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Tampa Bay Rays: Rays tales

Photo by Casey Brooks

Photo by Casey Brooks

In the occasionally hectic world of a big-league ballplayer, music can be a calming influence, so some players put a lot of thought into the songs that are played when they are introduced. B.J. Upton loves a good beat, so he's using Day 'n' Nite by Kid Cudi. Carlos Peña loves the festive Latin sound of Como Yo. Then there's Ben Zobrist, who picked his song, The Tree, because he — aww — loves the singer, his wife, Julianna.

As Ben has been establishing himself as big-league player with the Rays, Julianna has been working to establish herself in the music business.

She released her first album during the offseason, and Ben has been using the title track, The Tree, as his walkup music.

"As soon as she put the CD out, I knew it was something I wanted to do," Ben said.

"I was so thrilled that he did," Julianna said. "It's hard to compete with all the great artists out there."

Julianna's work — available on iTunes and — is considered in the Christian rock/alternative genre, but she has a broader sound. Her style and voice have been compared in reviews to Sarah McLachlan, Imogen Heap, Bjork and Regina Spektor. (Check out Julianna's music here.)

"I've heard people say her voice sounds like Sarah McLachlan but the sound is a little more electronic that it's a little more produced, kinda funky, that it's got a little bit more alternative to it," Ben said.

With a newborn son, Zion, and two careers, the Zobrists have a lot to talk about, learning about and sharing each other's business. "It's been really fun and exciting," Julianna said.

They've crossed paths a few times, Julianna twice singing the anthem at Rays games, Ben, also a Christian, addressing church crowds before she sings. They'd like to arrange it so she could perform in the same cities the Rays are playing, as she'll do Tuesday in Cleveland. "That way we could kind of do it together, and not have to travel in the offseason," Ben said.

Given how Zobrist is producing — such as his two-run pinch-hit homer in the ninth Thursday, setting up Carl Crawford's winning hit — the Rays already consider the song a hit.

"That song is working," reliever Joe Nelson said. "Put it this way: If Carl didn't win it and (Evan Longoria) made it up, he was coming out to Zobrist's song."

Eastern view

The battle to win the AL East is expected to be fought in-house — determined primarily by the 72 games each team plays against the others. One reason there has been a lot of skepticism about the Blue Jays is that they've played only nine intra-division games. A look at how they've done and what's left:

W-L vs.

TeamEastGames remaining vs. East

Jays4-563 (18 Rays, 15 O's, 15 Sox, 15 Yanks)

Sox16-650 (15 Jays, 14 O's, 13 Yanks, 8 Rays)

Yanks10-1250 (15 Jays, 13 Sox, 13 Rays, 9 O's)

RAYS12-1050 (18 Jays, 13 Yanks, 11 O's, 8 Sox)

O's7-1649 (15 Jays, 14 Sox, 11 Rays, 9 Yanks)

Senor Longoria?

Evan Longoria isn't very Hispanic — maybe one-eighth, if you consider that his great-grandfather is from Spain. But that didn't stop the Mexican team from pursuing him for the World Baseball Classic, and now he has been nominated for two Tecate Sports Awards — "Tecate Premios Deportes" — based on performance, impact on team and sport and "reputation as a role model for the Hispanic community."

Longoria (of Downey, Calif.) is a finalist for baseball player of the year, along with Albert Pujols and Manny Ramirez (Dominican Republic) and Frankie Rodriguez (Venezuela).

Longoria is also nominated for rising star of the year, competing with boxers Juan Manuel Lopez (Puerto Rico) and Victor Ortiz (who has Mexican parents), soccer player Omar Arellano (Mexico), White Sox infielder Alexei Ramirez (Cuba) and golfer Camilo Villegas (Colombia).

For what it's worth, former Bucs QB Jeff Garcia is among those nominated for the football award.

Rays Rumblings

3B Evan Longoria was 20th on The Sporting News' list of the 50 greatest current players, selected by a panel of Hall of Famers, other ex-players and baseball people. … It's hard not to notice Rays players noticing how well traded RHP Edwin Jackson is doing in Detroit (4-2, 2.55), especially when he was clocked at 97 mph in the eighth Thursday. … ESPN Baseball Tonight's Dave Winfield picked Longoria and Carlos Peña as the game's best 1-2 punch, ahead of the Yankees' Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez: "For my money, I want the youth — the guys who are going to be around a long time … good quality citizens … these guys are going to drive in 100, score 100, and you could probably get four other players and get some change back for your money for what you pay for the other two guys." … The AL East is matched up with the NL West next season, so the Rays should make their first trip to Dodger Stadium. … Former managing general partner Vince Naimoli, a New Jersey Institute of Technology 1962 alum, received an honorary doctor of humane letters. … The annual charity fashion show is June 14 at Nordstrom in International Plaza; tickets are $100, through or by calling (727) 896-6390.

Got a minute? | Jason Isringhausen

Best meal you can make?

Whatever you want, I can make it.

Must-see TV?

Any hunting show; I don't watch much TV.

Band you'd like to be on stage with?

Kid Rock.

Skill you have people would be surprised to know?

Woodworking. I can make whatever you want.

With your wife's permission, dream date?

(Supermodel) Marisa Miller.

Tampa Bay Rays: Rays tales 05/23/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 23, 2009 8:22pm]
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