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Lightning's success motivates everyone

By MARC TOPKIN
Published June 9, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - The Bucs won the Super Bowl. Then the Storm won the ArenaBowl. Now the Lightning has won the Stanley Cup.

So does that mean the Devil Rays are next?

"I'd say lightning has got to hit here," manager Lou Piniella said. "The reason I say that is we've got a ways to go."

Piniella added if the Rays make the right moves, they could improve quickly, maybe as quickly as the Lightning did going from worst to first in four seasons.

"I guess anything is possible," he said. "In this business here, if you want to spend a little money and you have good, young kids coming up, it can come together fairly quick."

Some Rays players who went to Game 7 said the thrill of the Lightning's victory was enough to get them dreaming.

"Puts some heat on us, doesn't it?" Aubrey Huff said. "It was a great moment. I just wanted to see the ceremony where they skated with the Cup. ... As a player, you sit there and just hope you can do something like that one day."

"It was amazing," Tino Martinez said. "To watch them skate around with the Cup was one of the greatest scenes I've ever seen. ... It was an awesome experience.

"With all the young guys we have on this team, hopefully we can build off that just like the Lightning and the Bucs have done. Start with a small, good, young core group and build around them and have that happen here. You see what happens in this town. A team wins, and people come out and support it and love it."

General manager Chuck LaMar said he was impressed with how the Lightning built a title team and how the Tampa Bay community responded.

"I think it goes to show you put a winning product on the field, people will not only come, they'll go crazy," LaMar said.

ROCCO OUT: Rocco Baldelli wasn't at Tropicana Field for Tuesday's game. He was at St. Anthony's Hospital.

Baldelli was stricken with a bad case of food poisoning late Monday night. He was treated and released from the hospital Tuesday night.

"Hopefully he'll be here (today) and we can get him in the lineup," Piniella said.

COMMISH IN THE HOUSE: Commissioner Bud Selig is scheduled to attended tonight's game as a guest of managing general partner Vince Naimoli.

ONCE UPON A TIME: Twelve years ago, Naimoli led a group that made a deal to buy the Giants and move them to St. Petersburg, a move that seemed so likely Naimoli had renderings of Tampa Bay Giants uniforms. But MLB officials held up the sale long enough for San Francisco investors to get together and buy the team and build a new stadium.

"I was thinking about that last week, all the trials and tribulations," Naimoli said. "My mother always said everything works out for a reason. It worked out great for the Giants. Peter Magowan is a great owner, and they have a beautiful ballpark.

"And it worked out fine for us, too. If we had gotten the Giants, we wouldn't have been able to do all the renovations (to Tropicana Field)."

HAND PROBLEM: Doug Waechter will see a hand specialist today to determine what caused a right middle finger sprain that forced him out of Tuesday's game after 40 pitches over two innings.

Waechter said he didn't do anything unusual but felt numbness as he completed his warmup pitches before the first inning. "It was a freak thing," he said. "I felt like I jammed my finger."

X-rays didn't show any bone damage and the Rays are hoping he can return to the rotation, possibly starting Saturday against Colorado.

MISCELLANY: The Rays are planning to honor the Lightning this week. ... Huff extended his hitting streak to 15 games, three shy of Quinton McCracken's 1998 team record. ... Jose Cruz will be presented his 2003 Gold Glove tonight.

[Last modified June 9, 2004, 01:00:39]

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