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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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Brushback builds bond
When a pitch put Shawn Riggans down, the bench and a new attitude got up.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published March 25, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG - There wasn't a swing taken, much less a ball thrown or a catch made.
But what happened Friday night, after Reds minor-leaguer Wes Wilkerson almost caused a big-league brawl by throwing two pitches at the head of catcher Shawn Riggans, could have been one of the Devil Rays' bigger victories of the spring.
For all the talk the last month about professionalism, leadership, about unity, the way the Rays responded in the eighth inning of a 15-1 win, players rushing onto the field looking to right a perceived wrong, spoke volumes.
"Absolutely," manager Joe Maddon said. "The way our guys came out of the dugout, I loved that part of it. That was spectacular."
The issue has been topical with the Rays since Ty Wigginton acted out, and spoke out, a few weeks ago after being hit by a pitch, imploring his teammates to "play the game right" and stick up for each other. He liked what he saw Friday night, too.
"I think it showed that the players are going to stand behind each other," Wigginton said. "You prefer to go a whole season without anybody having to leave the dugout or have any of those altercations come up. But sometimes stuff happens, and I guess it was a good sign that players stood up for one another."
Riggans said that given the size, athleticism and youth of the Rays, they could probably do more than just stand up for each other if it came to that.
"As I got up off the ground and looked around and all the guys were there, it made me feel really good to know they had my back," he said. "It would be a tough situation with a bunch of young guys like that running around the field. I don't think it would be good. Whatever the other team wants to do ... I think we'll be all right."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: Tropicana Field food and drink prices are going up about 4 percent, Centerplate concessionaire vice president Dave Urso told the Tampa Bay Business Journal, including 24-ounce beers increasing to $7.50. ... The Baseball Prospectus PECOTA system projects the Rays to finish 79-83; Hardball Times figures 68-94. ... It's silly to question CF Rocco Baldelli's desire to play through injury anyway, but especially to say, as some bloggers are, that it's because of his six-year contract since only $7-million of the remaining potential $30-million is guaranteed, and the Rays can get out of the deal after 2008. ... Losing wore on Aubrey Huff as a Ray, but he didn't sound like he was doing much to help by telling the Washington Post "it would get to the point where you'd get to the field as late as possible. You just wanted to get in there and get out of there." Huff keeps saying how refreshing it is to go to spring training with a chance to win, but we thought he signed with the Orioles. ... Sports Weekly's fantasy edition ranks Carl Crawford the top AL hitter. ... Interesting that limited partner Gary Markel felt the need to take out an ad in the Wall Street Journal to sell his small share of the team. ... Community relations manager Stephanie Renica, a seven-year employee, was forced to resign. ... Outfielders assigned to the new Class A Columbus (Ga.) affiliate might not be too comfortable - the team is (unsuccessfully) complaining to city officials about a lack of padding on the brick wall in center, the stability of the leftfield wall and poor drainage at Golden Park. ... West Forsyth (N.C.) High dedicated its new scoreboard to Erik Walker, the minor-leaguer who drowned during an October canoe trip. ... ESPN.com humorist Jim Caple suggests the marketing slogan is "You Gotta Love These Kids Before We Trade Them Away In A Couple Years When They Become Arbitration Eligible." ... If LHP Andy Pettitte is on the mound for the Yankees, there's a chance 3B Akinori Iwamura won't be in the opening day lineup.
The fifth of our weekly guesses on the makeup of the 25-man opening day roster:
Pitchers (12): Shawn Camp, Tim Corcoran, Scott Dohmann, Casey Fossum, Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir, Ruddy Lugo, Dan Miceli, Al Reyes-x, Jae Seo, James Shields, Brian Stokes.
Catchers (2): Dioner Navarro, Josh Paul.
Infielders (7): Jorge Cantu, Brendan Harris, Akinori Iwamura, Greg Norton, B.J. Upton, Ty Wigginton, Ben Zobrist.
Outfielders (4): Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, Elijah Dukes, Delmon Young.