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Changes, They Are A-Coming


I have been thinking ever since January how I can improve my social footprint not only within my community, but within the overall baseball nation. Sure I’ve devised wacky and far out thoughts about eliminating some facets of my writing, but in the end maybe the thought of expansion is the right direction for me to move now.

So it is with great thought and heavy heart that I begin my travels away from Tropicana Field and embark on a journey that will take me more into a MLB-wide focus instead of just pinpointing my posts and thoughts towards the Rays Republic. It is a hard decision, but one that will hopefully be fruitful and show results not only in increased readership but a more pronounced Renegade presence around the Nation. As you can already see, I have pulled the Rays from my moniker to be more reader friendly to all 30 MLB fan bases.

140This is not being done since I feel any animosity or breaking of my Rays ties, it is just a professional decision made by myself to promote my brand and bring a larger focus audience and presence around the baseball web. I love my Rays roots and will still report on them, but only one a month as I am going to try and encompass all 30 MLB team’s in my monthly circle around the country with the Rays being one of my many organizational posts. I decided to use the ESPN MLB Power Rankings as my guide to who will be the first team I write a post about on the 1st day of the month and proceed down the list until I write about the 30th team, then start the process all over again.

Sometimes you got to make harsh and irrational changes to produce growth and bring your sense of the whole enchilada to people outside your usual comfort zone. I have been honored to be the top Fan Blog for the last several months and feel this change will also open up avenues and dialogue with fans from all 30 MLB clubs and bring about a more wide spread presence of the Renegade throughout MLB.

Who knows, this could be a great precursor move for me to become a more nationalized writer who can adapt and bring about opinions, solution and even changes within the MLB culture through my posts about all of the entire MLB Nation. I am also starting a job that will take me all over the country at different ballparks and stadiums where I will take photos and interesting stadium iconic images that I can use in both my Flickr page, plus post on here whenever possible to show the diverse and interesting culture that is Major League Baseball and it’s fans.

mlb_a_postseasonsign_576I will start my 30 MLB clubs posts beginning April 2nd embarking on finding one significant piece of each club’s 2013 puzzle and write about it to see if this process can be fruitful and successful. The first post will be about the current ESPN top MLB club, the Washington Nationals as I bring about my views on just how far I feel the Nats pitching staff can take this team, and if it ends before October, or they are celebrating come November.

Look forward to your comments, suggestions and any views or thoughts you have about these changes and more that will come about during Major League Baseball’s 2013 campaign.

Oh, and by the way……..YAD S’LOOF LIRPA YPPAH   !AY TOG(Using a mirror to view this message is optional)


To Protect and Serve…..Remembering Those Who Served Today

When I was a small child I saw those words emblazoned on a Los Angeles Police Department car in the popular TV show “Adam-12“. It took a handful of years for me to personally experience and learn how important and honorable those words really are, and know the courage and bravery needed to ascend to that plateau of serving and defending the liberties we have been granted by generations of fighting souls.

On this day of memorial and remembrance, I want to honor those who have given of themselves for the freedoms that all of us at one time or another have mistakenly taken for granted. We have all at a moment of lapse forgotten the sacrifices, perils and constant danger that lurks outside our democratic comfort zone.  I owe a huge debt of gratitude and  heartfelt  “Thank You” to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice so I can enjoy the life I have in this country. On this Memorial Day I feel a moral imperative to pay extreme homage to those who have also played this beautiful game of baseball, plus interrupted their careers to  answer the call from their nation to serve with honor and dignity.

Instead of talking about The Tampa Bay Rays, or even Major League Baseball today, I want to salute 2  Baseball Hall of Fame members who answered the call of duty to serve in our military ,and unselfishly sacrificed pieces of their professional careers for our freedoms today. I want to honor them for their commitment to this great country and hope that we all remember them today along with the many other brave men and women who should be saluted daily for their courage and heroic deeds in defending our freedoms.

It has been said that over 4,500 players swapped their baseball uniforms for the assorted colors of the United States Military just during World War II.  Not all of these brave men were in the Major Leagues at the time, but the entire minor league system in this country saw platoons of men from within the minor league ranks also volunteer and enter the draft during the war. They did not get the fan fare of the high profile MLB players, but their part in the military machine was just as important and vital to the overall success.  It has been estimated that at least 125 members of baseball minor leagues gave the ultimate sacrifice during World War II.

We all know some of the  hallowed names associated within the game with military ties like Ted Williams, Hank Greenberg,Joe DiMaggio and former Phillies Manager Danny Ozark.  Yes, even Managers, Coaches and Umpires also were among those who joined the ranks of the many military branches to fight during the European and Pacific Theatre campaign. Today I am going to feature 2 of the many who left their cleats and gloves in their lockers and exchanged them for the weapons of war.

I have chosen Navy Chief Specialist Bob Feller and Army First Lieutenant Warren Spahn as my blog subjects. Both of these men have been personal  baseball heroes of mine while growing up and I felt it was only right on this day of remembering the sacrifices and losses of so many brave souls to include these 2 baseball greats who gave up time willingly during the formative years of their brilliant baseball careers to fight along side people like my father and his three brothers.

There currently are over 33 inducted members of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York who served during World War II.   Memorable players like Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Luke Appling, Larry Doby, Bobby Doerr, Monte Irvin, Ralph Kiner, Johnny Mize, Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto, Robin Roberts, Enos Slaughter, Duke Snider,and Ted Williams. Many of the top tier players of that era of the game served during World War II.

Navy Chief Specialist Bob Feller 

On December 8,1941, the day after the Japanese  unprovoked attack on the fleet of Navy vessels anchored in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii,  Cleveland Indians fireballer Bob Feller enlisted in the United States Navy. He was sworn in by former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Gene Tunney, at the Chicago courthouse.

Feller was first assigned to the Norfolk Naval Training Station in Virginia, as part of Tunney’s physical fitness program, and pitched for the Naval Base’s baseball team.But Feller was not happy. “I wanted to get out of the Tunney program and in to combat,” he told author William B Mead. “So I went to the gunnery school there. And I went on the USS Alabama that fall.”

Feller spent the next 26 months as a Chief Petty Officer assigned to an anti-aircraft gun crew on the USS Alabama (BB-60), a South Dakota-class battleship. “We spent the first six or eight months in the North Atlantic. I was playing softball in Iceland in the spring. We came back in the later part of the summer, and went right through the Panama Canal and over to the South Pacific. We hung around the Fiji islands for a while, and then when we got the fleet assembled, and enough men and equipment to start a successful attack, we hit Kwajalein and the Gilberts and the Marshalls and then across to Truk.”

The USS Alabama returned to the United States in the spring of 1945, and Feller was assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in  upper Illinois, where he coached the baseball team and pitched to a 13-2 won-loss record with 130 strike outs in 95 innings. He returned to Major League Baseball in August 1945, and in his Indians debut at home in Cleveland, he beat the Tigers, 4-2, in front 46,477 adoring fans.

 In January 1946, Feller set up a 3-week school in Tampa, Florida, to develop the baseball skills of returning veterans – both aspiring ballplayers and those with some organized baseball experience. Men paid for their own transportation to the school as well as room and board, but the instruction by fellow major leaguers was free for the returning veterans. It was seen as a time to reflect on both the future and the past and gave the players a sense of “normal life” again.

Feller spoke about his military service some years later in a segment on of ESPN’s Major League Baseball Magazine.  Feller said “I’m very proud of my war record, just like my baseball record. I would never have been able to face anybody and talk about my baseball record if I hadn’t spent time in the service.” Then again in 2005, he got a chance to chat with people online during a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. 

 One of the many questions he was asked that day online was whether he had any regrets about serving in the war? “No, I don’t,” Feller replied. “During a war like World War II, when we had all those men lose their lives, sports was very insignificant. I have no regrets. The only win I wanted was to win World War II. This country is what it is today because of our victory in that war”.

Army First Lieutenant Warren Spahn

Former pitcher Warren Spahn entered the military service on December 3, 1942 when he reported to Army Camp Chaffee, Arkansas and pitched for the 1850th Service Unit baseball team. He was then sent to Europe in December 1944 with the 1159th Engineer Combat Group’s 276th Engineer Combat Battalion. ” Let me tell you, that was a tough bunch of guys. We had people that were let out of prison to go into the service. So those were the people I went overseas with,” he told the Hearst Press in 1945, “And they were tough and rough  and I had to fit that mold.”

Spahn soon found himself in the middle of one of the most intense conflicts of the European Theatre, the Battle of the Bulge. “We were surrounded in the Hertgen Forest and had to fight our ways out of there. Our feet were frozen when we went to sleep, and they were frozen when we woke up. We didn’t have a bath or shower, or even a change of clothes for weeks.”

In March 1945, the 276th were responsible for maintaining the traffic flow across the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen, the only remaining bridge to span the Rhine. The bridge was under almost constant attack from the Germans who were desperate to stop the flow of Allied forces into Germany. At the same time they were to build a 140-foot Double Bailey bridge nearby.

 On March 16, Spahn was wounded in the foot by bullet shrapnel while working on the Ludendorff. The following day he had just left the Ludendorff when the entire structure collapsed into the river with the loss of more than 30 US Army Corp of Engineer soldiers. The  entire 276th unit received the Distinguished Unit Emblem and for their efforts to keep the bridge operating, while under constant enemy fire, Staff Sergeant Spahn received a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and a battlefield commission as a second-lieutenant.

After Germany’s surrender in May 1945, First Lieutenant Spahn pitched for the 115th Engineers Group at their base at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. In a four game stretch, he allowed only one run and nine hits while striking out 73 batters. “Before the war I didn’t have anything that slightly resembled self-confidence,” Spahn told the Associated Press in August 1946. “Then I was tight as a drum and worrying about every pitch. But now I just throw them up without the slightest mental pressure.”

Looking back on his military experience Spahn said, “After what I went though overseas, I never thought of anything I was told to do in baseball as hard work. you get over feeling like that when you spend days on end sleeping in frozen tank tracks in enemy threatened areas. The Army taught me something about
challenges and about what’s important and what isn’t. Everything I tackle in baseball and in life I take as a challenge rather than work.”

It would take almost two decades for Spahn to again dorn a military outfit. But this time it was for a much different reason entirely. He had been asked to be a guest star on the Vic Morrow military show “Combat” as an extra in a scene. So Spahn again put on a military uniform, but this time it was as a German soldier in the television show scene.

I am honored to bring the tale of these 2 great Baseball Hall of Fame inductees’ and ex-soldiers to you on this Memorial Day. I am an ex-United States Army Reservist who stepped on the soil in Kuwait on February 23,1990 as a freshly minted Master Sergeant. Until that day I could not fathom the emotions that would come to a swift head in and around me in a combat situation. With an insurgence of pride and courage both my unit and other advancing troops showed such moxy and bravery during that initial first thrust into this occupied country that makes me still stand  so proud today.

On this Memorial Day 2011, I personally salute every man, woman and civilian who has served for their bravery and courage to defend our rights with honor. For so many of the players of this grand game I love so much to also answer that same call to duty only makes this salute more personal to me. Until I served, I really did not understand the emotional tie that binds those who serve, and now can relate and admire the feelings and the emotions of my father who served bravely in the South Pacific.

Until I put on my uniform I might have been one of those people who had taken my freedoms a bit lightly. But now, after seeing the sacrfices of others, and knowing the true spectacle of battle and its after effects, I stand tall and proud and pray for everyone currently stationed both in harm’s way and in safe harbor for their efforts to preserving those rights for all of us today. I am no longer eligible to serve, but if they ever changed those age limitation or need a call to arms, I would be there in a heartbeat once again.


Sternberg Speaks Honestly on the Rays Tampa Bay Future




It was the Tampa Bay Rays stadium conversation and whiplash response most members of the Rays Republic knew was just peeking above the horizon. The Tampa Bay community as a whole had hoped such a cold water splash in our faces would have a more postmarked expiration date.

Somehow we all knew that the ever present sunshine attitude that surrounds our typical Florida Spring day would suddenly be darkened by an omnipotent comment cloud that would overshadow the usual optimistic banter whenever the Rays future stadium plans have been mentioned.

Just as suddenly the veil of silence has been removed from the Rays stadium debacle, and a few of the comments from Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg paint a more daunting image of an hourglass whose ribbons of sand are constantly spiraling to and end instead of a more optimistic conclusion.

Recently Sternberg told reporter Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times:

“It seems clearer to me by the day that we’re going to be the last man standing (Oakland A’s stadium talks are in a more advanced stage of discussions),” Sternberg said. “And everything I know, and talking to these guys, baseball is just not going to stand for it anymore. And they’ll find a place for me. They won’t find a place here though. So it’s up to us, to everybody, to figure out how to get it right. …

Stu2008.jpg“We’ve come so far with this, with all the people who are interested and watching. I do believe we’ve grabbed into (them) a little bit, and to say it’s a good thing, it’s fun, it’s good for your kids, it’s a nice sport. … And that’s my real concern, that we won’t get to finish the job that I know we were right there to do.”

For the first time I can remember since Sternberg took over the Rays reigns, it seems like a hint of pessimism has crept into his tone when discussing the Rays future home. For the first time, Sternberg has bluntly envisioned both sides of the Tampa Bay region losing out if some sort of constructive movement is not made in the near future.

A good first step might be St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster allowing the Rays a little latitude to venture into other Tampa Bay locales without the threat of harsh legal actions or local repercussions by the Rays landlords possibly letting the process systematically eliminate some of these cost deficient locations from contention.

But that would be a huge leap of good faith by the City of St. Petersburg who has so much to lose not only in possibly losing their biggest tenant, but seeing a reversal in some of the recent positive financial surges in the city’s economically sensitive downtown core. Losing the team would turn downtown St. Petersburg basically into a ghost town again after 9 pm.

No matter how you try and twist, convolute or even manipulate Sternberg’s words, the message is loud and clear now. Major League Baseball with all its omnipotent power hover and circle above the whole stadium process like a lurking Florida vulture has the upper hand.

No longer is this only about St. Petersburg or even Tampa, it is about the future existence of our own Major League team in a town with rich MLB roots, but a transient populous that still has not fully embraced the Rays as “their team”. Even with the recent return of Spring baseball to Progress Energy Field (Al Lang) , the vibe concerning St. Petersburg is beginning to fade a bit more towards black than sunshine.

Stu2010.jpgI am not the only one to notice Sternberg’s particular word usage or possible hidden messages in his statements. Rays Index, another Rays top blog spot also noticed this one particular sentence that might heed this Tampa Bay region to having a few “burning the midnight oil” political strategy sessions. In a perfect world, both sides of the Tampa Bay region would meet in the same clandestine room.

Hidden within the midst of Sternberg’s comments is the small phrasing, “they’ll find a place for me. They won’t find a place here though.”

Immediately you see the unveiled reminder that the upper echelon of Major League Baseball loves the energy and past work Sternberg has done in rebuilding the Rays franchise from the ground up again, and might have some hidden agenda for his future.

The losers here will not be Sternberg, but it could be this region forever cast as a land of Spring baseball only again if the Rays do get harvested like an orange and taken somewhere else.

Contraction with a MLB/MLBPA labor negotiation in the near future is not an viable option, but if this region keeps their minds and mouthes closed for too much longer, it might be too late to salvage the fruit on the vine.

LockTrop.jpgI think the month of April will not only be the beginning of baseball again being played in St. Petersburg, but the beginning of the sands beginning an accelerated pace through the Rays hourglass. Sternberg has been more than vocally adamant that he is not the only person who might view this whole Rays stadium process as being stagnant for too long now.

Something has to be decided soon before the sands from the hourglass become quicksand that devour and destroy that forward progress of baseball in this region over that last 14 seasons.


The Tampa Bay community needs to make the first step soon, the first lunge into diluting this dark cloud and again bringing the warmth of the sunlight firmly back into view……or the cloud will overtake the region and when it finally begins to dissipate, the Rays may be gone…forever.





Not Sure about the Orlando Yankees, but O-Town needs a Team


The city of Orlando has always been an optimistic little borough centralized . If you mentioned the city’s name to most people, it would quickly entertain visits to Disney World or Universal Studios, and it might even bring back memories of watching spacecraft launch off the Space Coast headed for the Stars. For a long time it was considered one of those ” cities on the cusp” of becoming a striving metropolis.

Right now however it is the epicenter of the Winter first folly for Major League Baseball as the league’s 30 General Manager and higher echelons filter into this Mickey Mouse town not to see the new sparkling Amway Center for a Orlando Magic game, but hopefully to part with a few MLB souvenirs of their own before packing and leaving.

Within the hustle and bustle of all this activity surrounding the possibilities and envisioned movements for 2011 is a want by this once sleepy little town to again be considered “on the edge and hip”. Once again this town wants to have professional baseball within its city limits, and the team it is pursuing might surprise you. The city now boasts only Spring Training baseball out at the Walt Disney World of Sports complex when the Houston Astros come into play from late February to the end of March.

For a long time, this region had a team to call their own before the Tampa Bay Rays decided to move their Double-A affiliation to Montgomery, Alabama and left the city bare of any minor league baseball. But all that could soon change if Armando Gutierrez Jr. has his way. The former 8th district United States Senate candidate feels so passionate about this endeavor he withdrew his name from his Senate race and pushed his loyalties and political clout towards again eating popcorn and Cracker Jacks at a future Orlando baseball game.

When the group first announced its intentions to find a professional baseball partner for the city, some mused that the city might be trying to entice and influence the Rays ownership to have team possibly migrate along the I-4 corridor from the west coast of Florida to O-town. But that illusion was quickly eliminated from the formula as the Rays did not seek such a drastic change of local, but only wanted to expand their team presence towards Orlando by providing more exposure through out-of-town television and radio broadcasts to the Orlando and it massive suburbs.

And Gutierrez had the right bait on his fishing pole to try and seduce the Rays ownership as one of his key points to his sought after goal of bringing professional baseball back to Orlando would be to build a state of the art baseball facility and a baseball museum. Both actually played well into the Rays foreseeable future want and need for a new stadium, and with the Rays also currently housing the Ted Williams Hitters Museum within the bowels of Tropicana Field, it might have been a perfect “two birds in the bush” analogy for Gutierrez.

Gutierrez however is not focusing on the Rays. He has a bigger fish in his sights and after meeting with some interesting possible investors while on his U S Senate campaign, Gutierrez has set his sight on another classic minor league team that would bring both local and out of town fans by seducing them with the attractions of baseball and the other surrounding family activities that could be enjoyed during the Spring and Summer months in sunny Florida.


Orlando Yankees proposed Stadium photo


Many might not know the surface plans of Gutierrez and his crew of motley investors setting their sights upon the Florida State League Tampa Yankees and possibly moving them 90-odd miles to a what they consider a more desirable location set within a vibrant young city landscape. Suddenly Gutierrez’s focal point shifted from just trying to entice a team to relocate here to possibly being part of an ownership group that would purchase the FSL franchise and move it into their proposed stadium.

But you have to take this teasing with a grain of salt. How hard do you think the city of Tampa will fight any movement or even relocation of the Yankee Spring Training complex and Class-A squad after the city sunk in so much financial resources, initially posting bonds to provide for the massive upgrade and changes to George Steinbrenner Field and the surrounding area.

This is not to say Gutierrez is putting all his baseball in one bucket, but he is definitely swinging hard for the fences in trying to relocate an iconic baseball affiliate from a well-known locale that treasures the Yankee legacy and fan following like a pilgrimage each Spring. If Gutierrez and his crew can get such a franchise, the Orlando region instantly lights up as a possible relocation sight for a future MLB franchise.

This is not to push the aspect of MLB putting a franchise right into the lap of O-town, but with the backing of such industry giants as Disney and Universal Studios, it would be insane for MLB’s top tier to not at least research and entertain a possibility. Put the added essence of the Rays saying the right words right now in public, but not on paper about their continued involvement in the Tampa Bay region, and you get a small state of flux within the heart of the state right now.

I actually commend Gutierrez and his enthusiastic crew for�their brash and candid decision to thrust it all into the fire here and go for an iconic minor league affiliate that would instantly bring attention to his city and their efforts to again have baseball within its city limits. Back in the early 2000’s, I used to attend a few Orlando DevilRays game when the big team was out of town on road trips. It is a great community with all the hustle and bustle of a thriving metropolis intertwined with the charm and romance of Southern baseball traditions.

It take a lot of courage and conviction for a man to withdraw his name from an election towards securing a prestigious post like a seat in the U S Senate. But sometimes the passion and enticement of the game can be more alluring than a trio of sirens upon the rocks. Gutierrez and his group are firmly committed to standing at the plate and taking whatever baseball throws at them. Not sure how this will all turn out in the end, but Gutierrez sounds like one of those guys who will not stand there and take a third called strike. I think he will find his team soon and the goal will slowly unfold again to have Baseball back in O-town.