BRADENTON — When Rays outfielder Brandon Guyer attends an Ultimate Fighting Championship event, his spectator style is more passion than passive.
Guyer, 27, always buys a shirt, and he'll usually spend the extra $30 for a set of headphones so he can listen to commentators' play-by-play. Sometimes, Guyer shares an earpiece with his wife, Lindsay, who is slowly starting to appreciate the massively popular mixed martial arts fights. He says she even looks forward to watching The Ultimate Fighter reality show on Tuesdays.
"I think I've got her into it," he says.
Guyer got his "fix" this offseason, going to two UFC events, one in Chicago and another in Las Vegas with Lindsay. He loves the ultracompetitive nature of the sport, which includes strategically using different disciplines of fighting.
"There's two men in there, and I guess both are walking out, but really it's just one who's walking out," Guyer said. "It's mano a mano. …
"But it's more than just fighting. It's a chess match. They're predicting what the next move is. The ordinary person may say, 'Oh, it's just two guys in there, whoever hits the other guy first.' But there's really a lot more that goes into it."
Guyer said if he had trained earlier in his life, he would have loved to give UFC a shot.
"But I think I picked a more healthy sport," Guyer said, smiling. "Even though I seem to get injuries and (have) surgeries, it's not concussions or anything, so I'll take that."
Guyer believes staying healthy is one key to him claiming a spot on the Rays roster. One of the prospects acquired from the Cubs in the 2011 Matt Garza trade, Guyer has shown flashes in a couple of callups to Tampa Bay, including a homer in his first big-league at-bat, and has played both corner outfield spots. But his beat-up left shoulder finally gave out on him in May in Toronto, leading to season-ending surgery on the torn labrum.
Guyer said the procedure was a long time coming, considering he hurt the shoulder four separate times, dating to his days at the University of Virginia.
Guyer's shoulder is feeling good now, but leg soreness delayed his spring debut until Tuesday. He'll likely begin the season in Triple-A Durham, but he's hoping he'll get another chance this season to impact the big-league roster.
"I'm just trying to control what I can control and that's to try to put my best foot forward," Guyer said. "Just try to stay healthy. That's my No. 1 thing. Because when I'm healthy, I was blessed with a lot of talent, and I think I can put that all out there."
Guyer is already having a better spring than last year, when his Dodge Durango was driven by his former teammate and roommate, ex-Rays minor-league pitcher Matt Bush, in a March DUI hit-and-run incident. Bush pleaded guilty in December to DUI with serious bodily injury and will be in jail for at least three years. Both Bush and Guyer are being sued for $5 million by the family of the victim, 72-year-old Tony Tufano.
Guyer doesn't want to talk, or think, about the situation, preferring to keep his focus on the field. He is happy, though, that he got his Durango — "my baby" — back in October. The black SUV had been held as evidence for more than six months, with Guyer squeezing into a much smaller Toyota Yaris, the cheapest rental he could find.
"I went from a big Dodge truck to that thing," Guyer said. "But it's back and healthy, just like me."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.