Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Johnny Field following in dad's Bucs footsteps

PORT CHARLOTTE — When outfielder Johnny Field was drafted by the Rays three years ago, his father, John, enjoyed the coincidence of his son's pro career starting in the Tampa Bay area.

In 1987, John signed with the Bucs as an undrafted safety out of Southern Illinois — "me and Vinny Testaverde," he recalled with a laugh Thursday — but that lasted all of six weeks before a chronic foot injury forced his release that June, before so much as a single preseason snap.

"It was an injury that wasn't going to heal — practice one day, ice a day," said John, 51, who would go on to play one season with the CFL's Toronto Argonauts in 1990. "That's not a real good spot to be in."

But by the looks of things, his son's Tampa Bay sports career is on course for a longer stay — Field, 24, has gone 3-for-3 in the first two games of spring training, making a strong impression as he moves up the Rays' minor-league system.

"I'm just trying to have a good spring and hopefully play well enough they think I can go to Triple A," said Field, who has fully recovered from a broken hand that ended his 2015 season early after he was hit by a pitch.

Field, who went 1-for-1 in a spring cameo last season, was Tampa Bay's minor-league player of the year in 2014, batting .300 with 23 stolen bases at two different levels. Promoted to Double-A Montgomery last year, he saw his average drop to .255 but improve in home runs (14) and RBIs (66). He's hopeful of starting this season at Durham.

Rays manager Kevin Cash, who still remembered the double that Field hit in his only at-bat last spring, said he looks "jacked" in the clubhouse and can make a big impression for the future this month.

"The guy looks very high-energy, fundamentally sound," Cash said. "I know our player development guys rave about him. … He's going to be in a lot of baseball games, so we'll have a pretty good sense here in a week or so."

Field, 5 feet 10, 180 pounds, gave up football after his freshman year of high school, opting for baseball and wrestling. He won a Nevada state wrestling championship at 171 pounds with his father coaching. The two share more than their Florida sporting starts, as John won a I-AA national championship at SIU in 1983 and Field won the College World Series in 2012 at Arizona.

Undrafted out of high school despite hitting .504 as a senior, Field was a fifth-round pick of the Rays after shining at Arizona. On Saturday, his father will fly from their home in Las Vegas into Tampa and drive to Sarasota for the first of three games watching his son in person.

"It was pretty interesting that neither of us lived anywhere near Florida and both ended up in Tampa Bay," Field said.

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

 
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