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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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Hollins is ready for battle
A solid first season guarantees nothing, fine with the Rays outfielder.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published February 28, 2006
[Times photo: Bill Serne]
Damon Hollins, jogging out for morning practice, had 13 homers and 46 RBIs in his first full big-league season after 13 in the minors.
ST. PETERSBURG - If there were an award for keeping one's perspective, Damon Hollins would be the front-runner.
Consider the spot in which he finds himself. Then consider his reaction.
The Devil Rays outfielder was one of last season's feel-good stories as he made the most of his first chance to play extensively in the big leagues after 13 years in the minors.
But with so much talent in Tampa Bay's outfield, Hollins said he knows he could start this season with Triple-A Durham. He doesn't mind the challenge.
"The more competition that's out there, the more you have to rise up to that level," Hollins said Monday at the Naimoli complex.
"I know I can play, and I'm sure everybody else knows they can play, so just go out there and get better and help us get to the goals we're trying to reach."
There was no sense Hollins believes he is owed anything for helping bail out a team wounded by Rocco Baldelli's injuries. No sense his 13 home runs and 46 RBIs in 120 games, and the way he so easily fit in the clubhouse, entitle him to preferential treatment in the fight to win a job out of camp.
"The rules," Hollins said, "shouldn't change for me."
"He knows what's what and what he needs to do," leftfielder Carl Crawford said. "He just has the mind-set to be a real professional and business-like and to find where he fits in."
Where didn't Hollins fit in?
Called up May 2 from Durham, he was AL rookie of the month with six home runs, 15 RBIs and a .600 slugging percentage. He hit in every spot in the order except leadoff during the season and played all three outfield positions.
Not bad for someone who previously played a total 15 big-league games for the Dodgers and Braves.
"Just a great guy to have on the club," third-base coach Tom Foley said. "He'll do whatever you ask him to do."
Basically, Tampa Bay is asking Hollins, 31, to prove himself all over again. There is not much room for error.
Baldelli is expected back in centerfield, and Jonny Gomes seems set in right and as a DH. That means Hollins, Joey Gathright and Delmon Young are competing for a backup spot.
Hollins admitted to added pressure because he and fiancee Patrice Parker are expecting a daughter in late June or early July.
"And you have to be a provider," he said.
In that context, Hollins said the spring is important, even if he is sent to Durham or traded.
"Last year was a great example of hard work paying off for me, so that's the motto I'm taking right now, just keep busting my butt," he said. "Everything might not work out here like you have a script wrote out, but you have to just keep working, and hopefully good things will happen."
Hollins' outlook has multiple influences, not the least of which is the accumulated knowledge of 14 professional seasons.
He also credited his mother, Deborah Watson, who raised her son as a single parent in Vallejo, Calif., for instilling his sense of self.
"When she stepped outside the door there was always a smile on her face," Hollins said. "So whatever I'm going through, especially if it's bad, it's not going to rub off on my everyday life. When I come to work, it's a professional atmosphere."
There also was the advice given by outfielder Marquis Grissom in 1996 during Hollins' first camp with the Braves.
"He told me every day that I should be trying to take his position," Hollins said. "But we also hung out every day."
He said it's the same with the Rays: "It's not like, "There's all this talent here, let's battle each other.' No, it should be, "Let's all get better.' That's where our focus should be."