tampabay.com

Rays' newest investment is online

Team president Matt Silverman bought a blogger last week.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published March 11, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - It's not quite as important as signing 3B Akinori Iwamura or even reliever Scott Dohmann, but the Devil Rays last week made an interesting free-agent acquisition.

Team president Matt Silverman bought a blogger.

Manny Stiles that's his "rap" name; real name Erik Kombol is a 33-year-old stockbroker and father of two who lives in Arizona. He's also a baseball fanatic who, to raise money for AIDS awareness after the death of his brother, decided to auction himself off on eBay, offering to blog throughout the season about the team of the winning bidder's choice.

Silverman was made aware of it by a friend and, having lost an uncle to AIDS, made a bid just hoping to drive up the size of the donation. Instead, he unexpectedly ended up the winner at $535 (then threw in an additional $1,000) and created a buzz about the team in the online world.

"It's going to be fun to read his posts," Silverman said.

"He's going to act like a journalist. There's not going to be any team control or censorship. He might have a little more access than other bloggers, and I told him we'd be happy to send him a jersey or some other stuff. We're into the new media, the blogs, things like that. It will be good to have another voice."

Stiles' work will appear on armchairgm.com, devilraysuni verse.blogspot.com and other sites, and he already has started, including a post titled: 101 Reasons the Tampa Bay Devil Rays could Win the World Series ("This Year" edition).

"I think I really wanted to cover the Devil Rays subconsciously," Stiles wrote in an e-mail. "I'm really pleased with the way it has turned out. It's an amazing opportunity to do very unique things."

Stiles has never seen the Rays play (there's talk of an April visit) but is ready to jump right in, promising that in addition to standard blog fare, he will be "a rabble-rouser" with plans for "distinguished Yankee bashing (specifically Derek Jeter), unadulterated Red Sox hating, Oriole plucking and Blue Jay ignoring."

REMEMBERING VUK: John Vukovich, the longtime Phillies coach who died last week, had a special place in Tampa Bay baseball history. As part of the NL expansion committee site inspection in March 1991, Vukovich hit the first fly balls inside what is now called Tropicana Field to test whether an outfielder (former Phillie Von Hayes) could see them against the white roof. Rays senior adviser Don Zimmer and scout Lee Elia are among hundreds of baseball personnel expected to attend Tuesday's Philadelphia-area funeral.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Manager Joe Maddon will soon hand out inspirational T-shirts with the message: No regurgitation - tell me what you think, not what you've heard. ... Former GM Chuck LaMar, now a top scout for the Nationals, described his time with the Rays to the Washington Post as "a 10-year detour" and said: "I am a scout. I've always been a scout, and I always will be a scout." ... To make room for the new Trop scoreboard, the Rays will have to relocate Wade Boggs' retired No. 12 from the rightfield back wall. ... At the new International Plaza kids play area in Tampa, the Rays will sell tickets with a reduced service charge and, at times, merchandise. ... Tigers LHP Bobby Seay, who didn't do much to justify the $3-million signing bonus he got from the Rays, told the Detroit Free Press the Tampa Bay organization "felt like a giant circus" and that it seemed they "always wanted to keep me down." ... Members of Double-A Montgomery's 2006 championship team will get their rings in a ceremony Thursday. ... After taking the California Bar exam, Jaye Sousoures, Maddon's girlfriend, arrived in Tampa on Friday. "She reported to camp late, with permission," he said.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8801. View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays/.

Fast Facts:

Roster report

The third of our weekly guesses on the makeup of the 25-man opening day roster:

Pitchers (12)

Shawn Camp, Casey Fossum, Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir, Ruddy Lugo, Seth McClung, Dan Miceli, Chad Orvella, Al Reyes-x, Jae Seo, James Shields, Brian Stokes

Catchers (2)

Dioner Navarro, Josh Paul

Infielders (6)

Jorge Cantu, Akinori Iwamura, Greg Norton, B.J. Upton, Ty Wigginton, Ben Zobrist

Outfielders (5)

Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, Elijah Dukes, Jonny Gomes, Delmon Young

x-nonroster

FAST FACTS:

Roster report

The third of our weekly guesses on the makeup of the 25-man opening day roster:

Pitchers (12): Shawn Camp, Casey Fossum, Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir, Ruddy Lugo, Seth McClung, Dan Miceli, Chad Orvella, Al Reyes-x, Jae Seo, James Shields, Brian Stokes.

Catchers (2): Dioner Navarro, Josh Paul

Infielders (6): Jorge Cantu, Akinori Iwamura, Greg Norton, B.J. Upton, Ty Wigginton, Ben Zobrist

Outfielders (5): Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, Elijah Dukes, Jonny Gomes, Delmon Young

x-nonroster