Results tagged ‘ Charlotte Stonecrabs ’

With a Name like Rocco, Never Count Him Out?



Those around the Tampa Bay Rays fan circles have heard me preach this sermon before about a possible Rocco Baldelli redemption in 2010. I have been known on more than one occasion this year to go into a sort of “prodigal son” type oratory with regards to Baldelli. His inclusion back into the Rays farm system today originates not from any acts of sorcery , psychic premonitions or a magical spell being cast, but the subtle reality that Baldelli always knew he was not done with baseball, and always felt more at home with the Rays.

The addition of Baldelli’s name on the dotted line today doesn’t seem forced on us, minutely trivial or even have the slightest hint of a publicity stunt. Today’s signature is Baldelli’s subtle way of again returning to his baseball roots to a Rays organization that that stood besides him as he suffered through his medical chaos. This could be his unique way of showing his undying devotion to a franchise that did not turn their backs on him as a player, and of a clubhouse that stood proud with him as he toiled to again regain prominence in the Major Leagues.

His signature today spoke volumes about a man who wanted to reward a kindness, evoke again a yearning competitive nature, and show that a determined devotion not only to the game, but to yourself can bring about a career resurrection. I am not blinded by the fact this will not be a vintage 2002-2006 Baldelli on the clay and turf that will be fighting to regain some lost time, and possibly a last chance to regain some baseball glory. I am also not naïve enough to suggest Baldelli is the total answer, but he is an adequate solution that comes at a great price for such veteran knowledge. Sometimes it is not about the money people.


Already there are rumbles and grumbles that his signing could be a omen that the Gabe Kapler era could come to a close soon. But in reality, when we see Baldelli moving through the Rays farm system with vigor, then we will be able to embrace Baldelli’s return with more enthusiasm and vitality. But it is key to note that Baldelli could probably have gone elsewhere as he got healthier after rehabbing his shoulder injury this season. The Rays were probably not the only people watching Baldelli’s progress with angst and excitement. But he chose to stay with those loyal to him in the past.

Baldelli sought out a position with the Rays for a reason this Spring. It might of had nothing to do with the Rays organization standing tall alongside through thick and thin before Baldelli returned to the Rays outfield in Seattle in 2008. It definitely did not have anything to do with his choice to play for his childhood idol team in Fenway Park either. Baldelli doesn’t owe the debt of his Major League career to the Rays, but he does have some finite unfinished business with them.

Baldelli was on that bench in Philadelphia during the 2008 World Series and saw that game quickly jettisoned out of the Rays reach. Baldelli soaked in the pain and agony along with the wet and cold that night, and internally knew this Rays team deserved more. He saw the Rays heads go down one-by-one, he saw the Rays spirit and excitement slowly drain from their faces. Baldelli knows how close that series really was, and he wants another chance to change the outcome. Motivational angst, even about an sporting event have made outnumbered armies conquer (Evil) Empires or desolate (Red Sox) Nations.

Baldelli might not have the agility of his former Major League self, but he has gained the aspect of baseball intelligence that will serve him, and the Rays better in the long run. What he lost in mobility and range, he has picked up in positioning and anticipation, ingredients that most young players regard as trivial. His mental thought processes to play this game have been enhanced, while his physical attributes might still better than most still playing. But the most honest emotion Baldelli has going for him right now is he still has that hunger.

Determination and hard work can only take you to a certain limit, but yearning and a hunger to succeed can vault you into the middle of the pack with ease. You could see it this Spring as he worked out lightly to regain touch and feel for the game. Seeing that Baldelli smile again as he exited the Batting Cages at the Trop earlier this season made you proud. His eagerness to get back into that Batting Cage again for another round of pitches, just inspired you more each time. You saw it in his progression in his strength while throwing in the outfield of Tropicana Field as fans and friends whistled for his attention. You just knew Baldelli was going to wear that Rays number 5 again this season.


No matter if Baldelli returns in September or possibly sooner, he is a veteran presence that could evoke some fear from American League pitching staffs when he steps into the batter’s box. His acquired Major League offensive skill level has shown he can hit for power, bunt or even go to the middle to get the man in (GTMI). That is a key component of the Rays attack that is really missing right now. Baldelli can be an easy fix to a complex series of problems that has plagued the Rays, and led to improbable losses this season. The addition of a skilled veteran like Baldelli, who also has some unfinished business within the Major Leagues could be a step in the right direction for the Rays.

When he goes to the plate tonight for the Class-A Charlotte Stonecrabs, it will be a renewal of sorts for Baldelli. This is another chance for Baldelli to again rise like the fabled phoenix and provide a possible late season difference for the Rays. No visual magic, no offensive sorcery, no mirrored images of his former self. It is Baldelli’s chance again to show his determination, his undying spirit and his overall veteran presence could be the push upwards the Rays need to fight for their second American League East title. He resurrected his career in 2008 after people doubted him and his abilities to even come back again and play at all. I pity the people who counts Baldelli out again because one thing you can not measure with statistics is heart. And in that category, Baldelli is still batting 1.000.

Wild Hogs Invade Rays Complex


Rays 2009 Commercials and Print Ads.

I really love the job the Tampa Bay Rays have done this year bringing their commercials for the 2009 season down to a level where you feel you know the players. And in the original spots, Rays Manager Joe Maddon also put a great spin on the commercials by relating to the guys with his nicknames for them like “Los” for Carlos Pena, and also adding some of his Maddon-isms to the entire commercial. It gives it a more down-to-earth feel that makes you want to root for the Rays this year. If you have not seen any of them, I posted all five of them on my other site, or you can just go to and you will find these instant bits of Rays karma.

Above is the print ad  that was in the March 2, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated  showing Carl Crawford doing a agility training exercise in the outfield of Progress Energy Park in St. Petersburg, Florida.  the ads bring to me a great sense of the open mindedness and honesty that Maddon had instilled in his clubhouse between himself and his players. If you ever have a chance to chat with the man, or hear him talk, you will have a different outlook to the Rays Manager. He doesn’t just walk the walk, he can talk it with the best of them. By the end of his tenure here in Tampa Bay, he will have left a legacy of quotes, very cerebral sayings and mantras that will stand the test of time.



Wild Hogs Trash Rays complex

It was a bit entertaining to me last night to pop on the blog, The Heater and see a short blurp on the wild boar population in Charlotte county maybe not being happy that the Tampa Bay Rays are training in their fertile munching grounds. It was reported that last night a small band of wayward hogs decided to root and destroy a little bit of the follage around the complex, plus they left some big reminders that they were there. That is one of the minuses of building in a completely rural area. Sometimes the wild life that is accustomed to roaming that area get a bit upset that they have fences and paved parking lot where their best insects and plants used to grow.

This is one of the things that happens when man treads upon years of grazing and breeding sites for wild animals. This is not to say that either is to blame in this aspect, but sometimes the two have to gain some level of medium where they can co-exist without problems. With most of the Charlotte Stonecrabs game scheduled for the night time, it might be wise that the team conduct some parking lot security patrols to keep a unsuspecting visitor to the ball park from meeting our wild friends by their cars side after a game. I am not a expert, but a frightened animal is not always the most stable thing in the world.  This doesn’t mean that the Florida Fish and Wildlife commission will even trap or move the animals to another location. But you can be sure it will be done in a manner that is befitting the wildlife nature of the region, and to consider the welfare of the animals in the near future.

But  with the Rays, being the ecological friends they are to nature, might just have to adapt a bit to their new found fans, and hope they do not send messages to their relatives of the abundance of great grazing fields and concession stands. Who knows at this time what steps will be made to stop the nightly raids into the outer fields and leaving deposits for field personnel in the morning. Considering the locale, I am surprised that the buzzards and vulture population has not set up shop around the complex. That has happened at other rural ballparks, and still might in the future. But I am also looking forward to the first hawk/osprey or eagles nest to be positioned up into the light towers. That is a sign that you truly have arrived and bonded with nature.



A Bit about the Florida Wild Hog


Florida’s wild hogs are often referred to as feral hogs, of which three types can be found in the wilds of South Florida.. These include free-ranging pigs or hogs that come from domesticated stock, Eurasian wild boar, and hybrids of the two. Although technically, feral refers to free-ranging animals from domesticated stock, all wild hogs are typically referred to as feral in Florida. Wild hogs are in the family Suidae (true wild pigs), none of which are native to the Americas. It is believed that hogs were first brought to Florida, in 1539, when Hernando De Soto brought swine to provision a settlement he established at Charlotte Harbor in Lee County.

However, it is possible that hogs had been brought to the same site in 1521 by Ponce De Leon during a brief visit. During the next 4 centuries, explorers and settlers brought pigs with them throughout Florida. Many of these animals were given to or stolen by Native Americans who expanded pig numbers and distribution in the State. Europeans and Native Americans alike often raised their swine in semi-wild conditions where the hogs were allowed to roam freely and only rounded up when needed. Many of these animals,and those escaping from captivity established feral populations throughout the area. These feral populations have been further supplemented through deliberate releases of hogs in many areas by private individuals and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to improve hunting opportunities (although the State no longer does this).

Eurasian wild boar were first released in the U.S. in New Hampshire in 1886. Boar were then released in
New York (1900), North Carolina/Tennessee (1912), Texas (1919), Washington State (1981), and possibly other locations to provide a new big game species, and increase the sporting and trophy value of feral hogs through hybridization. A few Eurasian wild boar and many hybrids naturally dispersed to areas around release sites, including neighboring states. Hybrids have been trapped and moved to many parts of Florida by private individuals. In addition, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has trapped and released feral hogs and hybrids in many areas to control hog-related problems in some areas and improve hunting opportunities in others. There are not believed to be any free-ranging, pure Eurasian wild boar in Florida, only feral hogs and hybrids.

Wild hogs are now found in every county in Florida, including most of the Southeast. Florida, second only to Texas, is estimated to have 500,000+ wild hogs in a relatively stable population, with 1 to 2 million in the Southeastern U.S. Some of the highest densities of hogs in Florida can be found north and west of Lake Okeechobee in areas with large forested tracts, dense understory vegetation, and limited public access. Hog numbers tend to be lower in areas with intensive agriculture and urbanization, and little water. So next time you leave the Charlotte Sports Park near dark and you see two beady eyes from the brush remember that the “Wild Hogs” are watching you and could leave a reminder of their presence near the doors of your cars during the night games.


Kevin Barr is on the left

Kudos to Kevin Barr


Just wanted to give a shout out to Kevin Barr, who is the head honcho in charge of the strength and conditioning of the Tampa Bay Rays. I have had the pleasure to chat with him over the past few seasons, and you know this guy loves his job. He is always smiling and helping the guys warm-up before games even willing to add some personal stretching on the foul lines to be sure they are  in tip top shape for that night’s game.  He does a fantastic job getting them ready daily, plus helping them rehab when the injury bug hits them.  From his rubber tubing exercises to the pitcher’s runs during the Rays Batting Practice, you know this guy take a huge amount of pride in his job and in his team.

During this past off season he was picked by the staffs of all the Major League Baseball staffs as the best Strength and Conditioning coach in the baseball. I can think of no one else who should have gotten this honor in 2008. The Rays only had a handful of hamstring and muscle related injuries during the 2008 campaign. That is a testament to his high standards and the height of the bar he set for these guys. Congratulations again Kevin for being one of the best of the best. And here is to hoping you can regain that title again in 2009 with another severe injury free season.

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