Former Rays have mixed reactions to postseason Trop return
Rangers first baseman Jorge Cantu unwrapped the towel around his left ankle, revealing a bright-red welt from a batted ball that went off his leg, a lasting mark from an 0-for-4, three-strikeout game Wednesday.
But for Cantu, who spent nearly nine years in the Rays organization, the smile on his face was irreplaceable.
Cantu played his first career playoff game in Wednesday’s ALDS Game 1 at the same place where his major league career began. Cantu, who was acquired from the Marlins in a trade July 29, has played at the Trop before playing with Florida, but this experience was different.
“It is because this is where I started my career,” Cantu said. “To come back here and for my first playoff game to be here, it’s something very special. I’m never going to forget it, looking across the diamond and seeing those familiar faces – (Carl) Crawford, Rocco (Baldelli), (third-base coach) Tom Foley, all those guys.”
Cantu had some of his best seasons in Tampa Bay – he was the Rays’ outstanding rookie in 2004 and the team MVP in 2005.
Rangers outfielder and AL MVP candidate Josh Hamilton, who was the Rays’ No. 1 overall pick in 1999, respectfully shrugged off facing his former team here in his first postseason game.
“I think that time has passed,” Hamilton said. “Coming back here in ’08 (with the Rangers) my first time back, it was more special then. Now it just seems like another team. Obviously I’ll always remember the Rays and the opportunities they gave me to break into professional baseball. It’s just another team, another game.
Hamilton admitted it was special to see Crawford and Baldelli, who came up through the Rays system with Hamilton.
“It’s neat to see Carl,” he said. “It’s neat to see Rocco back, and even some of the coaches. I talked to them in batting practice and said hello, but when game time comes you just turn it on.”
-- Eduardo A. Encina, Times staff writer (firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @EddieHometeam