Results tagged ‘ Maddon's Maniacs ’

Wild Card Wednesday..Hope Your Ready?

Today is the day. You have to play like there is no tomorrow, because to lose is to subject yourself with the possiblity of packing boxes for your journey home this off season instead of packing for Texas or Detroit and some really meaningful games. There is a lot still to play for here. Records are going to be shattered before the dust settles either on Wild Card Wednesday, or Titantic Thursday.

After 5,392 strolls to the plate and 1,437 innings of hurling a little white sphere, the Rays most important 27 outs of their season come to fruition in game 162. Who in their right mind would have thought a squad sporting a team batting average of only .244 which is ranked 25th out of 30 teams in the Major Leagues would still have a legitimate shot at post season glory on the last day of the season? Someone slap me right now, I got to be sure this is not a dream.

Did you know that from the duo of the Tampa Bay Rays or the Boston Red Sox the eventual American League Wild Card winner will become the first American League team EVER to go from 0-6 then gain a spot in the post season?

At one point the Rays way back in early April, they were in the AL East cellar with a 1-8 mark. The Rays went on to harvest 89 wins since that low point. The most wins ever by a team that started 1-8 in the season. To put into total perspective, the Rays have gone 15-8 while Boston has floundered to a 6-17 mark since the Rays were 9 games out of any Wild Card consideration on September 4, 2011.

With the Rays win on Monday night combined with a Red Sox loss, the Rays and Red Sox have not been on the same plateau in the AL East since May 23,2011….a period of over 126 days. Want another great eye-opener? With both teams winning last night, it will set up the 8th consecutive Major League Baseball divisional or Wild Card to possibly be decided during the final regular season contest.

This is the type of environment and game intensity the combined 33 members of the Rays roster strive and dream about during the 180 days of the regular season….having a chance to clinch a post season berth at home, then having a chance to celebrate with the Rays 10th man(woman), the Rays Republic. 161 games in the books and the Rays are still very much alive and within a single game changing moment of the seasonal brass ring.

Only thing that can defeat them now is their old offensive machine to turn into a 1972 Ford Pinto instead of a 2011 Ford Mustang. But I got a feeling Rays Manager Joe Maddon will have their engine purring, revving up the RPM’s like an old muscle car tomorrow night and ready to put the pedal to the metal, find that internal fortitude and bravado and thrust it deep into the New York Yankees midsections.

I imagine there will be more than a few people in the training room after Wednesday night’s contest complaining of a sore neck going from the action on the field to just under the TBT Deck checking the out-of-town scoreboard with regularity.

I truly believe both in my mind and in my soul the Rays have an impending victory cornered and just have to be sure not to give it away. In their corner is the simple fact the Red Sox have not won back-to-back games since late August while the Rays are sporting a 4-game winning streak.

You want to think that winning tomorrow night would turn into a simple “win and your in” post season chance, but that could be farther from the truth. If the Rays play like they have over the past 4 games, play error-free baseball with a bit of an edge, then Evan Longoria and crew will have that brass ring in their hand tomorrow night. I have phoned my new friends Fate, Destiny and Hope who have have been in the stands over the past few days, they have told me their other friend Karma is really eager to come cheer and help the Rays in the finale. I have a good feeling about “Wild Card Wednesday”.

2010 Maddon’s Maniacs Video Shoot



I always seem to get a bit giddy when the Tampa Bay Rays Fan Experience department sends out an email seeking out members of the “Maddon’s Maniac’s group to come on down to Tropicana Field and participate in a in-game video promotional shoot for the upcoming Rays baseball season.

Not only has this become a recent yearly adventure for members of the group, but one that we all look forward to, and is a clear indication to all of us just how soon we will all assemble again for Rays home games. And the air around the group waiting outside the Trop. Was filled with great anticipation and excitement in the air as we collectively get ready to again pop our mugs upon the Jumbotron for another video to show our support for our Rays team.

And even with the rain darkened skies outside looking a bit more menacing by the minute, the enthusiasm of the Maniacs’ was sky high, even with the reports of a tornado touching down across the bay in Tampa. But outside in a drizzle of rain stood some of the core of the Maniacs group that currently hold over 1,500 card carrying members to the organization.

The video shoot today was going to be an in-game promos piece to include our loveable Seadog mascot Raymond, and include both young and young-at-heart Maniacs dancing and swaying to the music of Naughty by Nature and their hit “Hip Hop Hooray!”



Our first location of the day would be at the end of the long corridor down Leftfield Street at the Mountain Dew Extreme Zone to begin our video shoot. I was excited to again be down in this section of the Trop. The area was inspired to resemble an inner city stickball court with hubcaps strung up along the netting, an old Lincoln Continental for ambiance’, and colorful paintings and graffiti all over the walls to bring to life that city personality to the area. It would make the perfect backdrop for the urban hit, and also give a more hip-hop feel to the video. So the group took our places among the backdrop as the Raysvision production crew let us know what they wanted from us today.


I decided to park myself right nest to the banana-yellow Lincoln and the oil drum can. I had brought some drumsticks to use during the video on the oil drum that I knew was in the scene (I helped set-up this area years ago), but there was a little girl who had a broken leg, and we set her on top of the drum instead so she could participate without having to stand for a long time. It was great to see everyone so excited as we did a few run through of the song before trying a first complete shooting of the video.

We stayed in this area of the Trop for about another 45 minutes before finally switching to the Centerfield gate location where the Rays had positioned their Hummer for a second segment of the video shoot. In this scene, we were all suppose to run up to the Hummer, with Raymond on top and again do the hand sways and mannerisms of the song to give a second groove to the production. The Raysvision film crew decided to do a high angle shot from the top of the outfield stands looking down on us as we did our thing.


Again the kids were tremendous in this part of the taping, but some of them were a bit hyped up and go real close to the Hummer and might not have been in the shots. But again, it was a great moment for everyone, even the parents, to promote some team spirit and also do some dancing in the background.


So after another 40 minutes or so of grinding and moving to the music, we were done for the day, but most of us were still standing around chatting about what had happened during the off season in our lives, or the excitement of the upcoming Rays Fan Fest on February 20th. I have to again thank the Raysvision crew, the Fan Experience department and the countless fans who came out on Friday to again help promote our Rays team.

I always have a great time doing these types of ventures with the Rays, and hope that more of you can also do it in the future too. Again during this season’s Fan Fest, the Rays will be setting up a Maddon’s Maniac’s table near the Home Plate section of Tropicana Field to provide information and an opportunity for other Rays fans to also join this group.


In closing today I am going to post a pirated copy of the Maddon’s Maniac’s 2008 Rays production to promote the Major League Baseball set of “Ground Rules” that are broadcasted before each game. I am actually only in the first minute of this production as I went to the back section of the stands just after the first segments of shots to give some kids and other Rays fans an opportunity to see themselves up on the Jumbotron before all 81 games last season.

Again, this is just a small part of what this Maniac’s group does for the Rays during the season, but it is great that the Rays Front Office and their staff (Darcy Raymond, Eric Weinberg, Sean Liston )gives the Maniacs a chance every season to help show our support and our fandom for our favorite team. Can’t wait until they call on us again! Hopefully for a Postseason video version in 2010.


Maddon’s Maniacs Video Shoot



Man, even thought I have been down this street a million times in my life, when I hit 16th Street and 1st Avenue South in St. Petersburg and I can gaze up at that lop-sided pill of a roof, I know I am home. As giddy as getting near the stadium as I get every time I drive near it, the jelly-legs I got yesterday after almost what seems like an eternity to actually drive into the parking lot and walk up to the main entrance was amazing. I got there early just in case I wanted to do my usual sneaking around up on the third floor saying hello to old friends and just taking in the old stadium before the rest of the “Maddon’s Maniacs” got there for the video shoot.

As usual, Sean Liston, who is officially listed in the Rays front office description as the Coordinator of Fan Experience, could best be described as the wildest front office member in the MLB. I actually mean that in a good way. He reminded me of myself at 24, you might remember the feeling open to the world’s sarcastic and wild notions of fairness and irony, but also naive enough to know life can be a roller coaster with great results. I miss those times.  As he usually does when we first get together, he was instrumental in getting us motivated for the upcoming shoot, and also made sure we knew the process we were about to embark on, and that it will be time consuming to say the least.



Two years ago the “Maddon’s Maniacs” did their first video production with ex- WWE star Brain Knobs based on a loose adaptation of the movie “Braveheart”, in which he leads his band of warriors and warriorettes’ against the Red Sox and Yankees. I still get a great chuckle at the video. I will try and see if I can get my copy to upload today and link it on my blog for the rest of the world to enjoy too.  So as we stood there getting ready to go inside, you could see multiple painters and workers taping off and also removing tables and articles from all over the concourse floor. Liston advised us that the old floor color, the Rays green was going to be replaced throughout the stadium with the new traditional Rays blue, which is a color between the royal blue and marine blue on the Crayola color chart.

So because of this impending painting adventure, we had to walk around towards Gate 4, which is located at the SW corner of the stadium to enter without disturbing any painting or prep work on the floors. As we walked through the stadium exterior, we got to see the players’ cars down in the South lot, and a few people were trying to figure out who cars were in the lot. I knew who drove two of the cars, and pointed them out to a few people as we walked around the dome. When we finally reached the building entrance, we strolled in to a entrance way that was already decked out in the new colors and designs. Walking behind the home plate suites and party areas, we could see that they also were getting some renovations and paint changes this off season. But the wild part was the awesome paint design of the Rays blue followed by a yellow striping on the stadium entrance hallways that seemed to draw you into the stadium bowl.



Once inside the bowl, you got that giddy anticipation of excitement and anxiousness of the impending fun. We all walked down towards the bottom of the section that was located right behind the Visitor’s Bullpen area and took our seats in the first 6 rows of the section.  I did not even notice the number of the section, but I am going to guess we were in the 127-129 section of the seating bowl.  Again Liston was in there leading a few Rays cheers and getting the crowd worked up into a lather for the “Ground Rules” producer and staff waiting on us to all get seated for the shooting. It was then that I began to take in a wild view of the entire re-works and updates to the stadium since we last saw it after Game 2 of the 2008 World Series.



So as we sat there wondering how we might be utilized for the video we got word that this segment will be played before every home game in 2009. The video group that does the in-stadium entertainment for the games has only been with the Rays now for two seasons, but they have proven in the past to be a great addition to the Rays entertainment value with their awesome skits and video shorts during the 2008 season and playoff run.  About this time we also learned that the Rays were trying to formalize a Rays fans viewer party at a local wing joint. As we sat there, we were reminded that it might not be finalized today, but if it is, we would get information about it after the shoot. ( No news yet, but I will get it right to you if it breaks this weekend).



I am not going to bore you with all the rules we shot today, but a few of them are really funny, and I will have a few close-ups since they put me in the front row for the first segments of video shots. They also decided to give me a close-up during a foul ball segment based on my glove coming up, and the female director loved my blue eyes. Ahh, the Cal Ripken Jr. eyes do it again for the third year in a row. the Rays invited a local youth baseball league ( the Burg League ) to also be used as young fans and also give themselves some great publicity during the shoots.  But I have to tell you, that is why I was never a counselor at a camp or youth academy as a kid. Having 40 kids running around behind us all yelling for Raymond, who decided to pop out and show off his 2009 style and mannerisms to us today.



But in the end, after 4 hours of kids shuffling in their seats and multiple takes and angles on the video segments, we got to take a take our leave of this great stadium. As I was walking out we did the last take on a video segement to be sued during the ” Emergency” segment. But as I strolled out into the concourse, I was greeted by a huge Foggdog-type decal of B J Upton on the stadium inner walls. It seems that the Rays have placed these huge wall sized photo decals of their star players all over the blue wall of the stadium for the fans enjoyment this year. I loved seeing some of the great additions and the grounds keeping crew beginning to put the touches on the infield clay and foul lines.



But the wildest adventure of the year is the formal announcement that the “Maddon’s Maniacs” are now an official club of the Rays. From that first meeting with maybe 50-75 of us crammed in the upper area of what is now the second floor of the Ted William’s Museum, we have grown and grown daily to now take on guidance and leadership from MLB Advanced Media. That is the true test that you have made it, when the New York office of baseball leads your around the stumbles and the tumbles of becoming a great arm of the fan experience.

So before the games when they begin to play the “Ground Rules” up before the crowd in the stadium, I know I will get nervous every game. Now I have been a a few of these videos over the years, plus on the “First Pitch” cover, but now my big mug will be up there every game for the entire year/ I hope I do not embarrass the Rays or the “Maniacs” with my quirky looks and sarcastic expressions. But what I am most proud of is the fact that this small group of devoted fans has grown and grown so much that the team now had formulated them into a formal club like the “Golden Rays” or “Rays Rookies” organizations. It makes me so proud to know that the spirit and the passion of the fan’s has seen such an increase in the last 3 years. The sky is the limit, but knowing that the club is now officially a part of Rays baseball forever is the greatest gift for some of us today. The video is just icing on the cake, and I love cake!

Photo credits:  All photos are by RRCollections today.

Renegade Odds and Ends



Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Okay, here we are a few days before the official beginning of the season on Sunday night with the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies taking the field against the Atlanta Braves. I actually think it is kind of cool that the Phillies pay two “warm-up” games against the Rays in the next two days to get psyched to take on the Brave in their first battle to return to the Fall classic again in 2009.  I am actually looking forward to watching both of the Philly games the next two days. I am not in Philly right now, but I do have a really late flight booked right now if I still have a hankering for some cheesesteak.

Yes, I have tickets available to me, and also have a place to stay and a few meals owed to me from the World Series bets with friends in the City of Brotherly Love. I have a 6:10 am flight on Sat morning that will get me into Philly in time for a great breakfast at the Centennial Cafe at Ohio House. Believe me, I can do a great breakfast, but I hate that everyone looks at me funny when i order grits in the north.  I know, I know, they have that multiple pork/beef/snout product scrapple, but I like my meat in strips, which are crispy and tasty, not a conglomerate mass of mumbo jumbo meats.

But with the game going on in the after noon (1 :05 pm start time), If I go up I am going to have to do my “steak-on” after the game. But even then I have choices. I have a bet to claim of a steak at the Capital Grille, or maybe even Creed’s Seafood and Steak out in King of Prussia. I have not decided. But I will tell you that at this moment, I am 85 percent on the plane with no problem.  I love Philly. I guess the fact that my grandfather was a police sergeant in the town, and that I served up there for two years in 1988-1990 before I was called back into the Army National guard for duty make me love the place more and more every year. But, I hate to say it that I can never live there. They hated my southern accent then, and it is just as sharp today. Well, it is going to be on my mind all day long. the chance to go up again and relive a few memories or tragedies tomorrow. Win or lose, I can tell you that the steak with that melted butter is going to taste like Kobe beef to me, even if it is on a Italian or kaiser roll.



My Season Tickets


I always wait until the last moment to make my final payment for my Season Tickets for the Rays. I think the Sales Department have adjusted to my late timing, but they do not know why. I do the “late” thing because I want to build up the excitement for the season. So that my tickets get to the house and I open the bow within days of the season starting. I have done that for 10 years straight. Some of my old Rays ticket reps got used to it and did not worry about my late payments, knowing I was going to make the final payment and get my tickets in time for the first contest. But my room mate kid’s have never seen the way I act with the poor Fed Ex guy until this year.


Usually they are in school, but this being Spring Break for them, they got to see me in all my glory as I opened the door to the Fed Ex woman holding that huge box in front of her that looked like a bar of gold to me. they saw me sign fast and take the box oh, so gentile into my hands and rip the box almost in two in one fast motion. As I opened the box, I saw the external box that held the booty of the baseball gods. It had a beautiful picture of the players hands reaching up to caress and grab that awesome American League trophy. Just as I had caressed and fondled the trophy a few months before, it was a giddy sight to behold. 

But what happened next might go down as the weirdest thing I have ever done in my life. I am not a huge fan of exposing my emotions out in the open for the world to see them, unless we get into the playoffs or the World Series ( You had me at “playoffs”). But the  simple but loosely adapted “Snoopy Dance” I did on the front porch had the kids in the neighborhood asking when I began to smoke crack. I have a weird tendency to celebrate the finer things in my life. Getting my treasured tickets is the alpha to my year. And with that comes a wild expectation of the season. Of the dreams still unfulfilled and the anticipation of watching them unfold that banner next Monday night ( April 13th).

Also within that scope is the thought of another season of highs and lows concerning both friends and foes on the field. I always look forward to certain teams coming into town and chatting with some ex-Rays players. This season I am extremely happy to know that some guys have already been granted roster spots, and some are in the fight right now to secure some of the last spots, or might still be traded before 3 pm on Sunday. This is that last fraction of a pre-season that can change everything by the simple actions of a club. But I can truly tell you that the honest truth is that I am just anxious to again just cheer for my home team. I can tell you I take huge pride in coming from St. Petersburg, Florida, home of the Tampa Bay Rays. Even if it is a stadium shot  of me on my laptop, or catching a foul ball, I enjoy this game beyond words most nights. And to me that is what baseball is all about.



Calling All B-52’s Fans


I recently found out that one of the Saturday night concert series groups this year will be the group, the B-52’s. Now I am more than anxious about this for the fact that I saw them in a small club in Gainesville, Florida while I was in college and fell in love with this group. Most people know their hits “Love Shack” and “Rock Lobster”, but the group has a pile of other great eclectic songs to choose from their albums. I am looking forward to hearing “Planet Claire” and even ” My Own Private Idaho” this summer. I am going to try and dig up a few more names that are being considered for the Summer Series today when I am down at Tropicana Field. But as usual, the Season Ticket holders will be given wristbands so we can get up close and personal down on the field during the concert. As usual, I will be there.



Maddon’s Maniacs

I am going to have to do a blog in the next few weeks on this group I keep bringing up called the “Maddon’s Maniacs”. I know a few people have asked me how to join, or even what they are all about, but I could do multiple blogs on this great group. I hope to see if the head gurus will grant me some interview time so I can get it straight from the horses mouth on the origins and the initial ideas for this group a few years ago. But in the meantime, I will be heading down to the Trop. today to be used as back-ups,on-scene and hopefully speaking roles concerning the Ground Rules video that is seen before the Rays games on the Jumbotron. 

The “Maddon’s Maniacs” are not new to the multi-media thing. We have been used before in short videos for the screen during in game entertainment, plus in 2007, the entire grou
p was pictured on the last issue of  the “Play Ball” magazine that was given out to the fans before home games. But most people remember us from the “Braveknobs” video shot with Rays loud and proud fan, former WWE wrestler Brian Knobs. I know I really enjoyed the video a lot, and even had a speaking role. The group has also been in the background for several local television morning shows based out of either the Trop, or Ferg’s across the street before games. If you would like to know more about the “Maddon’s Maniacs, or even join this awesome group, visit today and click the “Fans” section for this and other great Rays groups.

I will try and get some great pictures of the scene today at the Trop., and hopefully be able to post something before I leave for the airport tomorrow. Yes, I am now 95 percent on that plane.

Photos credits:      1)  RRCollections
                              2)   RRCollections
                              4)   RRCollections

MLB= Maple Legalized Bats

This is the last part of a 3 part series on the current maple bat controversy. I have decided that tomorrow, 1/23/2009, I am going to profile two of the current inventors who have decided that have viable alternatives to today’s bats. Both have promoted safety and reliability of the bats, even at an affordable price for MLB teams and players. Hopefully in late 2009, we will no longer have to address this kind of matter and we can all feel safe and secure, even in the front rows at our favorite ball parks around America.

There is nothing quite like the breaking of a bat during a baseball game. the sound of the wood splintering after the perfect pitch blended with the sight of the hitter holding the remnants of his destroyed weapon make for a thrilling sight for baseball fans. Lately however, broken bats have been anything but amusing and colorful. Bats are no longer just breaking; they are exploding and sending fragments everywhere and not concerned about damages or injuries to others.

Today’s bats are not breaking cleanly, or even staying together at the barrel, but hurdling shattered remains in all directions without regard for safety. And the one thing that has been constant in all of these matter of shattering shards being propelled at spectators, players and even MLB officials, is that they have not yet become lethal.The culprit is plain and simple to baseball officials. The maple bat has brought upon the major league baseball diamonds a new fear and a constant reminder of safety issues that need to be addressed before a critical injury takes a life on the field, or in the grandstands. 

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is aware and concerned about the matter. In this 3rd installment on the maple bat controversy, I will be addressing the MLB leadership moves so far to curtail further damage. I will also inform you of two inventors who believe they have a solution to the epidemic that is plaguing the bat world. Hopefully this series has enlightened a few people to the real dangers and the consequences of turning away from this issue. At stake is maybe a life, or a permanent injury to a fan or player that could have been avoided if action was taken swift and forceful beginning in the Spring of 2009.

Some people have asked me how the MLB could let such an issue proliferate? Well, for starters, the collective bargaining agreement between the players union and the baseball owners makes it difficult for baseball, like a large tractor-trailer, to make swift and sharp turns. In 2006 labor negotiations, the owners did ask the players union for permission to change the official bat specifications over the concern for the maple bats, but the players opposed those specifications. 

 Currently baseballs approved bats can have a barrel no larger than 2 3/4 inches, with handles no thinner than 16/19th of an inch diameter, and a total length of no more than 42 inches.In comparisons, the bat that Babe Ruth used in 1927 was a 35-inch bat with a weight of 40-ounces.  The funny part is that Ruth, the father of power hitting, did not need such as weight or mass in his bat. Because the bat already has so much more mass than the ball, bat speed ( velocity ) is much more significant than the mass.

Selig decided that he needed to get the collection of  varied opinions together from both the owners and the players union and commissioned the MLB Health and Safety committee to address this situation  on June 24, 2008. The 16-member panel  convened in New York to discuss what steps could be taken to either eliminate or curb the problem.  The committee consists of 8 members of the players association, and 8 members of the MLB management. They discussed the issue of the maple bats during their meeting. They went over the facts that maple bats show a surface hardness of 20 percent over the typical ash bat, and spent the bulk of the meeting going over the specifications currently on the MLB books concerning the bat’s handles, weights, thickness and overall durability.

Before this meeting ever began, MLB had been investigating the maple bat situation by gathering from all 30 teams the remnants of  all broken bats over the course of at least 6 weeks to try and give more evidence to the committee about the bat controversy.  The maple bat balancing act that the committee was trying to foster would have to satisfy not just the owners, but also the players. What ended up coming out of the June meeting was that MLB needed to do more experiments on the bats, and also consult with bat manufacturers and seethe formulation of the individual bat from billet to completed model.

The committee knew that in light of the situation that an agreement  of overall  opinions during this first meeting would be unheard of considering they needed to satisfy all parties with their recommendations. They also knew that the players would veto any action that would of boycotted the use of the maple bats. An idea of extending the protective netting might help the fans, but still players would be at risk having to stand within 150 feet of the batters box, with no protection.  And the idea of having one bat inspector who would monitor and approve bats before delivery would be costly and not very effective because of bats already out in the MLB system could be used without  officials noticing before their breakage.

One bright light did come out of the meeting, the members agreed upon an idea to increase the bat’s dimensions. Be it a larger bat handle larger than 16/19th of an inch, or a smaller weight-to-length ratio  ( 34 inch bat would weigh 30.5 ounces ).  Another option brought up was a smaller barrel ( 2 3/4 inches ) would actually chafe a few players because of a change in the bats hitting surface. That would give hitters less bat space to hit and would require them to re-define their swings accordingly.

 For now, MLB is sending its samples to Jim Sherwood, who runs the Baseball Research Center at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and conducted a test in 2005 that showed maple provides no greater performance off the bat than ash but does break differently, snapping instead of cracking. MLB did institute new bat rules in December 2008, and the news was not met well by current bat manufacturers who feel their bottom line will be affected by the new regulations.

This regulation is viewed by the bat manufacturers as a costly addition to current bat production because of the change in the location of the bat manufacturer’s stamp on the bat. It will take a retooling of the lathes and machinery used to burn the logo into the bats and the desired location for the MLB’s new stamp would hinder sales and recognition of the product.  Starting in  2009, all bats are mandated to have the bat company’s stamp on the edge grain and no longer on the face grain of the bat.  Stamps  were to be located on the face grain  ever since they were invented, and it has been a common practice to teach players to use the bat with the label facing towards them in order to hit the ball 90 degrees from the label.

 Extensive testing from MLB during a six-month-long study of maple bats showed hitting on the wood’s face grain would bring about fewer breaks than the edge grain. Baseball hired the Forest Products Laboratory, a government entity, along with Harvard statistician Carl Morris, and wood-certification company TECO to analyze more than 2,200 bats broken in MLB games between July 2 and Sept. 7 2008. Their primary task was to figure out why the bats are breaking and make suggestions to limit future breaks before a serious or mortal injury. Their  scientific conclusion was that the former conventional wisdom that discouraged face-grain contact was actually wrong.

The  teams’ research and testing found that the  large percentage of  shard inducing breaks, or ones in which barrels with splintered ends go airborne like medieval weaponry were actually due to a poor “slope of grain” on the wood itself.  The best quality of wood to use for baseball bats have an even grain, and some manufacturers were using low-quality wood with large barrels and thin handles, leading to increased breakage and  bat damages. The other suggestion, about hitting on the face grain, came from Roland Hernandez, a TECO employee.And Hernandez should know a thing or two about the bat manufacturing process having been the owner of a previous bat company, Rockbats, which made maple bats for the MLB. He then  began to work at Forest Products Laboratory before finally going to work for TECO. Rockbats was the only company to  suggest hitting on the face grain. No MLB player currently uses Rockbats in games. 

But another bat manufacturer even went beyond a simple word with the press about this new regulation and sent a memo to every bat  company owners and operators, and  to the MLB key man in this investigation, Roy Krasik .  Romeo Filip wrote a email containing 696 very terse and subjective words to show his distaste for the MLB’s new mandate.  He states that the tensile strength of wood  runs down its edge grain.  Hitting against the grain would produce bats that will snap more violently and towards the center of the field and not down the foul lines.  

Filip’s company, Diablo Bats isn’t doing much business right now. He is in a group of about 30 companies that produce some form of a maple bat for the MLB players.  He says that the MLB study, that cost around $ 500,000 dollars has doubled the licensing fees  required to sell bats to MLB players. Plus the addition  of a insurance policy with at least $ 10 million dollars in coverage is now mandated by MLB.

So the MLB studied the regression analysis of bats that had broken on the field in 2008, tested the actual wood, and also compared models and brands to see who’s might be  considered a safer alternative to the current bats out on the market. They studied both ash and maple bats to give ample scientific proof for both models without bias or prejudice on the types of bats.  This testing did finalize the thinking that with ash bats, players should still hit with the edge grain to prevent shelling or flaking of the bats during the hitting process.

MLB also visited three current bat manufacturers plants to view first-hand the bat making process. They included in this tour the plants of  Hillerich & Bradsby, the parent company of Louisville Slugger, and also The Original Maple Bat Corporation, the home of Sam’s Bats. What is unique about Sam’s bat is that their original maple bat was actually a bet made in a bar in 1996 by an old MLB scout, Bill McKenzie to Sam Holman, who dabbled a bit in carpentry and created the  bat  producing company out of a bar bet.

MLB then released their 50 page study which is not available to the public, and bat manufacturers’  were not content with the scientific merit of the findings.  One company posed a question to the  MLB Health and Safety committee during a conference call asking if they had conducted testing on bats that weren’t breaking to see why they preformed better than other models.  MLB’s answer to this was “No”. They decided not to submit the study to a peer review , figuring that the checks and balances from the large assortment of scientists would be enough variety in opinions and findings. One bat manufacturer has stated that the MLB’s new regulation can be beaten. the current MLB test to find out if a bat has a even grain is to place on ink dot on the bat handle, and if it bleeds more than a quarter of an inch diagonally, the bat will not be certified.  He states that by rubbing 250-grit sandpaper over the handle before the test, it closes the pores on the wood and masks its true grain.

The confusion is spiraling all the way down to the players, who know that the new models will arrive before spring training. Bat makers are trying to call the players in advance to let them know about the regulation changes, and why the bats will have a different look to them in 2009.  Even if the bat companies now suggest that the players hit with the face grain, the players have adapted their own ways of hitting and might not take to the change at first. But after a period of time they will also have to adjust and find ample ways to combat the new bats and their face grains.

MLB will again meet with the bat manufacturers some time during spring training and discuss the drying process that the bats go through in their  bats production. Also under consideration during that meeting will be the shape of the bat and the way it might break under pressure.  This is considered the first steps in trying to gain a foothold on the problem.  The committee might be more of an evolving group right now considering that more scientific tests and findings are revealed all the time. 

Also not revealed to the public would be any penalties or even fines  that could be imposed if someone uses an non-certified bat or even hides the fact they are using such bats in their games. This will be an on-going and basically be a feel-in-the-dark period for baseball during Spring Training. Hopefully by the time the player take the field in April, MLB and the players will have adjusted, and the batting controversy will begin to fade into the background with the game again being the lone giant on the field.  

The MLB management will continue evolving the batting controversy until it is finally considered totally safe and injuries and bat shards are again a thing of the past.  hopefully in 2009, this will be the beginning of a great revolution in the bats used by professional baseball players. And with the changes already starting to take the game to another level, hopefully a death or serious in jury will not propel us into a  last second ban or elimination of any type of bat.


Giving Thanks and Enjoying Life




Today is the day that we give thanks to family, friends and the community for the blessing that we have recieved over the year.  Nothing matters today besides the family and the fine food we are about to devour like true carnivores. If it is turkey, brother save me a drumstick, if it is a succulant ham, save me a piece from the end that is overflowing with the juices and the honey glaze.


We enjoy everything from the green bean casserole, to the stuffed mushrooms. We wander from the hall table full with appetizers and mouth-watering goodies that will live in our minds for day, years, and maybe a lifetime. We are celebrating the second best day of the year………Thanks giving.


As we sit down at the table, it is customary that we all tell what we are thankful for this year. By tradition I am always the last to speak my piece because I am the one in the family who loves to give thanks for everything from TIVO to As we sit and raise a glass of fine beverage we all acknowledge that the year has been a wild ride and the new one is going to be filled with greater advetures and smooth sailings.




As the tabel leans in to finally hear my list of wishes, I remind them that this might take a while and ask if anyone needs to get anything from the fridge or the table. I nod to my other half and tell her to begin to cut the 4 pies that she hand baked last night for the guests and proceed to tell you what I am hopeful and thankful for in 2008:




I am thankful that I have a hometown major league team ( Rays) ,where some cities have minor league or communitie base semi-pro leagues throught out America.


I am thankful and blessed to be a member of a great cheering group with the Rays, the “Maddon’s Maniacs”, and be enshrined in my team’s Fan Wall of Fame.


I am thankful to the man who finally brought us Tampa Bay Rays baseball after being struck down twice by MLB for purchasing teams, but stood firm and finally got us our team. Vince Namoli does not get the love he should for doing what everyone else could not for Tampa Bay.


I am thankful for Stu Sternberg, who bought the club and made good on a promise to make Tampa Bay a winner……….alot sooner than even he thought it would happen.


I am blessed and thankful to the entire staff of the Rays for letting me take a Team Photo with them in May, not knowing the significance at the time of what would happen in October.


I am thankful to America for staying the home of the brave and the land of the free. While baseball players are sequestered and defiled for wanting to enjoy the simple liberties we take granted daily.



I am thankful for the sacrifice and the honor bestowed on every man or woman who steps off a transport overseas, that his tour be short and his life be richer for the experience, in a positive way.


I am thankful for the men and woman  who daily police the cities and the countryside to keep us safe in our homes.


I am thankful for the right to sleep in late, or stay up until sunrise and know that life is only going to get better.


I am thankful for the friends and family that I have now and have lost, either by death or by time passing between us.




I am thankful for the travels to other stadiums and cities to enjoy another team’s culture and fandom in their home enviorment, even Boston and Philadelphia.


I am thankful I have been at our teams clinching games for a playoff berth, AL division series, and AL pennant wins. The bonus was to attend 4 of the 5  World Series game this year by my team.


I am thankful and blessed to be friends with people in baseball, including the Rays, who know my passion and my desire to see baseball and not politics played on the field.


I am blessed to finally know what it is like to cheer for a winner. I was a member of an SEC title celebration, but only got to see one side of the joy and excitement from the field, and never before this year got to feel the fans’ side of the joy and energy.


But most of all, I am thankful and blessed to have people like you read my rants and raves daily and who comment and live my Rays dream with me. For that I am extremely grateful and give you this promise today. I will read as many of your great articles as time allows me, and comment and show positive vibes where ever possible with MLBlogs.



So with that, I raise my glass of fine wine and salute you, the readers and writers of MLBlobs, for you are the reason we are, and the reason we write. May your days be bright and memories always as vivid as the day they were made.


God Bless and let’s get ready for a rocking Holiday Season and a blast of a New Years for all.



Cliff Wittig

 Known 364 days a year as Rays Renegade


Maddon’s Maniacs Video Shoot




When you get to the Trop. on Thursday, do not be surprised that a few of the Maddon’s Maniacs show up on the Jumbotron in a short “feel the Heat” video. The vocal and cowbell-oriented group at the Trop., were busy at work on a short video for the Rays shot before the Rally on Monday on Bayshore Blvd in St. Petersburg.



The video will be set to the  Rays theme music, “feel The Heat” and took about 25 minutes to complete. As susal, we all had a wild time and look forward to seeing our mugs up on the screen again.



I would estimate that a group of 60 or so maniacs showed up for the shoot and had a wild time interacting with friends about the recent Rays surge into the Playoffs, and the upcoming games at the Trop. If you have not heard of the Maddon Maniacs, let me tell you a short bit about this unique group in Rays history. The Maniacs were invented to act as the Trop’s unofficial fan cheering leaders to get the crowd motivated and  into the games at the Trop. The group first met back in 2006 and was attended by about 5–60 fans picked by the Rays to promote this new arm of the Fan Experience wing of the Rays. It consists of meetings attended by active members were important events and upcoming tidbits of information are given to the group to intice the Rays fans into trying new cheers or to teach basic cowbell ethics to the new Rays faithful.




When Rays current Manager, Joe Maddon came here he wanted the Rays to have an enviorment that other teams would consider hostile without violence. A great example is the University of New Mexico Lobos basketball arena, which is considered by many to be the loudest and rowdiest arena in the NCAA. Maddon wanted to gain that type of advantage over the opposition by imposing the noise and cowbells to mess with the mental and concetration levels of our visiting teams.

The Cowbells became a fast identifier of the small group, and them blossomed into most of the Rays fans faithfully joining in the Cowbell Army and raining noise down on all visiting teams and during  great plays either offensive, or defensive for the Rays. The group is identified by their bright yellow shirts with a cartoon likeness of Maddon on the front of it. The character, known as “screamer” was actually adopted as a symbol of the fan’s screaming and supporting the Rays squad. 

 So if you see one of the memeber of this Rays society. Be sure to thank them for their support and ask about joining the Maddon’s Maniacs group in 2009. If you are interested in becoming a member, you can consult any of the maniacs, or contact the Rays front office and ask for the Fan Experience department and they will get you on the mailing list for upcoming events. To give you an example of how far this group has come since 2006. I was at that first meeting with about 60 other people, and it has grown to over 500 people at the last count.

We usually meet before  select home games in the Trop. and have guest speakers beside our faithful leader, Joe Maddon.  Usually the team is out stretching in the field when we begin, and it is not unusual for us to give a loud cheer to show of support for the guys on the team. First and foremost, the group is for the bonding of fellow Rays fans to support and have a common bond in the Rays development. A second, and something great reason to join is to be a part of the early history of this franchise. In 10 years you can tell people you were on the ground floor of an organization that one day might rival the Red Sox Nation. So be sure to support the team as they ready themselves for the fight for the American League Divsional Series, and be sure to show your Rays colors and support loud and proud in the Tampa Bay area and at the Trop.


Go Rays!!!!!!!!!!!!!