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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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A reminder of why Piniella chose Rays
By MARC TOPKIN
Published March 6, 2005
ST. PETERSBURG - Lou Piniella has had plenty of frustrating days since joining the Devil Rays in 2003, especially when the conversation shifts to a smaller-than-expected payroll in each of his first three seasons.
But the events of the past two weeks reinforced to him one of the primary and most personal reasons he left Seattle and took the job - to be at home and near his family.
"That's one of the things I mentioned when I came here four years ago - two years ago; it seems like four years ago - being here with my parents getting older," he said.
Piniella's father, Louis Sr., died last Sunday after a lengthy hospital stay. The Rays manager was able to spend much of the past two weeks attending to him, as well as to his mother and the rest of his family.
"Being somewhere else, it would have been difficult," Piniella said. "I'm appreciative that our organization told me to take as much time as I needed, and not concern myself with baseball.
"It was good for me, personally, and there were a lot of decisions that had to be made."
Piniella, of course, had other reasons for taking the Rays job.
"Now, let's win some more baseball games," he said. "That's what I'm interested in."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: The team launches its new "Watch it happen" marketing campaign with print ads today, and TV spots starting March 14. ... Spanish radio broadcaster Danny Martinez is leaving the Rays to join the Phillies, for whom he played in the minor leagues. ... The eight-year wait for a marquee outside the Trop should end with the installation of an electronic sign sometime after opening day. ... The Rays made a call to remind state officials, who will be asked to help fund the Marlins new stadium, that there is a second team in Florida. ... Don't consider it a shock if former Rays investors Bob Basham and Chris Sullivan eventually get back involved - in some capacity. ... Piniella and Don Zimmer get significant mention in Emperors and Idiots, an interesting new book on the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry by the New York Post's Mike Vaccaro.
EX-RAY FILE: Joe Kennedy, on getting traded from the Rays, going 9-7 for the Rockies and being named their 2005 opening day starter: "A lot of great things have happened to me in the last year." ... Catcher Pat Borders, 41, is in camp with Milwaukee. ... Former coach Greg Riddoch is managing the rookie-league Spokane (Wash.) Indians.
FREE GAME: Mariners star Ichiro Suzuki got an unexpected offseason gift from team owner Hiroshi Yamauchi - 5,000 shares of stock in Yamauchi's Nintendo video game company.
The stock, worth $109 a share, was given in honor of Ichiro's single-season record of 262 hits, a nice reward since Yamauchi has never seen the team play.
"He told me that he just doesn't go to baseball games," Ichiro said. "But that if the Mariners go to the World Series, he will come to this country to see us play."
DANGER ZONE: The kidnapping of pitcher Ugueth Urbina's mother drew heavy coverage, but Venezuelan players say the danger in their homeland is nothing new.
Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu said he has bodyguards with him at all times. "It's a situation where it's a little dangerous on the streets sometimes," Abreu said. "You just have to be careful. You just have to always walk around with people, and that's not always easy."
MISCELLANY: New Hall of Famer Wade Boggs headlines a March 20 autograph signing at International Plaza on behalf of the MLB Players Alumni Association. For information, check www.baseball-legends.com ... Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci worked out with the Blue Jays for four days and will write about it in an upcoming issue. ... The Brewers, last in the NL last season at $27.5-million, are raising their payroll to about $42-million. ... Celebrity Car Magazine will feature the monster trucks of Reds players Danny Graves and Jason LaRue. ... The Marlins lost to the University of Miami for the first time in seven games, though the 'Canes used aluminum bats. ... Latest guesstimate for Barry Bonds' spring debut is March 16. ... The Dodgers have seven of Baseball America's top 100 prospects, more than anyone else. ... The 2006 winter meetings will be at Disney World. ... A trust fund has been established for the children of MLB.com writer Paul C. Smith, who died Feb. 26. Checks can be made out and sent to Karen Smith, 2908 W Bay to Bay Blvd., Suite 105, Tampa, FL 33629.
Information from other news organizations was used in this report.