Rays Notes: Longoria, Girlfriend Expecting, David Price’s Connection to Tennessee Hometown

Why did Evan Longoria sign his 10-year, 136 million dollar extension with the Rays when he was already signed for the next three years and could have potentially earned much more on the open market? A big reason he agreed to the deal was financial security. Now it’s easy to see why that is so important. Longoria and his girlfriend Jaime Edmondson announced that they are expecting a baby around spring training of next year. Edmondson had the exciting news on Twitter.

Congrats to Evan and Jaime and this is something extremely exciting for Rays fans everywhere. This is just another reason to look forward to the start of next season, and knowing a little Longoria is coming to the world is finally some news that everyone can simply smile about.

Going from the future to the past, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times talked about David Price‘s childhood and continuing celebrity in his hometown of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Included in the article was some really cool stuff.

“He’d get out there with this little plastic ball and bat, and smack it over the house, then he’d run through the gate, go get the ball and hit it back over,” his mother, Debbie Price, recalled.

“He was doing that at the age of 3. I’d never seen a child with such good eye-hand coordination — just to be able to toss it to himself and hit it. I remember (oldest son) Jackie, for instance, tossing him a ball at age 6 or 7, and he couldn’t even catch it. Here David was at just 3 years old. It was amazing to me, and I thought, ‘Wow, there’s such a difference.’ ”

…….

When David was growing up, he would go to Toot’s to eat (he loves the wings) and just hang out, maybe catch on TV the Braves and his favorite player, David Justice.

Now Toot’s has David’s photos on the walls, touts on its marquee when he’s pitching so people can go there to watch, and celebrates his successes.

And when David is back in town to visit, he’ll still go in to eat and hang out. No special table, special treatment, special orders. (Though he does occasionally plea on Twitter for Toot’s to send him its hot sauce.)

 It’s amazing that despite how successful he has become, winning the AL Cy Young in 2012 and being a major part of the Rays’ success the last five years, Price remains so down-to-earth. He’s as interactive as any athlete on Twitter, always a great guy in the clubhouse, and it’s clear that his connection to his hometown is something that he’s never going to lose no matter what happens.  Price is going to be pushed into more of a leadership role after the James Shields trade. But there’s no other player who the Rays would rather have as a role model for their young pitchers and their entire team.

Speaking of leadership, Gary Shelton of the Tampa Bay Times discussed leaders among Tampa Bay athletes, highlighting Shields for his fire, specifically talking about the fight he got into with Coco Crisp, and also talking about Troy Percival, who inspired a quiet confidence among the 2008 Rays as he pointed out to the entire team how they could win 90 games. Especially for fans of all the TB sports team, it’s worth the read.

Ironically, over the past few days Topkin wrote about the Rays’ pitching situation for 2013, while Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune’s article was about the Rays’ hitting prospects. The Rays have constantly been juggling the present and the future the last few years and hope to continue to do that following the Shields trade. They hope that their remaining pitchers, specifically Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore, can continue their development while their hitting prospects, beginning with the recently-acquired Wil Myers, make them a better team moving forward.

“I don’t like to use the term ‘step up.’ I don’t want them to ‘step up.’ I want them to continue to make progress, to continue to work the process,” Maddon said. “They have another year of experience. Even though they have great work ethic, I would anticipate it’s going to be better. Even though their preparation has been good, I want it to get better. Find those innings through method, as opposed to just saying, ‘I’ve got to step up.’ So the methodology has got to continue to get better that permits them to become 200-plus-inning pitchers.”

Greatly affected by the Shields trade was right-hander Chris Archer. Archer talked to the Durham New Observer about his thoughts following the trade and going into next season.

“Personally, I thought that we traded away two of our starters and maybe I do move up the depth chart,” Archer said. “But it didn’t change my mentality of this offseason at all. I can’t really selfishly say that it changed my outlook because we still have seven quality arms and I’m going to have to work.”

“All I kept thinking about was how thankful I was to play under a guy like James Shields,” Archer said. “He’s a class act and went out of his way to make me comfortable. Before my first start, he took me out to lunch and made me feel super comfortable.

“He’s the true definition of a leader … I’m going to miss that.”

Archer is yet another pitcher that the Rays love for both his repertoire and his attitude. Archer showed flashes at the end of 2012, and whether he’s working out of the rotation or the bullpen, hopefully he’s in for a big season in 2013.

To close, Joe Maddon‘s focus is always on the Rays, but he has also made a major effort to unite the community he grew up with in his hometown of Hazelton, Pennsylvania with the Hispanic community that has developed there in recent years. As the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Times Leader wrote, ith the help of fellow beloved sports figures Tino Martinez and Bill Guerin, Maddon’s Hazelton Integration Initiative (HIP) is starting to get its footing, and Maddon knows that it won’t be easy but is willing to put all the necessary work in to make it happen.

“The whole thing is to tear down the prejudices,” Maddon said. “Find the kids a place to play, and then the parents are going to get involved.”

“Different groups of people. And they all pulled together very well,” Maddon said. “You felt very safe. It’s not been that way (recently). We’re trying to get it back to that. It takes small steps.

…..

“Too many times we retract our imagination,” Maddon said. “You need to dream big and aim high.

“In doing that, you’re going to be successful.”

Maddon has already proved himself up to the task of accomplishing things people never would have thought possible and he has led the Rays to their unbelievable turnaround beginning with the magical 2008 World Series run. Good luck to him making the same type of results happen in his hometown.

Topics: Chris Archer, David Price, Evan Longoria, Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays

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