight.

So many great moments have been witnessed under the tilted cap of Tropicana Field. Wade Bogg’s 3,000th hit, the first MLB instant replay and enough walk-off magical moments to make a 30-minute tutorial on how to do it right. But tonight we all get to not only honor, but relieve again and again via the Trop’s Jumbotron a moment our kid’s will discuss with their grandkids, and possibly re-enacting “the Longo” again 40 years from now.

So tonight we honor that special moment, that gesture that will live forever in not only Rays lore, but baseball’s magical moments as the Game 162 blast by Evan Longoria will possibly be this generation’s “Robby Thompson’s Shot Heard Around the World”.

As the gates of the Trop open, I wonder how many the entering fans will thrust their fingers and arms into the cooled Trop air, tilt a little for aerodynamic stability and take off again just like Longoria as he rounded First Base last October. Who knows, if you do the new cool and hip thing in Tampa Bay today you might even find yourself thrusting skyward revisiting the moment in your own glory on the Trop Jumbotron. That not only would be impressive, but I bet Longo would be mimicking you in the dugout….Now that would be a cool move.

El Presidente’ Again Has Our Hearts

He is one of the most beloved player to ever strapped on a Rays uniform. Beloved as much for the deeds and efforts he displays on the field as those done within the Tampa Bay community. Maybe it seems fitting with the 2012 Republican National Convention coming to Tampa this Summer, El Presidente aka Carlos Pena could easily run for President and could easily win everywhere but possibly within the 5 boroughs of New York today.

Can anyone else remember a Rays moment when we ever gave 5 standing ovations, and not just to a single player. You read that right, 5 times Pena heard the 30,000+ wedged into the tilted cap of the Trop call for him, cheer for him, wanting him to hear and acknowledge their spirited roar. Pena not only took a “curtain call” after his memorable grand salami off New York Yankee starter CC Sabathia. But who would of expected his final action on this day would not only returned the favor, but burst out a resounding and almost fantasy storyline to the already volume of stories that is the “Legend of ‘Los”.

There will be some in the Yankee fan-dom that will say Pena just “ bent into a few bad pitches”, but those same white spheres came from anointed Yankee legendary figures. Pena’s grand slam off Sabathia was the first one ever given up to a left-hander in his long career. Mariano Rivera who might be canonized and made a NYC saint someday was going for save # 604 before Pena deposited the deep shot to Left-Centerfield that sent this stadium into a frenzy akin to Game 162.

Not a single Yankee fan will ever acknowledge this but the insane sound of the ball off Pena’s bat yesterday sent New York Yankee hearts sinking while a whole stadium instantly again fell back in love with him, almost like he never took a 180 day vacation to Chi-town.

After the game Pena “ did his dance” during the Rays 15-minute celebration phase of their 30-minutes and move on “Rays Way” pattern, but something tells me this showcase, this performance that enlightened showed why the Rays Republic has always. Wilder still this was only the 1st act of an 162 act play. I swear it could not have been scripted any better (even by Disney) or played out with any more emotional tugs and pulls during the contest then without warning, Pena simply reached back into all of our hearts and started it beating akin to his own unique rhythm.

It seemed ironic that the same day we hoisted a banner to the rafters showing our pride for 2011 magic, Pena reminded us of what seemed missing last season. Somehow with 2 mighty swings yesterday Pena choreographed the Rays dugout back into his old Salsa groove. From Home Plate to the far reaches of the TBT Deck, on this Opening Day triumphant moment not lost in the excitement was the re-discovery of why we love El Presidente’. May his reign be supreme and his subjects filled with joy. Welcome back ‘Los.

Welcome Back Baseball, I Really Missed You

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.

 

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