Bay's best bets for baseball
Sunday was a pretty good day for Tampa Bay area baseball players, in case you didn't notice.
By TOM JONES
Published May 23, 2007
BY RODNEY PAGE Times Staff Writer
Sunday was a pretty good day for Tampa Bay area baseball players, in case you didn't notice. Tyler Clippard of Mitchell High School and the New York Yankees got his first win as a major-leaguer against the New York Mets. Nick Masset of Pinellas Park High notched his first win as a starter for the Chicago White Sox. And Toronto's Jesse Litsch, who starred at Dixie Hollins, had his second start as a Blue Jay, even if it was a loss. Also, Minnesota Twins reserve catcher Chris Heintz, who went to Countryside, was 1-for-2 with two RBIs in a loss to Milwaukee. Reserve Detroit catcher Mike Rabelo (Ridgewood) was 2-for-4 with an RBI. That got us thinking. What if you put together a team exclusively made from Tampa Bay-area players currently in the major leagues? They would come from our four-county coverage area (Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties). They were either born here, grew up here or went to high school or college here. Would they be competitive? Who knows. But it's fun to wonder what if.
C - Mike Rabelo, Detroit Tigers, Ridgewood; Chris Heintz, Minnesota Twins, Countryside.
1B/OF - Ross Gload, Kansas City Royals, USF.
RHP Chris Ray, Baltimore Orioles, Hillsborough; LHP John Koronka, Texas Rangers, born in Tampa.
LHP Kenny Rogers, Detroit Tigers, Plant City; RHP Doug Waechter, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Northeast; LHP Mike Hampton, Atlanta Braves, Crystal River (born in Brooksville); OF Lastings Milledge, New York Mets, Northside Christian.
Tony La Russa, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa.
We easily could have gone with Lou Piniella, the Tampa native who is as good of a skipper as anyone in the business, but La Russa has two World Series rings as manager to Piniella's one.
Well, since we can't have Sweet Lou as our manager, we can't think of any better hitting coach than Piniella. We can round out the staff with Tampa native Chuck Hernandez (Tigers) as our pitching coach and Clearwater's Howard Johnson (Mets) as our third-base coach. Over at first, we have Rich Monteleone (Yankees). And Don Zimmer has lived in Treasure Island for like 107 years. That's good enough to make him our bench coach.
|Player||Pro team||Local school||Age||Fact||Comment|
|RHP||Boof Bonser||Minnesota Twins||Gibbs||25||2-1 with a 3.91 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 50.2 innings pitched.||Great for marketing. Need proof? Watch Boof.|
|RHP||Jesse Litsch||Toronto Blue Jays||Dixie Hollins||22||Won his debut with a 2-1 win over Baltimore. Currently 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA.||Used to be a Devil Rays bat boy, now he's striking out major-leaguers.|
|RHP||Tyler Clippard||New York Yankees||Mitchell||22||Six strikeouts in MLB debut, six innings, one earned run against the Mets.||Anybody who is money in his MLB debut at Shea Stadium is good enough for us.|
|RHP||Nick Masset||Chicago White Sox||Pinellas Park||25||2-1, 5.73 ERA. Won his first game as a starter on May 20 against Cubs.||Anybody who went to Pinellas Park High and St. Petersburg College is all right with us.|
|RHP||Bronson Arroyo||Cincinnati Reds||Hernando High||30||2-4 with a 2.64 in 2007. Has a career record of 49-48 with a 4.10 in eight seasons.||An accomplished musician, he'll keep things loose on the road trips.|
|1B||Casey Kotchman||Los Angeles Angels||Seminole||24||.267 with three homers and 20 RBIs in 42 games. Has a .239 career average in four seasons.||Brings a sweet-swinging left-handed bat to the order.|
|3B||Chone Figgins||Los Angeles Angels||Brandon||29||Hitting .108 in 18 games. Has a .279 career average in five-plus seasons.||The guy can play anywhere, so if Sheffield breaks down he'll have to play shortstop and third base.|
|2B||Alfredo Amezaga||Florida Marlins||St. Petersburg College||29||.230 with nine RBIs. Has a career .238 average in six seasons.||Played two seasons at St. Petersburg College and holds 10 records.|
|SS||Gary Sheffield||Detroit Tigers||Hillsborough||38||.240 with eight home runs in 41 games. Has a career average of .296 and 463 homers in 19 seasons.||Okay, we know he's not a shortstop now, but he was 19 years ago when he broke in with the Brewers. Just need him to play one season until an area minor-leaguer breaks into the bigs.|
|C||A.J. Pierzynski||Chicago White Sox||Brooksville||30||Hitting .254 with eight homers. Has a .286 career average.||Lived in Brooksville before attending Dr. Phillips High in Orlando. Hey, we need the bat, so that counts.|
|LF||Jason Michaels||Cleveland Indians||Tampa Jesuit||31||Seven years in the big leagues with 31 career homers and a .281 average.||A solid hitter and fielder, and he went to the University of Miami so even his college ball was played in state.|
|CF||Elijah Dukes||Tampa Bay Devil Rays||Hillsborough||22||.222 with eight homers and 13 RBIs in his rookie season.||We realize he's not the nicest guy in the world, but it's just about baseball.|
|RF||Luis Gonzalez||Los Angeles Dodgers||Tampa Jefferson||39||.259 with four homers and 13 RBIs this season. Has a career .284 average in 17-plus seasons.||Anybody who had the game-winning hit in the 2001 World Series to beat the Yankees is welcome on our team anytime.|