The Rays took time to honor Don Zimmer at the Port Charlotte Spring Training Complex on Saturday, at the request of the Port Charlotte staff no less. Don Zimmer was a presence at every Rays training at Port Charlotte leading into this season, and now the long path that leads from the facilities to the fields has been renamed to honor the man.
Zimmer was a coach for nine different organizations in his career, including a decade with the Tampa Bay Rays before his passing last season.
Prior to the Rays, he served as Third Base coach for the Montreal Expos, ascended to manager of the Padres and then managed the Red Sox in the seventies, followed by stints as manager to the Rangers and Cubs in the eighties, departing Chicago in '91. After coaching with the expansion-Rockies through '95, he served as Yankees bench couch for four titles in the 90's before eventually joining the Rays staff in 2004.
Every season with the Rays, Zim would increase his jersey number by one to match the number of years in his baseball career. That number ended with jersey 66.
Zimmer wrote two books about his years in baseball, Zim: A Baseball Life and The Zen of Zim. He was the second to last Brooklyn Dodger still working in baseball, survived by Vin Scully.
The Rays paid several tributes to Zimmer last season, including the ZIM patch worn through the rest of the season, and now bench coach Tom Foley wearing Zimmer's No. 66 on the field. His wife Carol, nicknamed Soot and his sweetheart dating back to the tenth grade, was also honored at Tropicana Field, accompanied by friend of the family Derek Jeter.
The Rays and Clearwater for Youth also paid tribute on Saturday, naming the first recipient of the Don Zimmer Memorial Scholarship, which will be given annually to a high school senior athlete. Clearwater High cross-country/track runner Daniel Sawayda is the first recipient.
I cannot imagine this will be his last the Rays honor the long legacy of Zimmer. The team is likely to retire the No. 66 at Tropicana Field later this year.
For full video of Matt Silverman's unveiling of the sign, see below:
Matt Silverman remembers Don Zimmer. #Rays #SpringTraining pic.twitter.com/lAbJZSa05r— Steve Carney (@stevecarney) February 28, 2015
The unveiling of Don Zimmer Way. #Rays #SpringTraining pic.twitter.com/KvDJhkk6MI— Steve Carney (@stevecarney) February 28, 2015