With stars in his eyes and parents in the stands, prized-prospect Jake Bauers arrives for Rays

Misty and Stu Bauers, the parents of Jake Bauers, await the start of their son's major-league debut at Tropicana Field on Thursday, June 7, 2018. [MONICA HERNDON 
 |  Times]
Misty and Stu Bauers, the parents of Jake Bauers, await the start of their son's major-league debut at Tropicana Field on Thursday, June 7, 2018. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published June 8, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — It's about time.

When he got the news, when his dream came true, the first thing he did was phone his parents in California to get them on a plane to be at Tropicana Field. Stu Bauers laughed from joy. Misty Bauers cried from joy.

And then their son, Jake, arrived at Tropicana Field for his major-league debut Thursday. He was working on two hours sleep. Nerves, excitement.

He had come straight from the airport to the Rays clubhouse. Bauers said that when the pilot came on and said it was time to land, his heart began pounding.

"There was a golf cart waiting for me when the Uber pulled up," he said. "They wouldn't let me carry my bags. I tried to grab them, but they wouldn't let me."

There's only one first day in the majors.

"There's a lot going on. There's a lot going through your mind," said Rays third baseman Matt Duffy, who broke in with San Francisco in 2014. "Now it's fun to sit back and watch the wide eyes."

Open your eyes, Rays fans. Meet the future.

It took long enough to get here.

Another puzzle piece is now on the premises. Bauers, the highly rated prospect, a compact power hitter, is here, probably to stay. Infielder Christian Arroyo is already here. So is pitcher Diego Castillo. Shortstop Willy Adames, the brightest light of all, should be back in Tampa Bay soon.

It's how it should be.

It's going to be a Red Sox-Yankees summer in the American League East, two runaway trains. The streaky Rays have no shot at catching them, or at the second wild card, truth be told. Forget wild cards. It's on to wild, wide eyes.

Time to grow with the 22-year-old Bauers, who played first base and batted sixth against the Mariners on Thursday night. Time to go with the 22-year-old Adames and the others.

It's the children's hour. Good.

Hey, winning 95 games isn't going to get a stadium built, at least here. Then again, losing 95 games isn't going to keep one from going up. The Rays are in transition. I'd rather watch kids go through growing pains than the sham of plodding on with tired ideas or names, which now include Brad Miller, a good and decent man who maybe will hit 30 homers somewhere else.


I'll take the new crew. I'll take this Rays petri dish with upsiders swimming about.

"That's our full intent," manager Kevin Cash said. "You look at what some other teams have done over the last couple of years. They've transitioned to that 'youth movement,' and I think you have to be prepared for them to take their lumps, kind of the roller coaster, highs and lows, those are going to be mixed in. In a perfect world, we stay here much higher than lower."

I'm prepared for it. Because maybe on the other side is a real team with a real future.

I don't want to make too much out of Bauers' arrival. You might say this is nothing like Evan Longoria joining the roster early in 2008, the Maddon and the Miracles season. That's putting too much on young Jake.

Then again, who knew Longo was going to be Longo when he got here?

"You want it to be merit-based," senior vice president of baseball operations Erik Neander said. "You want them to earn it. In Jake's case, we thought it was time. The more it's timed up, the more they're ready to do it together, I think the more optimism there is about the future."

There will be bumps. Oh, will there be bumps.

But what's the point of losing all these games if there's nothing to show for it?

There is only one first day in the majors.

These Rays are having a lot of those.

It's about time.

The laboratory is open for business. As wide open as Jake Bauers' eyes, in fact.

Contact Martin Fennelly at or (813) 731-8029.