ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays will formally open their newly formed team Hall of Fame on Sunday by inducting Don Zimmer as the first member.
Zimmer devoted his whole adult life to baseball, starting as a minor-league player in 1949. He spent his last 11 years — his longest stint with any team — with the Rays, hired in 2004 as a senior advisor.
Zimmer, a Pinellas County resident for more than 50 years, died on June 4, 2014 at age 83. The Rays retired his No. 66 the next year.
His vast experience in the game as a player (once teaming with Jackie Robinson), manager (Padres, Red Sox, Rangers and Cubs) and coach (most notably with the Yankees), and his six World Series rings made him an incredible resource.
“One thing to know about Zim was that he’d seen it all and done it all, and he was prepared for an answer no matter what came up when it came to baseball,” said Rays travel/logistics director Chris Westmoreland, who was very close to Zimmer.
Zimmer also provided counsel to many players and staff, and had a strong bond with former Rays star Evan Longoria.
“He was a father figure to a lot of young people,” Westmoreland said. “He was all baseball, but he had an opinion on everything. So no matter what people asked him, he had an opinion. And usually that opinion was spot on with what would be good for that particular person.”
Zimmer’s wife, Soot; son, Tom; several other family members; and former Rays coach Tom Foley are expected for the approximately 15-minute ceremony prior to Sunday’s game. Tom Zimmer said the family “is elated and appreciative” the Rays “would think so much of my dad” to make him the first inductee.
All fans will receive a bobblehead version of one of the team’s most infamous promotions — the Zim Bear. The Rays plan to induct Wade Boggs (July 9) and Carl Crawford (Aug. 26) into their Hall later this season.
Spring training stats typically don’t count for much, but it’s hard to ignore how dominant Jeffrey Springs was over his four exhibition starts, striking out 24 over 14 shutout innings while allowing just five hits. But as he makes his regular-season debut Sunday, he knows what it means. “Obviously (was) working on stuff, and it’s good to see what I’ve been working on kind of come together,” Springs said. “But it’s kind of like, that’s over with. ... It matters, but it doesn’t matter, because it doesn’t count and (Sunday) counts.” His biggest project was adding more of a sweeping slider to complement his more spin-centric breaking ball.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Brandon Lowe fouled a ball off his right big toe and left the game in the fourth but is expected to be fine, manager Kevin Cash said, with a planned day off Sunday, anyway. ... Rookie Rule 5 reliever Kevin Kelly made his debut and got a beer and shaving cream shower afterward. ... The two runs allowed through two games are the fewest in Rays history. The 12 scoreless innings to start the season were the Rays’ second-most; they went 15 in 2021. ... There was a tribute video for Detroit star Miguel Cabrera, who started his big-league career hitting a walkoff homer for the Marlins against the Rays on June 20, 2003 and is retiring after this season. ... Minor-league first baseman Dillon Paulson was traded to the Tigers for cash.... Florida Complex League pitcher Israel Mateo was suspended 55 games after testing positive for performance-enhancing substance boldenone, according to the league office.
• • •
Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.