Tampa Bay fans knew it was a special moment when Steven Stamkos hit the ice for the first time in the 2020 postseason and scored a goal on his first shot in the Stanley Cup final. The same can be said for the Rays’ exhilarating finish in Game 4 of the World Series against the Dodgers.
Sports Illustrated thought they were among the best of the year.
The two teams took home awards at the annual Sports Illustrated Awards show Saturday night.
“I’m not a huge believer of those meant-to-be moments because I always say you work for what you get, but that was truly one of those moments for me,” Stamkos recalled during the show. “To be honored with this is just icing on the cake.”
Stamkos’ 2019-20 season included multiple hurdles.
In March, the captain underwent core muscle surgery and was sidelined the rest of the regular season. Before the season resumed with training camp in July, Stamkos suffered a leg injury during voluntary on-ice workout sessions. During the team’s playoff run, Stamkos had to leave the bubble to deal with a family tragedy. And in October, Stamkos had his second core procedure.
But none of it obscured the goal in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final against the Dallas Stars.
“Scoring that goal was obviously the most memorable goal of my career,” Stamkos said. “But it just meant so much, not only for me, but my teammates and friends and family that knew what I was going through at this time.”
Later Saturday, the Rays took home the Game of the Year award, beating out the Lightning’s overtime win against the Stars in Game 4 of the Cup final and two others (Game 3 of the NBA Finals and Super Bowl 54).
A pair of errors during the final at-bat of the Rays’ 8-7 win over the Dodgers in Game 4 resulted in one of the craziest World Series games in the sport’s history. Seldom-used Brett Phillips singled to right to drive home Kevin Kiemaier with the tying run, and Randy Arozarena slid home with the game-winner after a couple of Los Angeles errors.
“I just had this weird calmness over me,” Phillips said. “I wouldn’t be there if they didn’t think I could help contribute to a win.”
Phillips said his walkoff hit was his first at-bat in 17 days, his first hit in 30 days and the first postseason hit of his career. Yet, manager Kevin Cash knew he could get the job done.
“Baseball is a game of repetition,” Phillips said. “To be in there every day is to be confident, to have your bearings. I didn’t have that.”
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The Rays outfielder called the at-bat an “Angels in the Outfield moment,” because “that doesn’t happen in Major League Baseball, let alone the World Series.”
As Philips rounded first base, he focused on what was happening at home plate. He saw Randy Arozarena trip while sprinting down the third-base line, recover and then dive into the plate.
Moments later, Phillips was racing around the outfield with his arms extended like an airplane, feeling “like a kid in a candy store.”
“I don’t have an answer for (what that celebration was),” Phillips chuckled. “That was the first thing that came to my mind that I’m going to enjoy the heck out of this moment and run out in the outfield. I was enjoying the moment like a kid would.”
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