RHP Andy Sonnanstine is a big-league pitcher - and aspiring hitter. A serious golfer and pingpong player. A self-described "professional gentleman" of other leisure sports, including darts, billiards, bocce, archery and foosball. An avid photo- and videographer. And now, an author. Sonnanstine teamed with Tucker Elliot to write a book titled Tampa Bay Rays IQ: The Ultimate Test of True Fandom. The book, available now through amazon.com ($11.95) and to be in stores this summer, is part history, part trivia - actually 200 questions worth.
"I'm really happy with the way it turned out," Sonnanstine said.
The project came together a bit by chance.
Sonnanstine's agents were inquiring about interest in publishing a coffee table-style book of his photos. Black Mesa Publishing, which has done a series of team IQ books, had plans for Elliot, who had written previously on the Braves and Reds, to work next on the Rays.
The idea of a collaboration with Sonnanstine was raised.
"I replied with, 'Are you kidding? I picked him up as a free agent in my fantasy league for a spot start early in 2008 and the guy ended up winning 13 games for me,'" Elliot e-mailed. "I was obviously thrilled to learn he agreed to come on board with the project."
Elliot did the writing but said Sonnanstine had suggestions, input and "final say over everything."
As a result, Elliot said, "it's the best book in the IQ series because the history you're reading and the trivia you're being tested with is from the perspective of a player who was there."
The questions are supposed to get harder through the innings; some are well-done and thought-provoking, others too nuanced.
And there is one glaring flaw: The team is repeatedly called Tampa, not Tampa Bay. But overall, it's an interesting concept, with historical intros to each chapter and pieces of info wrapped into each question.
Here's one example:
Tampa won Game 3 of the ALCS in Boston, and then gave the ball to this pitcher to start Game 4 ... and after giving up a homer to Kevin Cash to start the third all he did was retire 12 straight batters. He carried a two-hitter into the seventh before giving up a triple to David Ortiz. All total he pitched seven-plus solid innings en route to a convincing 13-4 win and a 3-1 lead in the series. Who was the winning pitcher during Game 4 of the 2008 ALCS?
a) Scott Kazmirb) James Shields
c) Matt Garzad) Andy Sonnanstine
Trivia answer: d) Andy Sonnanstine
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Got a minute?
The Office, but I haven't had a chance to see the one where Michael (Steve Carell) leaves.
Band you'd most like to be on stage with?
Summer custodian in an elementary school in New Jersey.
Ideal vacation spot?
An island. Not Long Island or Staten Island - like St. Maarten.
There's a lot of names going through the head right now. ... Oh, I know, the blonde from the movie with Adam Sandler (Just Go With It): Brooklyn Decker.
* * *
Fun with scheduling
There are always going to be quirks about the schedule, but the Rays are looking at some pretty good ones right now:
- Monday, in their 41st game, the Rays will see the Yankees - that's the AL East division foe Yankees - for the first time. That's after playing nine games vs. the Orioles, eight vs. the White Sox, seven vs. the Twins, six vs. the Blue Jays and having the Angels at the Trop twice. The flip side: 16 of their final 75 games are vs. the Yankees.
- A grueling and geographically illogical trip this week that has them basically flying in the same airspace four times in nine days and includes two trips through customs and two 4 a.m.-or-later arrivals two days apart: Home to Toronto (late Tuesday) to Fort Lauderdale (late Thursday) to Detroit (May 22) to home (May 25).
- An even more grueling journey next month, from home to Seattle to Anaheim and then to Baltimore, with a June 9 "off" day that will feature a 9 a.m. arrival at their Inner Harbor hotel.
* * *
OF Desmond Jennings, left, could be a more appealing callup now; after Friday (the 44th day of the season) there's no longer a risk of him reaching free agency a year earlier. ... Andrew Friedman's father appears out of the picture to buy the Astros, but there continues to be speculation soon-to-be new owner Jim Crane will seek to lure Friedman back to his hometown or bring back Rays senior VP and former Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker. ... INF Elliot Johnson is taking online classes through the University of Phoenix working toward a business degree: "It's not super difficult; it just requires a lot of time." ... The New Yorker magazine is the latest on the Sam Fuld story. ... Look for the Rays to wear Tampa Smokers uniforms for a July 2 Turn Back The Clock game vs. St. Louis. ... Alonso High RHP Jose Fernandez is among the more interesting prospects being linked to the Rays in mock drafts. ... Indians star Shin-Soo Choo said he has heard good things about fellow Korean Hak-Ju Lee, the Rays' prized SS prospect.
* * *
Pride of the Yankees
The relationship and rivalry between the Rays and Yankees have obviously advanced, with the two AL East championship banners hanging from the Trop roof good evidence.
"I think it's evolved big time," veteran Rays RHP James Shields said. "There's no doubt there's a rivalry there now; it's a battle every time."
New Rays DH Johnny Damon has an interesting perspective, having starred for the Bombers in 2006-09, just as the paradigm was shifting. "The Rays," he said, "were always a pain in the butt."
Damon, who has a bit of a rock star personality anyway, also has a good take on just what it's like to wear the pinstripes.
"It's a great thing," he said. "I enjoyed my four years there - just the way the world respects the Yankees. People love winners, and they're the winningest franchise in sports history.
"Jason Giambi used to say this: It could be a traveling circus at times, but you've got true superstars, a Hollywood A-list baseball team coming around. ... It's a pretty good gig."
Damon isn't the only one on the other side for the first time: Original Rays manager Larry Rothschild, who went 11-25 against the Bombers, is now the Yankees pitching coach; 2010 Rays closer Rafael Soriano is a Yankees setup man (with a 5.40 ERA); Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth was a Yankee in 2006-08; former Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland is a special assistant in the Rays front office.