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For Tyner, every day is his Mother's Day

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published May 12, 2002


ST. PETERSBURG -- Today will be a rough one for Jason Tyner. It has been each Mother's Day since his mother, Juliet, died in June 1998 after a long battle with breast cancer.

"Everywhere you look it's mother this, mother that. On the radio, on TV. It's hard not to think about it," Tyner said. "It's usually a pretty tough day."

Juliet Tyner never got to see her son play professional baseball, dying two weeks after the Mets made him a first-round pick. She was a big part of his life, a teacher and a sports enthusiast who always had time for her children. "She's the reason I was able to get where I am," Tyner said.

Mother's Day may be a bit more poignant, but Tyner remembers her each day. "I say a little prayer for her every time I go up to the plate," he said. "I know she's watching, so I just try to do the right thing."

Tyner also works to help others share in her memory. He and his father formed the Juliet Tyner Memorial Scholarship Foundation, awarding $1,000 scholarships to four southeast Texas scholar-athletes each year.

"She was involved with sports and education and it just seemed like kind of a good way to help some people out," Tyner said. "That's just the way she raised us, to do the right thing."

To raise money for the foundation, Tyner runs a youth baseball camp each January and a sports memorabilia auction each fall. He also is part owner of a baseball academy that opened recently in Beaumont, Texas.

Tyner and Morgan Walker, a former Pirates minor-leaguer, have eight batting cages and offer instruction, plus run a select league for 8- to 12-year-olds and coordinate tournaments. Tyner's dad, Richard, operates an on-site pro shop and baseball card store.

Walker does most of the day-to-day work: "I think I'm the secretary," Tyner said. But Tyner designed their web site: www.setexasbaseballacademy.com. "I taught myself how to do it, and it's pretty good, too," he said. Tyner plans to use the web site to expand the foundation auction this fall.

Tyner also is heading up the Rays portion of MLB's breast cancer awareness effort. Players signed a pink chair that will be displayed in the bullpen today and auctioned in October.

RED-HOT FEELINGS: The Rays don't play the Red Sox again until late July, and that's probably a good thing. ... especially for Brent Abernathy.

Fallout from the past Red Sox series -- the Sunday exchange of hit batters and Trot Nixon's flying bat, followed by suspensions of Nixon and pitcher Frank Castillo -- continued with snippy comments throughout the week.

Nixon, who continued to insist -- "Honest to Pete" -- the bat slipped out of his hands, and his teammates seemed especially annoyed with Abernathy, who said what many felt, that Nixon threw his bat intentionally at Ryan Rupe.

"Somebody in his situation has got to realize if he says something like that he will reap the repercussions," Shea Hillenbrand told writers. "You've got to earn the right to voice your opinion in that way."

Hillenbrand speculated that Abernathy was frustrated by the Rays losing streak, adding: "I can't speak for Tampa Bay but hopefully I'll never be in that position. I'm so thankful I play for a team like this with seasoned veterans, quality players who take care of our business."

Pedro Martinez said it was obvious to him Rupe hit Hillenbrand and Nomar Garciaparra on purpose, and the disciplinary action was ridiculous. "They're getting stupid with it," he said.

ESPN.com's Peter Gammons had a suggestion why the suspensions were handed out: "Maybe the commissioner's office is trying to appease Vince Naimoli so he'll accept contraction."

DRAFT BREEZE: General manager Chuck LaMar said the Rays truly will take the best player with the second pick in next month's draft, even if he's a high school player four or five years from making an impact in the majors.

With the Pirates supposedly leaning toward Ball State right-hander Bryan Bullington as the top choice, that could give the Rays a shot at immensely talented Virginia prep shortstop B.J. Upton, whom some scouts consider a future Derek Jeter/Barry Larkin type.

HOO-RAYS: Hal McRae revealed that after taking over as manager in April 2001 he immediately offered Larry Rothschild the chance to stay with the team as pitching coach. Rothschild declined, and is with the Cubs.


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