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Rays rethink priorities as games cease

Players spend day with blood donors at the Trop as baseball postpones games through today.


© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 13, 2001

[Times photo: Michael Rondou]
Rays' third baseman Jared Sandberg and his fiance Julie Gubser right, give blood at Trop. Some waited in line eight hour to donate.
ST. PETERSBURG -- Brent Abernathy did not have to oblige.

Neither did Chris Gomez or Toby Hall or Jared Sandberg or Jason Standridge or any of the other Rays players who accepted invitations to spend Wednesday afternoon mingling among hundreds of blood donors at Tropicana Field.

"If we had a game today, would I be out there busting my tail like I do every game? Yes," said Abernathy, the Rays' second baseman. "But until they tell us to go out there, baseball is really not on my mind right now.

"Baseball is very important to me. It's very important to a lot of people in this country. But when it comes down to somebody committing acts of terrorism against innocent citizens, then everything else takes a back seat."

After canceling 15 major-league games Tuesday because of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C, commissioner Bud Selig announced the cancellation of 30 more Wednesday and today.

"Major League Baseball remains very sensitive to the aftereffects of the terrible tragedy that has struck our nation," Selig said in a statement. "All of us at Major League Baseball grieve for all of those continuing to suffer through this terrible tragedy."

It remains unclear if the 45 games canceled, which included a three-game series involving the Rays and Red Sox, will be made up at the end of the season or wiped out completely.

The cancellations could have a lasting impact on the season if the games aren't rescheduled. Several teams are vying for playoff spots, and Barry Bonds is eight home runs away from breaking Mark McGwire's single-season record.

MLB senior vice president Richard Levin said any decision on resuming the season this weekend likely would not be made until Friday.

Tampa Bay is supposed to open a four-game series at home against the Yankees at 7:15 that night.

"As professionals, you've got to go out there and do your job," Gomez said. "Hopefully for three hours we can kind of put everything out of our heads and just focus on baseball as tough as that's going to be. We've got to try and do it.


The Rays have been idle since they played Oakland on Sunday, a longer rest than they got during the three-day All-Star break in July, and that has left some eager to get back on the field while remaining mindful of what happened.

"We've got to keep our arms in shape, our legs in shape, keep our swings quick ... all that stuff," Gomez said. "Obviously it's tough to do just sitting around in your apartment or your hotel room."

Tampa Bay will conduct its first workout since playing Oakland at 3 p.m. today at Tropicana Field.

"I think you can become stale (from a long layoff)," Rays manager Hal McRae said. "We're always in a routine. So my main concern is the routine: When do you play, when do you practice? Your major concern is that if you don't get a sweat, if you don't get some repetitions in that, you're stale when you come back."

Players also have expressed concern over safety and security at the stadiums and airports they will travel to and from the rest of this season. The Rays travel to Boston next week and New York the week after.

"I think it's going to be on everybody's mind the next few weeks," Abernathy said. "There's going to be security everywhere you go. I think that's the way it should be.

"We have to understand that right now safety is the most important thing. If we have to have security for our families to come and enjoy the game of baseball, then that's what needs to be done. If we have to have security where we can go out and play the game like we know how to play to play it, then that's what we need to do."

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