I swear it seemed like Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price didn’t even get his TB cap down upon his head after saluting the home crowd today when the annual M L B Trade Deadline circus circus began its carny barking as to the future vista of Price.
Hopefully these ministers of the media keep their whispers and speculation banter somewhere between the tattered chalk lines of truth and facts and only the confirmed facts will eventually rise to our collective ears.
For we are again at that fateful time of the season when the critic’s Circus again pulls back its tattered curtain and all 3 rings are anxious with tales flowing in all imaginary directions set to whet our baseball whistles.
One local Tampa Bay media talking head boasted the headline “Price delivers in potential final home start for Rays”.
I understand everyone and every body wanting to be the first voice to pop out a possible true scenario and bring to light or put to bed an issue, but with 12 Rays home contests between July 7-30th, I have a feeling unless the Rays get a golden offer around the All-Star break, we should be able to witness at least 1 more “Price, Price baby” moment in Tropicana Field before the Trade clock hits zero..
With the first high octane voice bellowing the half-truths, Price has now officially embarked on a unwanted and unflattering 65 possible team destinations in 65 days trip with the potential for no return flight to TPA or PIE this season.
I know many in the media will lead their stories with Price’s stupendous double-digit K feats and not be direct links to the circus.
They will adamantly state that Price is again got a firm grip on his game, but I am not naive enough to no worry that some trade darkness might creep into these same reports thanks to that one negative ” last home start” concerning Price.
I was hoping not to get caught up in the fiasco and stand on the sideline a bit until July 30th, but this unexpected Rays riptide has taken a hold of me and I’m now along for the whole nasty ride….sink or swim style.
Maybe I’m in the minority that believe whole heatedly that the Rays still have an iota of a post-season chance and go decide ultimately to go “All In” with Price knowing he can muster some vital late season dividends.
It is the fiscal reality of being a Rays player….If you have success, someone will pay a premium to possess your skills for their own zip code and fan base. I know deep down into my cavernous baseball soul this dark day will happen and Price will someday pull on another team’s jersey, but hopefully after November 1, 2014.
I heard Los Angeles, Toronto, Seattle and even Texas, and this was just in the stands. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had him as the new Manager of Manchester United knowing Price’s Soccer prowess.
One ounce of misquoted speculation, rancid rumor or well-placed slight of tongue can bring your own baseball swirling faster than the seams on a Price fastball.
But even if that is what I truly want as a fan of Price and the Rays, the total opposite can happen with one single phone call or text and the healing process within this community will have to begin for all parties involved.
I plan thinking it is all lies unless Rays VP of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman, Rays Manager Joe Maddon or Price tell me otherwise. Sorry I plan on being that obnoxious little kid in church who pops his fingers in his ears and warbles “nana boo, boo” noises ‘til the cow-nose rays or Price again comes home.
Oh gosh, I gotta end this now I can hear the Calliope comin’ around the Clubhouse bend…..
It is a sound and a quickly approaching spinning blur that every pitcher know will happen at some point in their careers. Sure the ball might have been traveling to the plate at over 90 mph, but as bat meets ball the return boomerang of the white sphere can reach easily into the triple speed digits.At those moment the 60 feet 60 inches from plate to mound can be traveled before the blink of an eye. At that moment an extra inch of protection can be the difference between being a future part of the game or experiencing a career defining moment.
Reaction times are critical and even the most inopportune blink or body movement can be the difference between being tattooed with a Rawlings stitch line, missed completely, or crumble to the turf in a heap. Tampa Bay Rays fans knew this feeling well back in 2013 as they witnessed firsthand Toronto Blue Jays starter J. A. Happ then Rays hurler Alex Cobb take pitches back through the box to their head regions.
Over the last several years there has been an increase in batted balls vent on human destruction coming back through the pitcher’s mound area with speeds in excess of 100 mph. Doesn’t matter if you threw a curve, change-up or even an high and inside fastball…..If it was your time, your next move was critical.M L B consulted a few manufacturers to devise and invent a protective cap that could or at least would eliminate some of that explosive interaction of ball meeting noggin, and selected IsoBlox’s version for distribution around 2014 M L B spring training camps.
I wrote a post how the new caps were AWOL on the head of members of the Rays starting or relief corps this spring, but someone with at least a former lineage to the Rays has been the first to wear the modified “Charlie Brown” front crown and brimmed cap to a M L B mound.
Torres might be the first to sport the cap as a possible new piece of M L B pitching attire, but I doubt he will be the last. And some time has expired since Torres had his own head injury scare this past spring on a ball batted back through the middle.
Torres did quickly or automatically order a protective cap after that incident, but decided his health was first and foremost and ordered the cap last month and IsoBlox had it in his locker within a week’s time.
I mean I knew former Ray, now San Diego Padres reliever Alex Torres was a smart guy, but possibly his action of wearing the cap to the hill in Saturday night’s match-up against the Los Angeles Dodgers might just be the motion needed for other pitchers, both starters and relievers to possibly don the new cap for themselves possibly later in the 2014 season.
Sure the cap seems a bit bulky and possibly cumbersome on first glance, but what that overshadows is the extra element of safety it might create especially for a leftie who leans down through his delivery and has his head exposed towards the plate before coming back into a more upright position.
I could see the rest of the M L B hurlers not even thinking of wearing this style cap if they had to thrust into their own pockets for this extra padded brim, but IsoBlox has made the cap FREE to the M L B and believe me, Torres seemed to be not only smart enough, but possibly has the bulk of the new caps sporting the Padres logo at his disposal.
Torres added post-game, “It doesn’t feel bad. The difference between the regular cap and this cap is not really that big.”
And Torres after the game did share that he did have a few quips and possible giggles directed his way from teammates as to his odd-shaped mound attire, but Torres might end up having the last laugh as he will now be a lifetime baseball trivia answer for taking the first steps to don the front-heavy head gear.
“It could save our lives if someone hits a ball to your head. I get it for free, so I’m just gonna use it to see how it feels.”
People always talk about players being pioneers, doing something incredible during a game that will be remembered for eons. Will baseball history remember, or celebrate the fact Torres embraced the protective cap and proudly wore it on his head when he strolled to the mound in the top of the 8th inning in front of 43,474 fans seated in Petco Park Saturday night?
Torres threw 25 pitches during his appearance against the Dodgers and not once did ball meet cap, or cap meet turf.
I applaud Torre’ effort for not only being the first to don the new protective cap, but for being the first to experience it under an actual M L B game time situation. Hopefully because of what Torres did a few other bulky “Charlie Brown” caps with other M L B team logos will make their own game day appearances.
I tip my non-bulky cap to Torres for leading the way with an IsoBlox cap upon his head.
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.
I got an email the other day from the Texas Rangers as they were doing promotion for their upcoming “University Day” on July 11th featuring a special Baylor color scheme inspired cap and game day promotions.
Of course I’m a bit biased being a Baylor grad., but after seeing this I visited my own local team, the Tampa Bay Rays website and found out they are also going to show some Rays love to our Florida universities.
The Rays will also have 3 separate college nights in 2014 with the first showcasing the Florida Gators aka “Chomp at the Trop” on Sat., July 26th when the team takes on the Boston Red Sox. The University of South Florida get their chance on Sat., August 2nd when the Los Angeles Angels come to the Trop, and Florida State has their “Chop at the Trop” event on Sun., August 3rd.
Each event have their own ticket pricing variables from which includes a seat in the Lower Level and a special edition cap featuring your school. USF ticket packages start at $34 and you can use the password: USF1 for your Bulls package. FSU fans ticket packages start at $38 and you can get your special Nole seats with the password: Noles1. Florida fans can get their $42 packages with the password; Gator1.
If you plan on attending the game with a larger group of 10 or more fans, call the Rays Group Sales dept. at (727) 825-3396 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could possibly see a few more dollars in all of your group’s wallet come game day.
I think it is awesome that the Rangers and Rays have devoted a special game day for colleges within their regional grasp and promote their love for those universities with their own college color scheme inspired Rays cap design. I will definitely be in house on July 29th when the Gator Nation invades the Trop and could help the Rays fans out cheer the sporadic outbursts from the Red Sox faithful.
My only complaint or hope is that in the future the Rays can provide a more colorful cap more in tune with each school’s color scheme more like the Baylor cap the Rangers will hand out. The Rays caps seem a bit “plain Jane” to me compared to the Baylor cap, and usually the Rays do not go with a plain promotional item, especially one that will be seen around town bearing their trademark “TB”.
Hopefully this is only a beginning and someday each of the M L B’s clubs can one day carry these special college caps in their respective Team Store and promote these school and their Rays ties 365 days a year instead of for one glorious night.
Now if I can figure out a way to get my hands on one of those awesome Baylor caps….
Renegade Note: Everyone has their own Don Zimmer moments within or outside the game. The following is my first encounter with the beloved baseball soul who held the game close to his heart and embraced it until the end. We will miss you Zim.
I was around 11 years old when I first met Don Zimmer.
It was late January of ’72 when I met Zimmer and his wife Soot when they were out and about for an afternoon cruising around the town from their then home situated on the finger islands of Treasure Island.
I didn’t know the first time he drove into the station he was even a ballplayer.
People in that era either dressed up or wore subdued cotton shirts and pants and they both blended in nicely to the fashions of the time period. M L B branded and mass merchandised clothing was usually reserved for the diamond and almost never plastered across your body as every day clothes. Style and class was all the rage back then.
I always idolized my Dad and worked a lot of after school and most weekends at our Union 76/ Pure Oil gas station (Wittig’s Motor Pool) on the popular crossroads of Pasadena and Central Avenues which were main thoroughfares into and from the beaches here in West St. Petersburg, Fl.
Back then every one of our gas station’s 6 pumps demanded that special Full Service attention.
That meant as a young kid I would wash windshields, check air pressure in tires, check the oil levels and put the regular or premium gasoline nozzle into the car’s tank and popped in as much gas as the customer needed.
I loved doing my duties in a scaled down shirt emblazoned with St. Pete AAA patches, the orange Union 76 globe patch on one sleeve and the name “Cliff” sewn in above my breast pocket.
Back then people asked me if this was my station, and I said “Yes”, hoping one day my Father, who was also named Cliff would throw me the tow truck and door keys for good.
As I was under the hood checking the brake fluid, wiping down the oil dipstick and checking for corrosion buildup on the battery cables. I noticed Zimmer’s eyes peering at me through the small space between the hood and the windshield section of the car.
He was laughing and seemed to get a kick out of this young kid going gangbusters servicing his beautiful automobile. He even chuckled when I told him one of his belts was a bit worn and he might want to keep an eye on it.
After I heard the click of the gas nozzle and finished filling the car’s gas tank. I then approached and told Zimmer the amount and awaited the payment for the gas.
He asked me if we, (the station) ever got large used tire tubes he could use as an inexpensive but fun float for when his family headed out to the Gulf of Mexico. I assured him I could help him for honest price.
I saw that most of them were not very large in size and remembered I had a huge truck tube outside by the alignment rack I used as a baseball aid to help me hone in my budding curve ball.
Zimmer watched as I went through the moves of making sure the tube was filled, had no leaks then pronounced without hesitation, “I can sell this fine tube to you for .75 cents”. Now do not forget, a gallon of regular gas at that time cost between 39-45 cents by itself, so for the price of about 2 gallons of fine Union 76 fuel, he could have hours of unadulterated enjoyment stretched out on that huge truck tube getting roasted by the warm Florida Sun.
I finished the exchange and Zimmer presented the money to my Dad for the gas and the tube and Zimmer asked why there were white lines on the inside circle of the tube. My Dad explained it was my “throwing tube” to practice my aim and accuracy as I played Third Base and sometimes pitched for my Little League team.
Zimmer just looked at me and asked if I was good. He looked at my Dad then me and I told him I wanted to be the next Brooks Robinson and Zimmer smiled telling me that “Brooks was a great ballplayer to watch and copy parts of his defensive style and stance”.
As we opened the trunk to put in the tube I saw a few gloves, a stack of bats and a bag of worn and clay stained baseballs. Zimmer quickly said he also loved the game of baseball and worked out with his young son when he had the time. At no time did he pump out his chest or proclaim he was an ex-MLB player or even a World class Coach and Manager.
At that moment he seemed to me to be just an average guy who also loved baseball and was passing on that unique love for the game to his own son.
After Zimmer had left the station headed back west towards his Treasure Island home, my Dad told me who he was, and that he was not only a former M L B player who had played for teams in cities like Brooklyn, Chicago, New York and even the Washington Senators.
I was upset I had wasted an opportunity to chat or get a few pointers from a big league infielder, but knew he was also a loyal customer and would be back.
He even came in for fuel before he headed off to San Diego that spring to begin his Managerial career with the San Diego Padres. He even asked how the curve ball was coming along. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was mostly playing Third Base that new season, but if needed I did pitch, but no curve balls.
I always felt at ease talking and being around Zimmer, never got the “better than me” vibe or saw any irritation from him when I asked questions or wanted advice. That is what initially got me to follow his career and take every moment possible to talk with him.
When I became the Rays Pepsi rep and had a little extra access around Tropicana Field or the Rays Spring complex I would see Zimmer a lot, and always made sure to say “Hello”, shake his hand and if he wanted to tell me or someone else nearby a tale…..I was all ears.
Every time I have met Zimmer since that day in 1972 I start off with asking him if he wanted “Regular or Premium today”. It always takes a moment, but he always chuckles and asked how I was doing while extending his hand for a firm shake.
I will miss Zimmer as much for his humanity as his storytelling and bits of wisdom bestowed upon so many great generations of ball players.
There has never been anyone like him around the game of baseball before, and there truly will not be another beloved soul like Zim to ever grace the game again.
If you asked me what I thought of Don Zimmer, the answer might sound like I was still possibly pumping gas into his car. He was a premium man who acted more regular than anyone I have ever met. God Bless you Don, I’m an truly going to miss seeing and hearing your grand stories.
I always hoped that if someone could live forever, it would be baseball icon Don Zimmer.
So as I was advised that the Rays Senior Advisor had passed away in his sleep tonight at only 83, I feel a bit empty inside right now. Baseball has lost a true legend tonight. I truly believe that if I pulled a dictionary off my shelf and looked up the word “Legend” What do you get the guy who has witnessed over 66 years of baseball in his 83 years upon this great planet?
I can truly say without hesitation that when I have in past talked or shaken hands with Zimmer I was in the company of baseball royalty. And to think of how many thousands of fans, generations of ball players, celebrities and political dignitaries have also gotten that honor boggles the mind.
This past January 17th, Zim celebrated his 83rd birthday and even as that evil viper age had begun to take some of his physical tools, his mind was always an awaiting steel trap. I mean who else in M L B history has had a bear made of his likeness…and been a Rays cherished keepsake twice!
We all know Zimmer made the Pinellas county area his home for most of his baseball life and was a citizen of the beach community of Treasure Island as far back as when they had a drawbridge and toll booths, back when the old Jolly Roger figurine stood mighty along the hotels/motels on Gulf Blvd., and the streetcars made their route reversals at Park Street and Central Avenue before cruising on back down Central towards the then Million Dollar Pier.
Zimmer in his lifetime got to see the color barrier not only broken, but smashed to bit and witnessed firsthand the rugged path of teammate Jackie Robinson. From that historic moment Zimmer also got an upfront seat to a players strike, seeing Hank Aaron pass another legend and see not one but many expansion club be awarded and begin play within the game.
Zimmer was as much a Florida “native” and local institution to the Rays Republic as the Don Cesar Hotel, or even the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Of all the people who have been associated with this Rays franchise since its infancy, he reigns supreme with the highest obtainable levels of respect, dignity and honor from not only players, umpires and visiting teams, but the legions of baseball fans from sea to shining sea.
I’ve lite a candle tonight for Zim on a on-deck circle in front of my baseball collection to show my sincere want to honor a man who’s love of the game transcended uniforms, rivalries and whose lifetime love and devotion to this fine game shall never be forgotten.
If there truly is a “Field of Dreams” in heaven for I know Zim will be the first to take the field and start the chatter. And I hope if such a place truly exists Zimmer gets a standing ovation by the players, fans and anyone within eyesight of the angelic field for if anyone ever deserved to play and witness the game for eternity, it is Popeye.
Personally, I want to thank you Zim. For the short moments, interesting chats and just being you…. a true gentleman of the clay and grass.