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Rays Tales: Iowa proud of native son, Tampa Bay Rays rookie pitcher Jeremy Hellickson

No, it's not heaven, as Ray Kinsella explains in a scene from Field of Dreams; it's Iowa. But for some, it's close enough. Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson is the latest big-leaguer to come out of the corn capital, and he is proud of it. "There's good people there," he said. "It's a good place to grow up. I like it there." And the folks there, from Gov. Chet Culver on down, are pretty pleased with him.

"We just couldn't be more proud of Jeremy Hellickson and his drive to make it to the major leagues," Culver said in e-mail to the Times.

"The Rays organization will be better off for having this mature, focused and decent young man. His demeanor isn't surprising at all to Iowans who have grown up with Midwestern values and an unrivaled work ethic.

"We're taught to keep our heads down and work hard to get the job done, be kind and compassionate to others, and stay rooted in faith. Jeremy is the epitome of Iowa."

Random facts

• Landlocked? Actually it's the only state with its eastern and western borders 100 percent formed by water — the Mississippi and Missouri rivers (save for the tiny community of Carter Lake, west of the Missouri).

• The Iowa State Fair attracts 1 million visitors a year. Why? More than 50 foods on a stick, from pork chops to hard-boiled eggs to salad.

• Des Moines is considered an insurance capital, but politics are a huge deal every four years with its first-in-the-nation caucuses.

• Not exactly a chamber of commerce slogan, but more tornadoes than any other state.

• Highest literacy rate in the U.S., greater than 99 percent.

• Named by the Sioux Indians, meaning "the beautiful land." Only state name that starts with two vowels.

Famous Iowans

Entertainers: Tom Arnold, Johnny Carson, Fred Grandy, Ashton Kutcher, Cloris Leachman, Jerry Mathers, Glenn Miller, Donna Reed, John Wayne, Andy Williams

Others: Buffalo Bill Cody (showman, scout), Mamie Doud Eisenhower (first lady), George H. Gallup (poll taker), Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren (advice columnists), Herbert Hoover (31st president), Shawn Johnson (Olympic gymnast), Meredith Willson (Music Man composer), Grant Wood (American Gothic artist)

Rays rumblings

The Rays are testing two new kinds of AstroTurf for possible 2011 replacement of the current FieldTurf. … The Aug. 29 Red Sox game will be the Rays' second home ESPN Sunday Night Baseball appearance, first since 2000. … Latest former Ray to end up in an independent league? OF Joey Gathright, with the Long Island Ducks. … ESPN's Buster Olney says LHP David Price "remains the frontrunner" for the AL Cy Young award. … Rookie-level Princeton RHP Andrew Bellatti (2-3, 2.93) will stand trial on charges of gross vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving stemming from a fatal January accident, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. He could be sentenced to seven-plus years in prison if convicted of all charges. … Bench coach Dave Martinez's name may come up in the Mariners' managerial search. … The Rays had enough interest in Lance Berkman, according to the Houston Chronicle, that the Astros asked him if he'd approve a potential deal, and he did.

Got a minute? Jeremy Hellickson

Best meal you can make? That I can make? A bowl of Lucky Charms.

Late-night TV? Cold Case.

Karaoke song if you had to? I've sung Beat It by Michael Jackson with my cousin.

Time killer at the mall? Foot Locker or the food court.

Dream date? Megan Fox is the obvious answer, but I've always liked Penelope Cruz.

Rapid Robert = Jolting Jeremy?

Hellickson isn't actually an Iowa farm boy, having grown up in the capital city of Des Moines. But there are some things he has in common with the best pitcher to come out of Iowa, Hall of Famer Bob Feller, whose career is celebrated at a museum in his hometown of Van Meter. "This might sound weird, and I do say weird things," Rays manager Joe Maddon explained, "but I think Jeremy resembles Bob Feller in the face a little bit, a young Bob Feller. I thought that when I first saw him. … They're two different kind of pitchers: Feller was a power pitcher, and Hellickson is finesse, but they're both good old Iowa boys that are pretty good pitchers."

Diamonds in the rough

Hellickson is the 211th Iowa native to reach the majors, according to baseball-reference.com, more than from 28 other states.

Among the bigger names:

• Cap Anson*

• Stan Bahnsen

• Dave Bancroft*

• Mike Boddicker

• Fred Clarke*

• Red Faber*

• Bob Feller*

• Denis Menke

• Kevin Tapani

• Dazzy Vance*

* Hall of Famers

And among those with Rays ties:

• Joe Magrane (former TV guy)

• Todd Belitz (former reliever)

• Mike Butcher (former coach)

Movies made in Iowa

Field of Dreams

Bridges of Madison County

Twister

Terms of Endearment

Children of the Corn

Iowa claims to fame

• World's Largest Truckstop, Iowa 80, in Walcott

• Maid Rite loose meat sandwich, invented in Muscatine

• World's largest popcorn ball (5,060 pounds), in Sac City

• Largest Dutch windmill in U.S.

• World's largest bull (Albert, 45 tons), roadside attraction in Audubon

• Field of Dreams and National Farm Toy Museum, in Dyersville

• World's steepest, shortest scenic railway, in Dubuque

Source: Iowa Governor's Office.

Rays Tales: Iowa proud of native son, Tampa Bay Rays rookie pitcher Jeremy Hellickson 08/14/10 [Last modified: Saturday, August 14, 2010 10:48pm]

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