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Rays tales

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published August 4, 2002


OPTION PLAY: If Carl Crawford weren't here playing leftfield and running around the bases, he very well could be in Lincoln, Neb., running the Cornhuskers offense. A top quarterback recruit by Nebraska, Crawford probably would be a redshirt junior this season, competing with Jammal Lord for the starting job.

Quarterback coach Turner Gill, happy Crawford has had so much success in baseball, said he would have loved to have him on the football field.

"He's just able to make plays," Gill said. "He's very athletic. He has great speed, great quickness, a change-of-direction type guy. We thought he fit into what we ask a quarterback to do here. He could throw a little bit, but the biggest thing was his speed and his ability to change directions. He had that combination of both."

* * *

OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD: Among those Ozzie Smith thanked during his magnificent Hall of Fame induction speech on July 28 was Rays bullpen coach Glenn Ezell.

Ezell was part of the Padres' minor-league coaching staff when Smith went to the instructional league after the 1977 season, his first in pro ball. Ezell remembers Padres manager Alvin Dark asking him if Smith could play in the major leagues the next season.

"I said there was no doubt in my mind," he said. "And then, of course, I think the next three balls went through his legs."

Even though that six-week camp was their only time together, the two developed a strong relationship as Smith did go on to the majors the next season and played 18 more. Even when they would go years between visits, they felt close. Smith mentioned Ezell in his speech the day after being elected, then did so again in Cooperstown, saying, "There are threads of great friendships like that extended to me by Mackie Shilstone, Glenn Ezell, Cliff Ditto. ... "

"What a nice treat that was," Ezell said. "When something like that happens, you think back over the years, and you're just tickled to death because you had an impact. And hopefully, I had an impact on more than just one guy who made it to the Hall of Fame. For him to mention me as one of the people in his past is very, very rewarding."

Excerpted

From an online chat by USA Today baseball writer Hal Bodley on the Rays' future: "Yes, it's a dreadful franchise. It has no chance to survive in Florida as long as the team on the field is so dreadful. As far as contraction is concerned, MLB has said it won't force a team out of business that doesn't want to bail out. Vince Naimoli isn't ready to raise the white flag."

Online item of the Week

A pair of pants supposedly worn by, among others, closer Esteban Yan when he was with Bowie, Baltimore's Double-A team -- in 1996! -- had a bid of $18 Saturday on eBay.

Quote of the Week

"It's my fervent hope that the team's going to continue here for a long time."

-- VINCE NAIMOLI, Rays managing general partner


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