By JOHN ROMANO
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 18, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- Brent Abernathy went to Australia to win gold. He had no idea he also would win cash.
Abernathy, a rookie who is a front-runner to win the job at second base for the Rays this spring, was a member of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team last summer. That was only the second-most profitable experience Abernathy had at the Games.
Days before the Olympics began, Abernathy was with the rest of the team at a resort/casino in Brisbane, where the U.S. team was practicing.
Playing a game of Caribbean stud poker, Abernathy drew a royal flush and won $125,500 Australian money (about $70,000 U.S.).
"Everyone says, "Oh you won a gold medal, that's nice. So tell me about that casino story ... ,"' Abernathy said.
To qualify for the royal flush jackpot in the game, a player has to contribute a $1 chip. The $1 chips collect until somebody gets a royal flush. Abernathy said the jackpot had been building for five or six months before he was dealt the hand directly from the dealer without discarding a card.
"It was the first five cards out of the deck," Abernathy said. "I had to look at it three different times to be sure. I thought I saw a royal flush. So I put it down, picked it up again and said, "Wait a second, this can't be.' My hands were shaking. It was definitely exciting. The whole casino basically stopped. Everybody was staring at me.
"Some people playing the same game had some choice words for me."
A royal flush is an ace-king-queen-jack-10 series in the same suit. The odds against drawing one from a 52-card deck are quoted at the Web address http://www.neo-tech.com/poker at 649,740 to 1.
So in the span of a few months, Abernathy was traded to an organization in need of a second baseman, won a casino jackpot and a gold medal.
Now he has a chance to be a starting second baseman in the majors -- if he plays his cards right.
A GREEN SPRING: The first day of spring also meant the debut of Tampa Bay's new uniforms.
The Rays wore solid green tops over white pants with a green stripe. The spring uniforms will replace the black tops and white pants that are worn for batting practice during the regular season.
THE DOCTOR IS NOT IN: Dr. James Andrews, the team's orthopedic specialist, was delayed in Birmingham, Ala., because of tornado warnings and did not attend Saturday morning's physicals.
Andrews is expected in camp today to review the status of Wilson Alvarez and Juan Guzman, who are coming off shoulder operations.
INJURY REPORT: Pitchers Bobby Seay and Dwayne Jacobs were out Saturday with injuries.
Seay twisted his ankle last week and expects to begin in a few days. He was walking without crutches for the first time since the injury.
Jacobs, a minor-league free agent, had shoulder problems last season and is having trouble getting loose. He will be examined by Andrews.
PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR: The 39 pitchers and catchers expected to report arrived on time. They were joined by a handful of position players who have arrived early, including Abernathy, Jace Brewer, Steve Cox, Mike Caruso, Josh Hamilton, Russ Johnson, Mike Metcalfe, Damian Rolls, Jared Sandberg and Randy Winn.
The Rays also announced Jesus Colome agreed to terms on a one-year contract. The Rays have 12 unsigned players on the 40-man roster.