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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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His nutty buddy
Interpreter for Akinori Iwamura has interesting claim to fame.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 22, 2007
As the interpreter and (technically speaking) cultural assimilation liaison for 3B Akinori Iwamura, Masa Koyanagi has appeared in newspaper and TV interviews across the United States and Japan. But that isn't his only claim to fame. Before he joined the Rays, and before working two seasons as the trainer for Milwaukee's Class A Brevard County team (where he jokingly was referred to in a team promo as the "Japanese karaoke master"), Koyanagi spent 2003-04 as the trainer for the Brewers' rookie ball team in Helena, Mont.
And that's where he met Mark Littell, a minor-league coach (and former major-league pitcher) who wanted to promote a new athletic protective cup he'd designed called the NuttyBuddy.
Littell's idea was to make a video that showed his cup - which covers more, um, stuff than standard issue - was also stronger, and he asked Koyanagi to help. So Littell revved up a pitching machine to about 85 mph, lined himself up on two coolers and a wood palette about 5 feet away and - with Koyanagi somewhat apprehensively at his side - took one for the team.
Littell talked about submitting the somewhat entertaining video to David Letterman or Jay Leno. Instead it became something of an Internet hit on YouTube.com, and the centerpiece of the company Web site (NuttyBuddy.com), where the cup - in sizes Mongo, the Hog, the Boss and the Hammer - is available for $19.95, or in package deals.
"I didn't know this film would be that big a deal," said Koyanagi, who figures he has been asked about it more than 100 times. "Maybe I should have gotten some money for this."
Follow the red rubber ball
Manager Joe Maddon talks about the Rays having to bounce back from tough losses like "little red rubber balls" for a reason.
He is referring to the 1966 hit song Red Rubber Ball, recorded by the little-known folk-rock group the Cyrkle, to which he has something - albeit tangential - of a connection.
Two founding members of the Cyrkle - Tom Dawes and Don Dannemann - attended Pennsylvania's Lafayette College a few years before Maddon did.
And, he has come to find out, they wrote their only other hit, Turn Down Day, which appeared on the flip side of Red Rubber Ball (kids, that's back when they had these things called records ...), in a Lafayette bar that Maddon frequented.
"It was Jack's Bar, in the Kesslerville Hotel," Maddon said. "I went there like every night. That's where I saw Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, on a little black and white TV. Bar sausage, hard-boiled eggs and Molson ale on draft. That's how I got through college. If they just would have had some classes in there."
New York state of mind
The Yankees don't just feel at home when they come to Tropicana Field, which they do Monday and Tuesday; they play like it. The AL teams (through Friday) with the most success at the Trop:
Team W-L Pct.
Indians 22-12 .647
Yankees 46-27 .630
Mariners 25-15 .625
Angels 27-17 .614
Red Sox 44-32 .579
A's 25-17 .595
Rays 328-404 .448
Internet item of the week
There were 99 Akinori Iwamura related items available Saturday on eBay, from a signed bat (starting bid $79.99) to a lightswitch plate ($5) to an assortment of baseball cards (5 cents).