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Rays say gambler’s threats were real, ‘scary’ part of game

Four Rays were sent threats of violence via social media after back-to-back losses to the White Sox.
Pitcher Chaz Roe was one of the Rays players who received threatening messages allegedly from a New York-based gambler named Benjamin Tucker Patz.
Pitcher Chaz Roe was one of the Rays players who received threatening messages allegedly from a New York-based gambler named Benjamin Tucker Patz. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Mar. 5, 2020
Updated Mar. 5, 2020

PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays confirmed threats were made against four players via social media last year, and talked Thursday about the “scary” and “crazy” environment they now play in.

Chaz Roe confirmed that he was one of the players who received messages allegedly from a New York-based gambler named Benjamin Tucker Patz who, among other things, threatened to break into the athletes’ homes and behead them and their families, according to a criminal complaint of federal charges.

Roe declined to comment because the case is ongoing. Adam Kolarek and Emilio Pagan were identified in the complaint by their initials. Neither is with the team any longer.

The fourth was listed as T.P., but Tommy Pham, the only player with those initials on the team last year, told the Tampa Bay Times via text Wednesday night he didn’t recall any specific threats and wasn’t involved in an ongoing investigation.

“I don’t know who this guy is ... I don’t remember anyone threatening me,” said Pham, now with the Padres. “Not me. Crazy.”

The threats, made from anonymous accounts, came after a pair of back-to-back losses to the White Sox.

Several Rays players said they are used to getting comments via social media denigrating their performance, but that when it involves threats, and even more so their family, that it becomes a much greater concern.

"That's scary and crazy,'' infielder Joey Wendle said of the reported threats. "Most of the time it's probably just people who lost money because of your performance or something like that.

"There’s absolutely no weight behind any of the threats 99.9 percent of the time, but it’s just a shame. Nobody is out there trying to perform poorly. Or it could be because they performed well and (the bettor) was on the other side of things. That has to be so far removed from our minds that we can’t be worrying about other’s people’s money and their gambling. ... It’s just so crazy that it comes back to the players.''

Pitcher Andrew Kittredge said he gets some threats and comments "randomly, here and there,'' not at the level of violence in the reported threats. "It’s usually like, ‘You suck,' followed by a bunch of exclamation points.”

Manager Kevin Cash said the threats can be common.

"With the internet and social media, today’s players, they’ve got so much on their plate, in many ways more than 20 years ago. In some ways it’s really good, in some ways it can be detrimental and scary at times for players and families and stuff. You’d like to avoid that but that’s where we live.''

In a statement Wednesday night, the team said:

“The safety of our players and staff is paramount and all threats are taken seriously. During the 2019 season, a Rays player notified club officials of threats he received on social media. The Rays brought the issue to the Clearwater resident office of the FBI, and their agents initiated an investigation that subsequently identified three additional Rays players who had been threatened. The Rays and the players involved are cooperating with the FBI as the legal process continues.”