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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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Robinson tributes can refocus microscope
The number of the day is 42, but there are several other numbers of significance today.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 15, 2007
MINNEAPOLIS - The number of the day is 42, which will be worn by Rays LF Carl Crawford and 100-plus other major-leaguers in tribute to Jackie Robinson.
But there are other numbers of significance today, too. Only 69 of the 750 players on opening day active rosters were African-American, with two teams (Astros, Braves) having none and seven others only one.
That has some heads shaking in the Rays clubhouse, where there are more African-Americans than on any other team with Elijah Dukes, Edwin Jackson, B.J. Upton, Delmon Young and Crawford. As some of these young Rays look around, they realize they could make a difference just by stepping on the field.
One of the most common reasons cited for the low number is that African-American kids are not exposed to baseball and don't see it as exciting, or potentially lucrative, as basketball or football.
"They have to see us," Crawford said. "I guarantee you the first time young kids see five African-Americans playing, and not only playing but playing well, it's going to change everything."
Upton said all the kids need is to see African-Americans having success. Jackson said it wouldn't hurt for them to know baseball players get paid well too.
"Once they start to see it's not a bad thing to play baseball, I think that will open a lot more eyes," Upton said. "As far as us having five, that's got to be good for the kids."
Even better, Jackson said, would be if the Rays had a higher profile. "The thing about this team is that we're not really on TV a lot so they're not really getting to see us," Jackson said. "We have to get it exposed more. It's hard when no one really knows you unless they know baseball."
Though the Rays didn't plan to take the leading role, they do value diversity.
"We evaluate our players on talent and talent alone," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "However, we've also found that diversity in the clubhouse can be a real asset. The chemistry with this team is very good, and I think the fact that we have so many players and coaches from so many different backgrounds has helped with that."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: Dave Martinez's impressive work as temporary first-base/outfield coach should make him a strong candidate for an opening on any big-league staff. ... The scoreboard layout will be tweaked (with a constant linescore) and a clock added when the Rays return to the Trop on Monday. Plus, the rays touch tank and some new Rightfield Street activity areas will be open. ... Trade chatter continues about Houston ex-closer Brad Lidge, but it's not clear if a) the Astros will deal him, and b) if they'd send him to the Rays, where former pitching coach Jim Hickey could have an inside track on fixing him, which wouldn't look good. ... TV ratings are up about 30 percent over last year; Thursday the Rays drew a 1.7 rating on FSN while the Lightning playoff game got a 0.5 on Sunshine. ... Akinori Iwamura is providing a weekly diary - in English - on devilrays.com. ... Josh Hamilton's homer (for his first big-league hit, naturally) was his first since June 29, 2002, for the Rays' old Class-A Bakersfield team. "A long time ago," he said. ... Another ex-Ray had a milestone - Lee Gardner, at 32, got his first big-league save for the Marlins, then was sent back to the minors. ... Jorge Cantu's name has come up, at least in the media, in Toronto and Minnesota. ... Season simulations by ESPN'S MLB 2K7 game have the Rays finishing 69-93.