By HUBERT MIZELL
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 24, 2000
Even before Wednesday night's first throw, the Devil Rays should've gone to the bullpen. Bryan Rekar should not have been the starting pitcher against the Minnesota Twins.
I'm not Judge Judy. Not pretending to be a Chicago jury. But, evidence is, this fellow Rekar, blessed with ample strength to be a major-league baseball player, might've physically abused his wife.
Innocent until proven ...
Maybe those lumps on Jamie Rekar's face were caused by a slip in a hotel shower. Was her nosebleed caused by bumping into a door? Short of a confession, we outsiders can't know for sure. Only the Rekars were there.
I know what I think.
Bryan's wife takes trips with the Rays. That's not the baseball norm but it's wholly permissible. Dave Martinez, a former Tampa Bay outfielder, most always invited his father.
It was just past 1 in Sunday's wee hours, not long after a Rays loss to the White Sox at Comiskey Park. Somebody called police. Reported a ruckus. Officers came to check on the Rekars at Tampa Bay's team hotel.
What they found was an injured wife. According to a police spokeswoman, the report said Bryan "hit the victim in the face with his forearm, causing the victim to bleed."
This cries for resolution.
Pitching is secondary.
Rekar has no track record of such obnoxious conduct. In the past, when baseball pros were smacked with domestic violence charges, they have continued to work during the judicial process. Not a classy idea.
This is an active case.
Rekar merits deactivation.
Until justice is pronounced, the right-hander's place is not on a mound, in the Metrodome or at Tropicana Field or anywhere beyond a practice arena, throwing his heaters and hooks and working on his ERA. If the man needs help, get to it pronto. If Jamie has needs, uncork the franchise resources.
I was hoping the D-Rays would scratch Rekar from their lineup in Minneapolis. Hoped for a voice of hardball reason. Taking an on-ramp to the high road.
We're talking precedent.
When the Rays come home to play, unless patrons at the Trop can sense legitimate Rekar vindication, how do they stand and cheer for this chap? Most supporters of the Rays come with hopes that Greg Vaughn, Fred McGriff, Gerald Williams and the others will be cause to hurrah, but it's fairly predictable what will dance in customer heads if Rekar is allowed to work with this case pending.
Across the worldly spectrum of sports, among amateurs and pros, the famous and little-known, we see every level of disciplinary attitude, style and demand. Some are stern, too many are lax, while most struggle to cope.
This is not a minor exam.
It would be right, and admirable, whether Rekar eventually proves to be clean or mean, for Devil Rays authority to suspend the athlete with pay. NOW! Drydocking the pitcher, putting him out of view until the case is settled.
Up until Wednesday game time, I thought we might see the right stuff, maybe from general manager Chuck LaMar, perhaps manager Larry Rothschild, but most effectively from managing general partner Vince Naimoli. They've never faced anything like this before. How they handle it will speak loudly.
Young jocks can be trouble prone. That's no scoop. Having lots of money can fuel their problems. Most every morning, in your newspaper section headed Sports, there are troubling reports involving athletes with DUIs or illegal drugs or participation in other shenanigans.
So many acts are odious, but is any rap sheet more disturbing than domestic violence and spousal abuse? Rekar's wife has refused to press charges. Jamie faced a straining dilemma. We can only guess the marital pressure. Nonetheless, even if she won't, that doesn't end it. Chicago cops wrote up the case, mentioning splattered blood and damaged skin.
Twins-Rays in this August has no dynamic effect on American League pennant races. Neither club is close to contention. But that's no matter. Even if Tampa Bay were dominating the AL East and Minnesota was king in the Central, the Rekar case should be handled with care, compassion, class and intelligence.
However this episode evolves, a message will be sent. Positive or not. To fans. To all Rays players. To this entire business of baseball, which we call sport. Even now, do the right thing, Devil Rays.
Many nights, we see swatches of heroic effort from Tampa Bay's ballclub, despite being well out of the championship running. Rothschild's roster has many quality competitors. I don't see a lot of quitting.
These are sweet traits on which you build, planning efficient off-season tinkering, enriching the possibilities than an ensuing springtime will bring a far better and more magnetic baseball product that the Tampa Bay community will embrace as more watchable.
Rekar's case needs attention.
To act insufficiently ... brutally wrong.