Evan Longoria is no longer a member of the Tampa Bay Rays, and that just seems wrong.
Originally selected third overall in the 2006 draft, Evan Longoria was quickly named one of the top prospects in all of baseball. He didn’t give prospect pundits much time to analyze him, however, as he was already knocking on the doors of the major leagues by the end of spring training in 2008.
He has been a part of their 40-man roster since April 12th, 2008. On that date, the Tampa Bay Rays selected Evan Longoria’s contract from Triple-A Durham and added him to the active roster. He made his debut, and recorded his first major league hit and RBI, the next day. You can see this hit and other highlights of his award winning rookie season here, including a shot of his mother celebrating (The cameras had shown her at the start of the at bat. She had her hands over her eyes. All parents can relate.)
A week later, he would sign a contract extension that would be referenced as the benchmark for a team friendly deal for years to come.
Longoria excelled for the Rays in 2008 and helped propel to the team to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. During the playoffs, he along with B.J. Upton, combined to dominate opposing pitching during the ALDS and ALCS. Following the Rays elimination from the World Series, Longoria would named the American League Rookie of the Year, the highest award honor a member of the Rays had ever received up to that point.
During his sophomore season in 2009, Longoria took his game a step further and brought home the Silver Slugger (second in Rays history) Gold Glove (first in Rays history) awards. He followed that up with another All-Star season in 2010 and helped the Rays to their second division title in three seasons.
In 2011, when most of the roster had gone through an overhaul, Longoria remained at third base and after an early season injury, helped to lead the team to one of the greatest finishes in baseball history as they caught the Boston Red Sox in September. Longoria provided two of the biggest moments in franchise history when he belted not one but two home runs during Game 162. The second home run would be one of the greatest moments in baseball history, as it clinched the American League Wild Card for the Rays and capped off one of the most exciting nights the game had ever seen.
An injury derailed his 2012 season, causing him to miss close to half the year. Regardless, he still turned in his usual fantastic numbers once he returned during the final couple of months of the year, but he was sorely missed and the Rays just narrowly missed the playoffs.
Following the year, Longoria signed his second contract extension with the Rays, lasting through the 2013 season.
"I always wanted to be kind of a benchmark player ... the guy that you could think about or associate with the organization," Longoria said. "My goal from Day 1 was to be the first player that played their whole career here, to be the first guy that came into the organization and went out in the organization, and played all the years in between. There's no better place for me."
Longoria was now determined to stay healthy and on the field, and he would go on to enjoy one of the longest consecutive game streaks in baseball over the next several years, despite dealing with several ailments along the way.
From 2013 to 2017, Evan Longoria played in 798 games, nearly 160 games a season and the most in all of baseball over that time frame.
Heading into the 2016 season, Longoria’s offensive production had been in a downward spiral since the start of the 2013 season. He put talks of his best days being behind him away as he went out and the best offensive season of his career, slugging a career high 36 HR.
In 2017, his offensive production once again drooped, but he still did all he could in order to help the team, and providing them with stellar defense over at third base. He was rewarded at the end season’s end with his third Gold Glove award.
Since the start of the 2008 season, Longoria is third in all of baseball in fWAR (49.6) behind Joey Votto and Mike Trout.
As he leaves the Rays, Longoria is the team’s all-time leader in HR (261), games played, runs scored, RBI, fWAR, doubles, and walks.
Longoria has played in a total of 1,435 games in a Rays uniform, the next closest player on the Rays active roster is Kevin Kiermaier, who has played in 463 contests.
These are all just statistics, but Longoria endeared himself to Tampa Bay.
He wanted to be the team’s first franchise player, signing well below market value deals just so he could stick with the team.
He opened his own restaurant and franchised it around the area. The Rays even added multiple inclusions of the restaurants in Tropicana Field, one spot down the left field line where he hit his historic home run and the other in center field near the Batter’s Eye.
He has contributed to numerous charitable endeavors around the area as well. He has supported the Pet Pal animal shelter; donated the funds for a new section of the Great Adventures Children’s Museum, and partnered with Kahwa Coffee to raise money for hurricane victims as just a few examples.
Finally, those of us who have watched him since his draft day have a sense of getting to watch a gifted young man grow into adulthood. We’ve been through the clean-shaven Longoria and the bearded Longoria, we remember the Rayhawk and the mullet. We’ve seen the fresh-faced rookie turn into a veteran, watched him become a husband and doting father.
There is now a hole at third base for the Rays, and no matter who plays at the hot corner in the future for the franchise, there will always be a hole.