By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 19, 2002
When Greg Vaughn broke into the big leagues with the Brewers in 1989, Dave Winfield told the 24-year-old to make a videotape of nothing but hits so that in tough times he could stay positive.
The future Hall of Famer also told Vaughn to save his money.
The Rays designated hitter, who will make $8.75-million this season, has made it a practice to share the wealth he has since amassed. During the recent three-game trip to New York, Vaughn treated Delvin James and Jason Conti to a shopping spree. Each got three suits, three shirts and three ties.
"I've got a whole wardrobe now," Conti said. "My garment bag is full."
Past beneficiaries of Vaughn's generosity have been Felix Escalona, Jesus Colome, Esteban Yan and Joe Kennedy.
"I do it so they can feel like a major-leaguer," Vaughn said. "It's a way for them to save their money. I just happen to be in a great position to be able to help out.
"It doesn't hurt me where it might set them back."
Lee Gardner made his parents proud when he graduated from Central Michigan with a degree in mechanical engineering. But the 27-year-old reliever, who the Rays recalled from Triple-A Durham on Friday, often has supplemented his minor-league income by working as a handyman during the offseason and spring training.
"I've got more tools than anything else," said Gardner, who signed with the Rays as a free agent for $2,500 in 1998.
"I've always been one of the guys who'd go right from spring training over to work, get home at 10 or 11 at night and do it all over again the next day."
Not only is he qualified to replace doors and windows and lay marble flooring, Gardner once built a log house back home in Michigan.
The Rays came away with one victory during their three-game series against the Yankees last week. First baseman Steve Cox was a big reason why. He went 3-for-5 with 1 double, 2 homers, 4 RBIs and 10 total bases. He became the eighth Ray to hit two homers in a game and the fourth with 10 bases in a game.
Jack Curry of the New York Times set out to find a Rays fan at Wednesday's game at Yankee Stadium. He found a few masquerading as fans but came up empty-handed. "In the first row behind the plate, there was a fan wearing a pullover with "RAYS' across the front. Several players meandered over to speak with him. What a lucky spectator. The players know him, which, in itself, seemed a little curious. The man was named Joel Oks, and he smiled when he was asked about the Devil Rays. Oks owns a men's clothing store in Manhattan and said he sells suits to dozens of major-league players. The pullover was a gift from the Devil Rays, so he wore it last night. "I'm not a true Devil Rays fan,' said Oks. "I don't think that exists."'
A dozen Rays dexterity puzzles were listed on eBay for $3.50. "These would make a great birthday party favor."
"I haven't been able to relax. I hope to someday relax. But I haven't been able to yet."
-- HAL McRAE, manager on how he felt when his club took a 9-0 lead against the Yankees on Wednesday
An occasional update from 23-year-old rookie pitcher Steve Kent on his first tour of the major leagues: The first time Kent visited Yankee Stadium, he pitched two scoreless innings of relief. He did better Tuesday.
The left-hander pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings. But what made the moment even more memorable was his mother, Ella Abrego, got to see it. She flew in from Texas with the hope of seeing her son pitch in the major leagues for the first time.
"New York is the last place she'd go unless I was doing what I'm doing," Kent said. "It was probably more exciting for her because she hadn't ever seen me pitch.
"When I came off and I knew I was done, I kind of tipped my hat to her. I did that the last time she saw me pitch, too."
That was last year in the Class A California League.