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Rays Tales: Caps, gowns and baseball

Caps and gowns and baseball players don't often end up together, in large part because of a system that allows players to be drafted and sign after their junior college seasons. But even for those who stay and earn their degrees, timing can be an issue. Take RHP Brandon Gomes, who completed a double major in finance and business law to graduate from Tulane but, rather than walk with his class at the New Orleans Arena, received his degree on the field before the 2007 Seniors Day game against Chicago State.

"It was a unique experience," Gomes said.

Even more so because Gomes was starting that day — so he had to interrupt his warmups in the bullpen for the ceremony with the school AD and the head of the business school. "I came down, then I went back and threw," he said. "It was pretty funny."

Gomes, who went six innings for the win that day, got a double major because it was a matter of adding two extra classes and had the benefit of a fifth year because he missed his sophomore season after Tommy John surgery.

OF Sam Fuld impressively earned his economics degree in four years at Stanford and got to graduate with his 2004 class at the football stadium — but it wasn't what he wanted to be doing.

Graduation coincided with the College World Series, and for the first time in his four seasons, the Cardinal didn't qualify.

"That was the only consolation for not making it that year," Fuld said. "None of us really wanted to be there, but if we had to be there, we were enjoying ourselves."

Other Rays with college degrees include 2B/RF Ben Zobrist (communications, Dallas Baptist), assistant to the pitching coach Stan Boroski (biology, Ohio University), pitching coach Jim Hickey (marketing, Texas-Pan American) and hitting coach Derek Shelton (criminal justice, Southern Illinois). Plus manager Joe Maddon has an honorary degree from Lafayette.

The old college try …

A dozen or so other Rays attended college but left without getting degrees. RHP Adam Russell, a finance major at Ohio University, said he'll "definitely" go back and finish when he's done playing. … C Kelly Shoppach (education, Baylor) and RHP Andy Sonnanstine (marketing, Kent State) want to finish but are stymied by requirements they go back to campus. … Sonnanstine started in computer science but said, "After a month of dealing with binary code, I had to find something else." Pitching coach Jim Hickey made a similar change. … 1B Dan Johnson (Nebraska) and OF Matt Joyce (Florida Southern) were also marketing majors. … RHP Jeff Niemann (Rice) and LHP Cesar Ramos (Long Beach State) majored in kinesiology; Ramos also took dance class. … LHP David Price (Vanderbilt) and OF Brandon Guyer (Virginia) were sociology majors. … 3B Evan Longoria studied criminology at Long Beach State. … LHP J.P. Howell said his major at Texas was "football and sleep" though officially general studies. … RHP Kyle Farnsworth spent one year at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College but said he didn't have a specific area of study: "Just enough to stay eligible."

Rays Rumblings

MLB literally stopped the presses to add Sam Fuld and drop "retired" Manny Ramirez from the All-Star ballot, paying for the punchcards, which were just starting to be printed, to be reworked. … RHP Alex Cobb's pitch-tipping issues stemmed from how he held his glove — closed tight for a fastball, spread out for offspeed stuff; ESPN's Eduardo Perez (the ex-Ray) broke it down well on TV. … Through nearly one-fourth of their home schedule (and with no weather issues), the Rays rank 29th in attendance with an average of 16,311 for 19 games. … Home clubhouse/equipment manager Chris Westmoreland said attendant Ryan Riddle gets the credit for their seemingly impossible accomplishment: getting the chocolate whipped cream stains out of B.J. Upton's jersey. … Fuld will sign autographs 10-11 a.m. Saturday at Tampa's Triple Play Sports Cards (2219 S Dale Mabry Highway), and prices start at $15. … There have been 32 big-leaguers named Brandon, and three have played for the Rays: Backe, Gomes and Guyer. … Baseball America editor Jim Callis says the talent pool in the upcoming draft — in which the Rays have 10 of the first 60 picks — is even deeper than the experts expected, especially in pitching. Got a minute? Brandon Gomes

Must-see TV? I'm on a big House kick; I've got to catch up.

Big-night-out meal? Big steak guy, maybe throw in some shrimp, a surf-and-turf type deal.

Band you'd most like to be on stage with? Let's go with Incubus; they're awesome.

Worst job? I cleaned public pools one summer (in his hometown of Fall River, Mass.).

With your fiancée Blair's permission, dream date? Olivia Wilde (who plays Thirteen on House).

Rays Tales: Caps, gowns and baseball 05/07/11 [Last modified: Saturday, May 7, 2011 5:55pm]
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