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Tampa Bay Rays Tales

Passing fancy

Before giving up football after his junior year at Bellarmine Prep in San Jose to concentrate on baseball, Pat Burrell was a decent option quarterback. "I could run pretty good then," he said.

But he wasn't the best QB in the West Catholic Athletic League in 1993. He played against a rival Serra High star named Tom Brady.

"He was way better," said Burrell. "He was probably a better baseball player, too."

Burrell and Brady, who was drafted in the 18th round by the Expos as a catcher, also roomed together at the Bill Walsh QB camp at Stanford.

Burrell went on to the University of Miami and said he "kind of lost track" of Brady at Michigan, where Brady didn't play much his first two seasons. And Burrell was just as impressed as anyone when Brady took over for injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001 and emerged as an NFL star.

Taking a pass

Playing basketball for St. Joseph Notre Dame High in Alameda, Calif., reliever Joe Nelson was on the receiving end of history.

Nelson was the shooting guard, and partnered in the backcourt with future NBA star Jason Kidd, on a team that won a state championship.

When Kidd set the state record for assists, it was the result of Nelson hitting a 10-foot bank shot.

"That was probably two of my 20 points the entire season," Nelson said. "I was a defensive specialist on a team with some incredibly talented players."

Nelson jokes that he made Kidd what he is today — "100 percent" — but seriously raves about the nine-time NBA All-Star.

"Playing with Jason was incredible," Nelson said. "He's the best athlete I have ever seen in any sport. I think he could play centerfield in the big leagues, play running back in the NFL or be the Hall of Fame NBA player that he is."

Nelson also played with and against former Rays Bobby Smith and Randy Winn, and NBA star Gary Payton.

Passing by

J.P. Howell was a pretty big deal at Sacramento's Jesuit High, where as a senior he was 10-0 with a 0.09 ERA (1 run, 79 IP) and attracted lots of attention from pro scouts and colleges. He was a second-round draft pick by Atlanta but went to USC, then transferred to Texas, and in three years he was a first-round pick. As dominant as Howell was, he had a pesky rival at nearby Woodland High: Red Sox star Dustin Pedroia. "He was, like, 1-for-9 off me, but he crushed the ball," Howell said. "Every time." Howell was not only the hotter prospect and the bigger name, but the bigger player. "I was like 5-10, 160 then," Howell said. "He was like 5-7, 140. So I was way bigger."

Going to the West Coast this week is like going home for several Rays, including three who had some pretty interesting high school experiences in northern California.

Rays rumblings

Gabe Kapler is the fourth-best centerfielder among Jewish major-leaguers, behind Elliott Maddox, Lipman Pike and Goody Rosen, according to a new book, Baseball Talmud. … Appraised value of the championship rings is about $6,000. … Injured OF Fernando Perez, a Columbia grad, will blog for the New York Times. … All the Rays' opening day catchers were in the house Monday: Dioner Navarro behind the plate, John Flaherty in the Yankee broadcast booth and Toby Hall, recovering from shoulder surgery, in the stands with son Tayden. … B.J. Upton not only bought Outback Steakhouse dinners for all the Charlotte Stone Crabs at the end of his three-day rehab assignment, he got speakers for their clubhouse and weight room. … Joe Maddon doesn't collect much, but he asked for, and now proudly displays in his Trop office, one piece of history from old Yankee Stadium: a poster of Jackie Robinson with the definition of courage that hung in the visiting manager's office. … Double-A Montgomery's Riverwalk Stadium was ranked best in the Southern League by Baseball America; the Durham Bulls Athletic Park was third in the International League. … Hardballtimes.com values the Rays farm system at $180.82 million and ranks it fifth.

Gotta minute? Brian Shouse

Must-see TV show? I like the old ones, like The Andy Griffith Show.

Karaoke song, if you had to? It would have to be from the '80s, 'cause that's when I listened to music. How about Pour Some Sugar on Me?

Guilty pleasure at the mall? I like to go to Nordstrom and Macy's and shop around; always looking for bargains, jeans or whatever.

Skill you have people don't know of? I know how to play the trumpet; I was in the marching band, trumpet, piano, the whole bit.

With your wife's permission, dream date? There's no other dream date except my wife.

Banner days

If you are an old-time New York baseball fan — or if you are Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg — the banners the Rays hoisted at the Trop last week to commemorate their 2008 division and league championships look familiar: They were modeled after the 1955 Dodgers' world championship banner. And after "way too many hours" of research and discussion — shape, size, color, horizontal or vertical, even whether to design it to hang from a flagpole and install one inside the Trop — that's the look that was chosen. Sternberg, who grew up in Brooklyn, liked the clean, classic design, the chevron shape and the blue-on-white lettering.

Tampa Bay Rays Tales 04/18/09 [Last modified: Sunday, April 19, 2009 12:23pm]

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