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The great communicator

It was an otherwise uneventful spring training day four years ago at the Huggins-Stengel Complex in St. Petersburg. The Baltimore Orioles recently had added big-name players Lee Smith, Chris Sabo, Sid Fernandez and Rafael Palmeiro to their roster, and fans lined the fences to catch glimpses of the newcomers while members of the media procured interviews.

Outside the building that once housed Yankees managerial greats Miller Huggins and Casey Stengel, Rick Vaughn traipsed around the practice field. As the Orioles' public relations director, it was Vaughn's job to see a variety of requests through to fruition.

As an intern in the Orioles PR department, it was my job to answer the phones and set up interviews (in between making obligatory lunch runs, of course). Inside the office, Vaughn's desk was covered with pink message notes.

The University of Michigan student newspaper wanted a phone interview with Sabo, an All-America alumnus. A local high school student wanted permission to talk with players for a paper. Good Morning America needed to confirm its upcoming spot with Sabo and Palmeiro.

Then the phone call came.

It was former second baseman Harold Reynolds, one year removed from his lone season as an Oriole, on the other end of the line. He called Vaughn to say hi.

Just to say hi?

Faced with an ever-increasing workload, Vaughn didn't appear to have any time to spend on banter not directly related to his job. But he took time to talk with Reynolds. That is one reason Vaughn has come to be considered one of the best communications directors in sports.

And good news, Tampa Bay fans, Vaughn now is a Devil Ray. After spending a decade with the Orioles and two years with the Washington Redskins, Vaughn was hired as the Rays' vice president of public relations in April 1996.

Nothing ever has been too small or too big a task for Vaughn. Whether it was a young fan writing for a team schedule or an entire city eagerly anticipating the opening of the $105.4-million Camden Yards in 1992, Vaughn was there.

He has brought that same fervor to the bay area. As an Oriole, Vaughn was noted for conceiving award-winning media guides. He had one rule of thumb: Never put anything in the media guide that a reporter can't use in a story. So if you buy a Devil Rays guide, don't worry about being bothered by useless statistics such as Wade Boggs' batting average on Tuesday nights during a road game when there is a full moon.

And if you buy a Devil Rays game-day program, you will see another feature Vaughn brought with him. The Orioles long have used a unique scoring system that dates to the club's origins. The Devil Rays use that same system.

As you follow along in your program, scoring all the games in the Rays' inaugural season, don't worry about the won-lost record. With Vaughn on board, the Rays already are champions of baseball etiquette and class.

So if you see him spreading the Devil Rays word at another Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce barbecue or a Pasco Rotary Club meeting or even a return trip to Roland Park Middle School in Tampa, don't be afraid to call on him.

Just to say hi.

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