PORT CHARLOTTE — We like to consider ourselves the best overall source of Rays news, analysis and perspective every day on your driveway as well as the Internet highway. But we cede that the most Rays information you can get in any one place, and certainly this time of year, is in the 424 pages of the Rays media guide, crafted meticulously by Dave Haller’s team PR staff, with Craig Vanderkam the master of this domain.
Here are 20 things we learned from flipping through our advance copy, with retail availability slated for later this month:
* Not only do the Rays have the unusual structure of two team presidents (Brian Auld and Matt Silverman), but they have more vice presidents than pitchers on the team, 14 total. That includes three on the baseball side (Erik Neander, Chaim Bloom, James Click), plus suits in charge of such things as administration (John Higgins), information technology (Juan Ramirez), marketing & creative services (Eric Weisberg) and the corporate speak combo of “human resources and organizational engagement’’ (Jennifer Lyn Tran).
* Venezuelan reliever Jose Alvarado, and we quote, “enjoys hunting iguanas and paca, a large rodent found in Central and South America. … he frequently catches 3-foot iguanas and says they taste like chicken.’’
* The Rays are really into development. There are 21 people in the staff directory whose titles include the word development. That includes a chief development officer (Melanie Lenz); VPs of strategy & development (William Walsh) and employee and community development (Bill Weiner Jr.); and directors of baseball development (Peter Bendix), baseball research & development (Will Cousins), staff development & recruiting (Chanda Lawdermilk), development strategy (Sandy Sternberg), and strategy & development (Robbie Artz).
* The new closed-upper-deck reduced capacity of Tropicana Field will be just 25,025.
* Because they are the Rays, there are some other creative titles as well as, starting with the game’s first process & analytics coach (Jonathan Erlichman). Also, a director of baseball performance science (Joe Myers), director of baseball systems (Brian Plexico), a biomechanist (Mike McNally), lead sports dietician (Ryan Harmon), and a lead analytics developer (Michael Vanger).
* Pitcher Tyler Glasnow wears a size 16 shoe and despite being 6-feet-8 can do a back flip, which the team used as a spring training hype tweet.
* New field coordinator Paul Hoover communicates with sign language in real life, as both his parents are deaf. Also, he was a five-time non-roster spring invitee.
* The first player in organization history to hit for the cycle? Current bench coach Matt Quatraro, who did so in July 1997 for Class A Charleston.
* Outfielder Tommy Pham took an off-season trip to Columbia with ex-Rays Tim Beckham and Mallex Smith, plus Royals outfielder Billy Hamilton, and they did an ATV tour of Medellin.
* Reliever Chaz Roe’s great uncle is Pirates Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski.
* New outfielder Guillermo Heredia will be the third position player in team history to throw lefty and bat righty, joining Damon Hollins and Dave McCarty.
* New pitcher Charlie Morton is a handy guy to have around the kitchen. He “is serious about his barbecue, “often rising at 3 a.m. on the day of a big cookout and not finishing his food preparations until 4 or 5 p.m.’’ Also into woodworking, he made the table the family eats on in their Bradenton home.
* Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell a) has nearly 5,000 subscribers to watch him play video games on a Twitch channel as @classicallyfamous; b) helped during the off-season coach the boys basketball team at his alma mater, Shorewood High, near Seattle; c) owns 225-250 pairs of shoes.
* Reliever/opener Ryne Stanek was named after Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg despite his family being Cardinals fans. Stanek joined Sandberg and All-Star Ryne Duren as the only Rynes in MLB history.
* New Twins skipper Rocco Baldelli is the sixth former Rays player to manage in the majors, joining Ozzie Guillen (White Sox, Marlins), Kevin Cash (Rays), Mickey Callaway (Mets), Dave Martinez (Nationals) and Gabe Kapler (Phillies).
* Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier has a custom-made boat he uses when back home in Indiana called “Outlaw Bowfishing,’ or just The OB for short. This winter he caught a 38-pound carp.
* Catcher Mike Zunino’s parents met in Italy, when his dad, a Yankees 1981 draftee, was playing pro baseball and his mom was a catcher on the Italian national softball team.
* The inspirational phrase “Believe you belong” tattooed on infielder Daniel Robertson’s right arm are words of advice his father gave him before dying of cancer in September 2013.
* Reliever Hunter Wood spent pretty much the whole off-season duck hunting near his Arkansas home, and also training English Springer Spaniels as hunting dogs.
* There have been 82 players who were drafted or first signed by the Rays and made it the major-leagues, alphabetically from Alvarado to Delmon Young.
And here’s five more that just missed the cut:
* Reliever Diego Castillo is the youngest of 10 children, learning to cook at age 10 and known to whip up dishes for his teammates.
* Non-roster reliever Oliver Drake attended the Naval Academy and majored in quantitative economics.
* Infielder Matt Duffy throws and hits righthanded but is a natural lefty, writing, eating and brushing his teeth as a southpaw.
* Video coordinator Chris “Chico” Fernandez had an early eye for talent, helping coach Naples Barron Collier to a 1997 state high school baseball championship.
* Non-roster reliever Ian Gardeck’s younger brother, Dennis, is a linebacker with the Arizona Cardinals, who played in all 16 games last season.
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.