Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Who knew Chris Gimenez could have the big hit for Tampa Bay Rays against New York Yankees? Maybe only him

ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Gimenez?

Really?

It was late, and the score was tied, and it was no time for the supporting cast. This was a headliner's moment, one of those high-pressured September games where one star or another was going to make himself a memory. Derek Jeter, maybe. Evan Longoria, perhaps.

Chris Gimenez?

Really?

Gimenez left the dugout, and even he wasn't certain he was going to make it all the way to the plate to face reliever David Robertson. He looked to bench coach Davey Martinez, wondering if a left-handed pinch-hitter might take his turn.

"Am I good?" Gimenez asked.

"Yeah," said Martinez. "You're good."

Gimenez, a .178 hitter who was 72 hours out of the minor leagues, continued his walk to the plate. He took a deep breath. He reminded himself to take a pitch just to look at Robertson's delivery.

"Well, this is the biggest at-bat of your life," he told himself. "Let's see what you do with it."

Let's. Five pitches later, Gimenez hit a cutter off the end of his bat, and the ball was squirting through the infield. It bounced and squibbed and played dodgeball as Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and first baseman Nick Swisher both broke for it. The ball kept bounding, sneaking into the outfield for a hit, and the go-ahead run was racing to the plate, and the Rays were on their way to winning a game that suggested this may be a playoff race after all.

Chris Gimenez!

Really!

This is the beauty of baseball. It saves some of its biggest moments for some of its littlest guys. As a sport, it can be cruel. It can beat a player up, and it can frustrate him, and it can spend a decade trying to chase him away. And then it can give him a minute that will last forever.

This time, it rewarded Gimenez, 29, with a Dan Johnson moment. In one swing of the bat, he validated all of his work, and all of his faith, and all of the doubt that a guy can pick up in spending parts of nine seasons — including most of this one — in the minors.

"It wasn't the prettiest hit ever," Gimenez said, grinning, "but I'll take it."

The ball, through Gimenez's eyes, took "about a thousand" bounces. The run to first "was the longest 90 feet I've ever run."

Still, the ball could not have been placed more perfectly. If Cano was closer, perhaps he would have come up with it. If he was further away, perhaps he could have left his feet and knocked the ball down to prevent the run from scoring.

"I was running, and I was praying, and I was watching Robbie and I was watching Swish," Gimenez said. "When it got to the outfield, I knew (Ryan Roberts) was going to score. I thought, thank God for that. For my sake, for the team's sake, for everyone's sake."

Who saw this coming? The last Rays' fans saw of Giminez, he was leaving town at the end of May with a .191 average on the season. At the time, would anyone have dreamed that Gimenez had this kind of hit in his future?

"Honestly? Yes," Gimenez said. "I knew that I had to go down and figure some stuff out. But I kept believing if I kept myself going in the right direction, I had a chance. At the plate, I've never really done anything. That's a bad portrayal of who I am offensively. I've always felt I could be a decent ballplayer if I just did things the right way."

If you are among the thousand minor-leaguers who tell themselves similar things on a daily basis, perhaps you can understand the joy that Gimenez felt. He stood at first base, beaming, looking at his teammates yell his name. This is why you stick around. This is why you keep showing up to the ballfield.

"Hopefully, there will be a lot more moments and a lot more RBI," Gimenez said.

Ah, but if not? If this turns out to be Gimenez' greatest day in baseball, well, it was one more than was promised. And, yeah, he'll tell his grandkids about it.

"By then, it will be a missile," he said. "It will have torn the glove off of the infielder."

He laughed. On Chris Gimenez Day, on the day he felled the Yankees, on the day he changed the standings, who could blame him?

Who knew Chris Gimenez could have the big hit for Tampa Bay Rays against New York Yankees? Maybe only him 09/03/12 [Last modified: Monday, September 3, 2012 8:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. For starters: Ramus to DL, Peterson back, no further moves

    Blogs

    We were expecting a flurry of roster moves this afternoon and we got one. OF Colby Ramus is on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to June 19 with left hip tendinitis.

    Colby Ramus is on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to June 19 with left hip tendinitis.
  2. Jameis Winston stats: How the Bucs QB performed under pressure

    Bucs

    Every quarterback's performance declines when he faces pressure from the defense.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston faced pressure on more than 30 percent of his pass plays last season. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  3. Could Lightning deal for a defenseman today?

    Blogs

    Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has been trying to further bolster his blueline, and he may have a chance to acquire one by tonight's first round of the NHL Draft.

    The Lightning is reportedly in on Travis Hamonic (Islanders), though New York is rumored to be asking for two-first round picks.
  4. SI ranks Quinton Flowers on top 100, above Deondre Francois

    Blogs

    Sports Illustrated's ongoing countdown of the top 100 players in college football includes some high praise for USF quarterback Quinton Flowers.

  5. Kentucky recruit, former Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox among top prospects for 2018 NBA Draft

    Preps

    Less than 24 hours after the NBA Draft, analysts have already begun looking ahead to 2018.

    Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox finishes a layup during the McDonald's All-American game in March at the United Center in Chicago. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]