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This Date in Tampa Bay Rays History - 1997, the Rays signed 1B/OF Paul Sorrento

The team’s first designated hitter was signed on this date, two decades ago.

Paul Sorrento

On this date in 1997, the fledgling Tampa Bay Devil Rays signed free agent 1B/OF Paul Sorrento to a two year deal valued at $5.25M with an option for a third year.

Sorrento had been a solid hitter over the first half of the decade, splitting time between the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners. He was coming off the best season of is career in 1997, in which he slashed .269/.345/.514 with a career high of 31 HR over 146 games.

The Devil Rays would make Sorrento their starting Designated Hitter in 1998 and he hit 6th during the first game in franchise history. A few days later, he launched the first grand slam in Tampa Bay Devil Rays history.

(Fun Fact about Sorrento, he is responsible for the first hit and home run in the history of Camden Yards in Baltimore)

Unfortunately for the Devil Rays and Sorrento, he would struggle during his two year run with the club, performing well below replacement level (-1.0 fWAR). Overall he would slash .229/.329/.403 with 28 HR over 236 games while with Tampa Bay. During the off-season of 1999-2000, the Devil Rays would decline their option on Paul Sorrento, making him a free agent.

Sorrento would eventually sign a minor league deal with the Oakland Athletics, but would not receive a call-up to the majors and was ultimately released, ending his career as a professional ballplayer.

He would move onto other jobs in baseball, serving as a hitting coach in the Angels minor league system. He would eventually be named this minor league hitting coordinator, before being promoted to the big leagues as the Angels Assistant Hitting Coach, a position he has held since November, 2015.