The first day of spring training is always filled with optimism. Hope for a better year is as much a part of the game as the ball itself. But there is something different about the hope and optimism surrounding the Tampa Bay Rays. They really, truly believe that this will be the year that everything comes together. And they're not shying away from talking about it. "Welcome to the 2014 championship spring training season!"Rays bench coach Dave Martinez says to photographers and reporters as the team prepares for the first day of pitchers and catchers working out.This team has come close to the prize before,losing to the Phillies in the World Series in 2008. But after four playoff appearances in six years without a title, Joe Maddon wants to make sure everyone is preparing with the singular purpose:win the last game played. Be the last team to celebrate. Leaders and champions are the last to dine at the championship buffet.
Joe Maddon gathers his team in a semi-circle around him in a ritual well-known to long-time Rays fans. It's the manager's first day speech about expectations and execution. So was the "leaders eat last" message a part of today's message? "Well,I didn't give them the whole meal today because the position players are coming in later," Maddon says,"but I did throw the last out at them to try to have them understand our goal is to play the last game of the year and win it this year." Maddon is able to make this argument to his players not only because he's a very convincing guy, but his audience (his pitching staff) knows they have the required talent. David Price was unsure the Rays would keep him because he's entering his prime and he's going to be very expensive. But here's David Price, walking out to the field at the Port Charlotte complex for the first day of workouts. He's wearing his glove on his head as he adjusts the sleeve on his pitching arm. He has that grin on his face. The one that tells you he's right where he wants to be, right in the middle of something great.
"It's a great situation here,"Price says."Everybody enjoys being a part of this organization,we have a lot of fun.Joe doesn't have any rules for us, he just expects us to come out and play hard. I think he gets the most out of his players when he does that. It's kind of what you dreamed when you were a little kid, playing Major League Baseball."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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