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Thanksgiving Edition: Rays players I am thankful for

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ST PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 19: General view of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrating after defeating the Boston Red Sox in game seven of the American League Championship Series during the 2008 MLB playoffs on October 19, 2008 at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida. The Rays defeated the Red Sox 3-1 to win the series 4-3. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 19: General view of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrating after defeating the Boston Red Sox in game seven of the American League Championship Series during the 2008 MLB playoffs on October 19, 2008 at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida. The Rays defeated the Red Sox 3-1 to win the series 4-3. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
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ST. PETERSBURG, FL – OCTOBER 11: Evan Longoria #3 of the Tampa Bay Rays hits a double against the Boston Red Sox in the third inning of game two of the American League Championship Series during the 2008 MLB playoffs at Tropicana Field on October 11, 2008 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL – OCTOBER 11: Evan Longoria #3 of the Tampa Bay Rays hits a double against the Boston Red Sox in the third inning of game two of the American League Championship Series during the 2008 MLB playoffs at Tropicana Field on October 11, 2008 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

A hero, Evan Longoria. He was exactly that me as a young avid Rays fan. He was the best. The best third baseman I had ever seen, the best hitter I had ever seen, the most clutch player I had ever seen. He had a different presence about him, he was just different.

The heart and soul of my favorite team, #3 also played my favorite position. I guess every kid wants to play short or third, but for me I wanted to because of him. I wanted to field bunts with one hand the way he could. I wanted to hit third in the lineup, because he did.

Like Carl Crawford, I tried to mimic Longoria’s stance as well. Trust me when I say it didn’t work out. Also, when I played third, I would even kick the dirt and spit in my glove the same way Evan did. As I made my way onto the field each game, I would even copy his pregame ritual or rubbing his hand in the dirt.

His walkup song will forever be ingrained in my memory. So will the time that he called out B.J. Upton for not hustling for a couple of balls in the gap. Like Crawford, he played the game the right  way with the upmost integrity and showed me how to play the game the right way.

He had a tradition of opening the gate right behind home plate and throwing a fan or two a baseball before the game started. One day he happened to throw that ball to me. I still have that ball, and I remember after I caught it,  just staring at it for good deal of time thinking to myself that this baseball feels different than all the others I had held. In retrospect, it was just another ball, but that is the effect that Longo had on me as a kid.

He led my favorite team through their best years of baseball. He played my favorite position better than I had ever seen. He was my first baseball hero. Thank you Evan.

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