Sternberg: 'What baseball is all about'
. Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg, standing in front of the dugout a few hours before the game, couldn't help but relish the moment.
"This has done everything that I would have desired it to do for the region; and to come at a time when there's so much uncertainty and these tricky times," said Sternberg, who was joined by many of his ownership partners. "This is what baseball is all about."
Sternberg said the brass felt pretty confident when it took over in 2005 that, "If we stuck to our plan and got a few good breaks, that we had a window between 2008 and 20011-12 that we could have a lot of success."
Sternberg, however, hasn't bought into the Mohawk craze.
"This is as close as I get," said Sternberg, running his hand through his hair. "It's the mo' without the 'hawk."
Former managing general partner Vince Naimoli did not attend the game though supposedly will be at the ones in Chicago.
Plays worth another look
Catcher to catcher
. Down 4-3, Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski singled to lead off the fifth. One out later, he headed to second on what might have been a busted hit-and-run. Dioner Navarro's throw easily nailed him. "I know Ozzie (Guillen) is a really aggressive manager," Navarro said. "So when I saw him taking off, I just had to take time to make a really good throw." Soon after …
. … In the bottom half, second baseman Alexei Ramirez lost the handle on the ball — and opened the door for the Rays. With Akinori Iwamura on first, B.J. Upton hit a grounder to shortstop Orlando Cabrera. Ramirez took the throw at second for one out but dropped the ball before throwing to first for a double play. Singles by Willy Aybar, Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford followed to put the Rays up 6-3.
A big effort from Aki
The Aki Show got under way shortly after the Rays' 6-4 victory over the White Sox on Thursday. Down the hall from the team's locker room, Akinori Iwamura was holding court in his special media room with nearly two dozen Japanese reporters crowding around him. Of course, the real show took place on the field, where the second baseman played a crucial role. Chicago had quieted the boisterous crowd in the third with Dewayne Wise's three-run homer, taking a 3-1 lead. But in the bottom of the inning, Iwamura got the Trop rocking again with his hitting and baserunning. Following a leadoff single by Jason Bartlett, he lined a triple over centerfielder Ken Griffey that one-hopped off the wall, scoring Bartlett easily. Moments later, he added a crowning touch with a stellar slide at home, tying the score on a sacrifice fly to left by Willy Aybar. The ball wasn't hit particularly deep, so Iwamura tagged and tore for home, sliding past A.J. Pierzynski and catching the plate with his left hand to avoid the tag. "I was aware that the fly ball wasn't that far," Iwamura said through an interpreter. "But I made my mind up to take off, and the catcher was right there in front of me. I kind of went around with my slide and touched the plate with my hand. And fortunately, it worked. "I'm glad the team got kind of pumped up by my play right there. Even though we were down by two runs, we believed that we could always come back."
At 2:38 p.m., a called strike from James Shields to White Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera.
Shields fanning leftfielder Dewayne Wise in the first.
First hit, home run, run and RBI
The Rays' Evan Longoria homers to left-center, a 421-foot shot, off Javier Vazquez on the first pitch of the second.
Dioner Navarro's blooper to left in the second.
Akinori Iwamura's shot to center in the third.
First play the Trop's catwalks affected
In his second at-bat, Longoria sent a shot to left that struck the C-ring for a 430-foot homer.
. When first baseman Carlos Pena left the game in the third with a scratched eye, it could have posed a big problem for the Rays. But Willy Aybar came in and played a significant part in the victory.
His sacrifice fly in the third tied the score. He singled and scored during a two-run fifth. And he made a nice play on a throw from pitcher James Shields off a bunt during the sixth.
Aybar knew his number would be called after Pena struck out to end the first.
"He told me to be ready because he wasn't feeling 100 percent," Aybar said in Spanish through an interpreter. "I'm always ready. I figured they would use me as a pinch-hitter sooner or later, so I wanted to stay ready."
All in all, Aybar couldn't have been happier.
"I'm appreciative to our manager (Joe Maddon) for giving me the opportunity."
MLB prez: a great story
. MLB president Bob DuPuy was among several top execs at the Trop, and they were happy the Rays were here. He went so far as to say the Rays could now be inspiration for fans in other markets: "There's no reason the fans in Kansas City can't think they're going to be Tampa Bay next year."
MLB vice president John McHale, who briefly ran the Rays, also was thrilled with the atmosphere.
"It's the spring in people's steps. It's what you see in peoples' eyes, the intangible sense that people bring coming to the game," McHale said.
"When you see people coming to the postseason and they've got Rays shirts on and the Rays signs and placards and they're chanting outside, that's what's really exciting."