Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
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.
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
By MARC TOPKIN
Published September 24, 2006
Yankees star shortstop Derek Jeter learned plenty over the years from Don Zimmer, the Rays senior adviser who spent eight seasons as the bench coach in New York.
"I enjoy Zim," Jeter said. "He's someone that's seen pretty much everything there is in baseball. So you just sort of be a sponge for knowledge when you talk to him."
So now Jeter said he is trying to return the favor and teach Zimmer - the 75-year-old completing his 58th year in baseball - a thing or two about his lifestyle.
"I'm trying to get him up in the hip-hop culture a little bit," Jeter said. "You kind of have to start slow with Zim. Maybe some LL Cool J or something like that. You've got to go old school first. You can't just throw him into the top stuff."
AMAZING ARGENTINE DISCOVERY
In the Rays' expanding worldwide search for talent, they have to consider all possibilities.
Even a 21-year-old from Argentina who was pitching knuckleballs underhanded in fast-pitch softball, happened to be spotted by a Cuban man with a baseball background, drove nearly 200 miles each way several days a week to learn how to throw a baseball and showed up in the Dominican Republic looking for a tryout.
"It's an amazing story," Rays special assistant Andres Reiner said.
The Rays signed Diego Echevarria, worked with him at their Dominican Republic academy and are impressed enough with his potential and his dedication to bring him to the instructional league. They brought in former big-league knuckleballer Joe Niekro to work with Echevarria, and if he continues to progress (his ball has good movement and produces lots of swings and misses) he could be back for spring training.
"I like what I've seen so far," Niekro said. "He's a good kid, a hard worker and he wants to learn. He's got a pretty good chance."
Echevarria watched some baseball on TV growing up in a country where soccer, basketball, volleyball and tennis are all much bigger. "I just liked it," Echevarria said, with coach Rafael Montalvo translating. "But the closest thing we had was softball." He started fooling around with the knuckler in the outfield, then took it to the mound. Once he switched to baseball, he did some Internet research on Boston's Tim Wakefield to learn more.
No Argentines have played in the majors; Echevarria said he is just the third to sign a pro contract. If he were to make it, he not only would become a celebrity in his native country but it could raise the profile of the entire sport. "I want to be the leader," he said.
The Rays are willing to give him that chance. "You look in his eyes and you see the determination," said Carlos Alfonso, director of international operations. "Desire and perseverance is how he got here. You want everybody to make it, but when a kid has the desire he has, you really want him to make it. Who knows? But we're in the business of finding talent, and you can't turn your back on anybody."
The Rays this season have redefined bad, becoming the first team in the 162-game schedule era (and just the second ever) to lose 90 or more games in nine consecutive seasons. While some front-office execs have seen it all, the player who has seen the most has been reliever Travis Harper.
Though the since-departed Aubrey Huff has the most service time as a Ray (days active or on the DL based on the 172-day major-league year), Harper has been around the longest, joining the Rays for the first time on July 29, 2000, and pitching in parts of seven seasons. Harper is the only player still with the team who played for first manager Larry Rothschild and actually started the April 17, 2001, game after which Rothschild was fired.
"We've had a lot of different guys come through here, so it's been interesting from that perspective," said Harper, who said he is just about over a shoulder injury that has sidelined him since early August. "We've obviously had some struggles, and we've had some glimpses of playing really well. That's one hurdle you'd like to get over; it would be very rewarding to see that."
longest tenured Rays:
Aubrey Huff 5.102
Travis Harper 5.038
Wilson Alvarez 5.00
John Flaherty 5.00
Esteban Yan 5.00
Toby Hall 4.156
Carl Crawford 4.072
Rocco Baldelli 4.00
Randy Winn 4.00
AND HE PAYS FOR THIS ...
Bill Dunstone is more than your average Devil Rays fan.
Dunstone last week attended his 700th Rays game (and Saturday made it No. 704), an impressive - however painful - accomplishment as the Rays have played only 720 home games in their nine seasons.
"I love it," he said. "I'm more than just a fan. It's become a passion with me."
Dunstone, 61, is a computer tech for Winn-Dixie stores who lives in Sarasota and starts his work day at 5:30 a.m. so he can organize his schedule - sometimes up to 60 hours a week - around the Rays' schedule. He figures he has missed about 30 home games but made some up by attending a dozen road games.
He has a season ticket (in section 138), usually attends by himself (his daughter came with him for a while but now works) and gets occasional kidding from friends and co-workers but remains confident the Rays eventually will win. In the meantime, Dunstone - whose extensive collection of baseball publications exceeds 10,000 - doesn't keep track of their record in the games he has attended.
"I've got a feeling," he said, "it's heavy in losses."