TAMPA — Who said O.J. Howard has disappeared from the passing game?
The Bucs tight end might be struggling on the football field, but he showed sure hands on Tuesday night when he made a barehanded catch on a foul flyball into the stands in the late innings of the Rays’ American League Division Series Game 4 win at Tropicana Field.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Rays outfielder Austin Meadows hit a flyball into the seats beyond the Rays bullpen in rightfield, and Howard was there to pluck it out of the air with his left hand.
Howard, who was wearing a Rays cap, has just as many catches this week at the Trop as he did in Sunday’s game against the Saints in New Orleans. He made only one 10-yard reception and was targeted just twice in the Bucs’ loss in New Orleans.
But this was clearly a fun moment for Howard. After making the catch, Howard garnered reaction from the Trop crowd, and he yelled while raising his hands to pump up the fans.
FS1 broadcasters didn’t recognize Howard at first. Analyst A.J. Pierzynski said, “That gentleman just barehanded the ball, He’s excited. He got a souvenir." Howard was highlighted on the TV broadcast the following inning once FS1 realized who is was.
Howard was a good baseball player in his own right in high school, and he has said that baseball was his first love before he started getting major Division I-A recruiting interest in football. The former Alabama great was recruited by Florida to play football and baseball.
And that Rays hat that Howard is wearing, it’s not new. He’s worn it frequently this season.
The Rays forced a winner-take-all Game 5 in Houston on Thursday with a 4-1 win over the Astros.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.