Rays get a special guest
Manager Joe Maddon may have found another motto after meeting his special guest Saturday.
Maddon saw an ESPN special while in his hotel room in Fort Lauderdale this week, which talked about 18-year-old John Challis, a Pittsburgh-area kid who had an inspirational visit to PNC Park for a Yankees-Pirates game.
Challis is battling liver and lung cancer, but received national attention in April when he got a base hit in a high school game at Freedom High (Pennsylvania) in his first at bat in five years- "the hit heard around the world," his coach, Steve Wetzel said.
Maddon asked the Rays PR staff to try to get a hold of Wetzel and arrange for Challis to visit the Rays during this three-game series. On Saturday, Challis walked into the Rays clubhouse and found a No. 11 personalized jersey, and met with veteran Troy Percival, starter Edwin Jackson and, his personal favorite, DH Cliff Floyd.
Maddon had made a poster that had Challis' motto - Courage + Believe = Life - and had all the Rays sign it. (Challis had created a Courage for Life Foundation, which helps kids facing terminal illnesses).
Challis gave Maddon a keepsake of his own later in the dugout, when joining the manager's daily talk with the media, Challis mentioned the word "Devil Rays." Maddon quipped John owed him $1, a fine given in jest to those who mistakenly use Tampa Bay's old name.
Someone produced a dollar and Challis signed it, a momento Maddon said he'll keep for life.
"I watch these guys on ESPN, and when they tell me they saw me on ESPN, it really puts it in perspective," Challis said. "It's really special.
-- JOE SMITH