Rays Own Rennaissance Man……James Shields

When I try and visualize a bit of the essence of the phrase “Renaissance man”, I do not immediately bring up images from the 1994 Penny Marshall flick starring Danny DeVito and Gregory Hines. Nor do I rank my brain to remember the spontaneous moments of an episode by that same name on the of Sci-Fi classic Star Trek:Voyager”.

Instead my mind comp templates a man or woman who shows a resounding expertise in multiple areas. From fashion acting, or possibly even the written word. I also see visions of a culinary artist in motion whipping up a delightful creme brulle or possibly a Basalmic Vinaigrette without a care or whim. I am beginning to think the Tampa Bay Rays might have own in-house version of a “Renaissance man”, and it’s not pitchers David Price or Andy Sonnanstine.

James Shields- Fashion Plate:

For me, Rays greybeard and man-of-the-moment James Shields fits this image perfectly. We all ready know of his fashion exploits designing two Friday Fest T-shirts given away to fans in the past two seasons, and you know there are more inspirations ans designs dancing around Shield’s cerebral cortex just waiting for their big entrance.

I remember when Shields unveiled his first T-shirt I did an in-depth blog post on the design and elements that caught the eye of a local fishwrap. But that is just one layer of the constantly unfolding pieces of work devised by Shields, and only a scratching of the surface of his potential. Shields has also been a model and seasonal participant of the Rays Wive’s “Rays on the Runway” show held every season in a local Tampa Bay venue to benefit the Children’s Dream Fund.

James Shields- Author

Recently Shields and MLBlogs.com’s own Bill Chastain, who also doubles as the Rays MLB.com writer unveiled their collaborated work “September Night’s” during a book signing at a South Tampa sports bar this past week. The book follows the wild month of September 2010 as the Rays fought for their second American League East title. It is an insightful account from a pitcher who hit the mound 5 times during that historic stretch.

Shields was approached by Chastain during a 2010 road trip to Detroit to write the tale, and Shields hovered over Chastain’s microphone telling the untold stories and events that were behind the usual Blue curtain of the Rays. Shields wanted to deliver the passing of that eventful months with anecdotes and inside muses that only Shields could deliver. Shields even delivered a few spot-on caricatures of his teammates that showed both their serious and spontaneous side as the Rays concluded their 2010 regular season campaign.

In the book Shields reveals a few unknown events, and bring a human side and clarity to some of the things we was fans never have access to, or hear about before, during or after historic runs like the Rays 2010 divisional chase. Shield’s accounts of the daily events bring it into a more human and non-competitive format to illustrate everything you wanted to know about that great 2010 late season run.

James Shield- Humanitarian

I think this one part of Shield’s Renaissance man persona is the most accurate depiction of the man himself. Local Tampa Bay political icon US Congressman Bill Young thought so much of Shield’s advocacy for the Tampa Bay foster care system that he bestowed the 2010 “Angel of Adoption” award to Shields. This award gives members of Congress a chance to further applaud and bring to light the gallant efforts to enrich and enlighten the lives of foster and orphaned in this country and abroad.

But that is only a sliver of the way Shields gives back to this community. Shields and his wife Ryane have teamed up with the Eckerd Youth Alternatives to create an exclusive club for foster children in this area.

The Big Game James Club was designed to help promote normalcy along with a sense of stability and belonging within the everyday lives of Tampa Bay area foster children served by the Eckerd Community Alternatives program. About 50 kids participated in the program in 2010 and get to meet Shields before the game plus enjoy watching the contest in a specially-decorated suite generously donated by the Rays and the Shields family.

Shields and his wife are also firmly supportive with the traveling photo and audible exhibit the Progress Energy Heart Gallery for the last 5 seasons. The Heart Gallery was created to offer another visible way for children to get a chance to find their own family unity within the local foster care system. For his efforts Shields has also garnered the Rays nomination for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award given to the MLB star who epitomizes the off-the-field humanitarian efforts just like the Pirates legend.

In addition, Shields works with the Rays charity arm, the Rays Foundation during their fund raisers, golf tournament and has donated his time and expertise through the Rays annual Broadcast Auction to act as a pitching tutor/ instructor. Shields also donated funds to help rebuild a youth baseball field in Bradenton, Florida.

James Shields- Actor

By now all of us have become clients or at least admirers of the fictitious MLB pitching firm of Shields and Price portrayed infomercial style during the 2011 MLB season in conjunction with the MLB Fan cave. In this instant Rays classic video you see the easiness and professional demeanor of Shields, the actor. Shields does an great job of making us all want to pick up the phone and use the services of this great leftie-rightie pitching combo.

Being a “Renaissance man” in the 21st Century most would think you have to be fluent in multiple languages, be able to write computer RPG code, or possibly help give birth to a child in an elevator. Those are great attributes, but there is one more thing that resonates this “Renaissance man” theme with me with Shields in mind.

I have volunteered for a few pre-Spring Training golf tournaments over the last few years, and it is always a pleasure to see Shields step up to take a putt or smack the daylights out of that little dimpled ball. Shields plays golf with the same air of professionalism and competitive spirit that graces his face and body language on the mound. But Shields also carries that hint of non-nonchalant charm needed to have fun with the game and not take it all as serious as life or death. If I played golf, Shields would be the kind of player I would want in my pairing.

On the bottom of his page in the Rays media guide for the last several seasons there has been another chapter possibly unfolding behind the Rays blue curtain in regards to Shields, and it plays great with the paternal Italian side of his heritage. Shields wants to possibly pursue a career in the culinary field after he is done throwing a little white sphere 90+ mph.

Who knows, possibly the Rays could let Shield design a sandwich, a concession item in one of their Rays themed stands that would not only mirror this love of cooking for Shields, but give us all another avenue to delight and further admire the skills and craft that this Rays right hander has to offer. And Shield has achieved this remarkable “Renaissance” title even before his 30th birthday..

I truly can’t wait to see what talent or enterprise Shields unveils next!


Nice write up — Shields is the man for sure. His complete games this season were a sight to behold.


Shields have emerged from his 2010 damaged coccoon intact and is more than ready to go at it again in 2012. He has popped the 200 inning buble so many times now it is almost a “given” he will get at least 30 starts. That is the one thing that kind of scares me as he hit the big 3-0.
Not that his abilities can falter, it is just the “machine” that is “Big Game” has chugged along with only minor scrapes and bruising so far in his career. That being said, Shields might last until the end of July as a Ray, but I truly see him heading to a NL team where he can also get some licks in with his lumber….People forget the guy can smack the ball.

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