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Rays Tales: Tampa Bay Rays players share memories of their fathers

Gotta minute? | RHP Fernando Rodney

Biggest fish you've caught: A white shark, about 80 pounds.

Best fishing spot: Key West, a lot of people go there and have fun. I look for yellowtail and grouper.

Favorite music: Merengue. I can sing a little bit.

Favorite TV show: I like to watch Martin. That's what I started watching when I started to learn a little bit of English.

One thing you're scared of: Airplane, when there's turbulence.

Rays rumblings

Though DH/OF Hideki Matsui is batting .175, manager Joe Maddon said "at-bat for at-bat, he's been as good as anybody." … The Rays might call up an additional hitter (in place of a reliever) for the upcoming interleague series in Washington and Philadelphia. … If Manny Ramirez can't play for the light-hitting A's, who rank last in the league in batting average, will anyone else give him a shot?

RHP Fernando Rodney's father, Ulise, may not be alive, but his spirit is always with the reliever on the baseball field. Rodney, 35, has worn his cap slanted to the side since his dad died in 2002, a tribute to the joy his father brought into his life. "That's why I'm so quiet. I don't like to talk too much because everything I have, I have in my heart," Rodney said. "That's why I go into the game and there's nothing I'm worried about. I know I can do it." Rodney's father was a fisherman, and that's how he supported his family in the Dominican Republic. He taught Rodney how to fish, and the sport is now one of his biggest passions. "My favorite memory with my dad is how my education was given to me, how he taught me about life, respect and work," Rodney said. "Because when you work, you can make your own life." With today being Father's Day, we polled the Rays on their favorite moments with the their dads:

2B/RF Ben Zobrist

Zobrist's most memorable moment with his father, Tom, was made for the movies. Zobrist was in seventh grade at the junior high state track meet in Tennessee and was in the best heat for the mile. But it was a very hot and humid day, and Zobrist said he suffered from heat exhaustion, his legs starting to give out during the final two laps. "I came around for the 100-meter mark, and my legs dropped from under me, and I fell on my face and couldn't get up," Zobrist said. "I was kind of out of it. My dad hopped out of the stands, picked me up and helped me walk to the finish line. That was pretty cool. It was very moving for other people that were watching."

INF Elliot Johnson

Johnson's dad, Robert, is a huge Cubs fan, and they'd routinely make trips to Wrigley Field. On the hourlong drive across the Indiana-Illinois border, they'd listen to broadcaster Ron Santo on the pregame show, catch the game and go to Ben's favorite restaurant, Shooter's, on the way back. "Hopefully they'd win," Johnson says, "and he'd be in a better mood."

Catching on

LHP Cesar Ramos said his father, Ramon, would always make time to play catch in the front yard before the sun went down. "Until he couldn't see it anymore," Ramos quipped. He said the sessions started when he was 7-8 years old and lasted until he was 11-12. Both used mitts from Kmart. "Then I started getting too hard for him," Ramos said. "It was probably the last thing he wanted to do after work, but he always did."

LHP Jake McGee said his dad, Mark, would sit on a bucket in a nearby basketball court in the Reno, Nev., area, put on shin pads and try to catch one of his fastballs. McGee threw so hard that his dad's wedding ring left an impression on his finger. "Only the fastballs he'd catch," McGee said, smiling. "He'd say, 'Throw the curveballs at the bucket.' "

DH/OF Hideki Matsui said his father, Masao, was typically busy but made time every Sunday to play catch in the front yard. "That's something that really stands out," he said.

OF Matt Joyce

Joyce said his father, Matt, would get on him about working hard. So one day, Joyce grabbed one of the tarps from his dad's truck, as well as some bungee cords, and hooked it onto a tree, hitting baseballs into it. "He comes home from work and was like, 'What are you doing? That's my good tarp!' " Joyce, a Tampa native, laughs about the story, another teaching moment from his dad. "I don't remember if I took the tarp down, but I'm pretty sure my neighbors weren't too happy with the noise I was making."

LHP J.P. Howell

Howell said his father, Jim, probably didn't miss one of his games from age 10 to college. His favorite memory is when the two traveled to Cuba for the 2001 Pan American Games, when Howell helped lead Team USA to a silver medal. But baseball was only part of the story, as they experienced a different culture and met so many people. "We lived, we experienced it," Howell said. "We had a few cocktails — I was 18, so I could drink over there. It was awesome, I'll never forget that."

Coaching up

It's well known that CF B.J. Upton's nickname is short for "Bossman Junior," with his father, Manny, the original Bossman. Upton fondly recalls going to Norfolk Tides minor-league baseball games with his dad and watching him referee college basketball games. But Manny was also the coach for B.J. and his younger brother, Diamondbacks OF Justin Upton. "He never forced it on us," Upton said. "He said, 'If you wanna do it, do it.' " Upton, whose son, Riley, recently turned 2, admits it's still "weird" to now be celebrated on Father's Day. Said Upton: "But I kind of want to be to him like my dad was to me."

RHP Alex Cobb

Cobb said he'll always remember — and appreciate — the road trips he took with his dad, Rick, all over Florida, driving a red 1987 Dodge Dart with no air-conditioning en route to baseball tournaments. "We'd listen to oldies the whole way, the Beatles, Beach Boys and stuff like that," Cobb said. "I actually listen to them all the time now, it reminds me of childhood."

Rays Tales: Tampa Bay Rays players share memories of their fathers 06/16/12 [Last modified: Sunday, June 17, 2012 1:34am]

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