It was a thrilling time in Tampa Bay.
The team that had maintained permanent residence in the cellar of the American League East for the past decade had finally overcame the large-budgeted powerhouses that ruled over them. As a result, they became the Division Champions, with a record of 97-65 — still standing as the best record in franchise history.
A large part of the Rays newfound success was the arrival of rookie phenom, Evan Longoria, who took over the Rays starting third base duties two weeks into the season, signed a mega-contract, and then proceeded take over as the face of the franchise.
In late September, when a Rays playoff berth was all but certain, it was Evan Longoria who caught the final out that clinched it for the Rays and initiated a raucous celebration.
Fast-forward a couple of weeks, past the regular season, to October 2nd, 2008, when Evan Longoria stepped up for his first plate appearance in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Chicago White Sox.
He sent a ball to the seats in left. 1-0 Rays.
An inning later, the two sides had traded runs to make it 3-3 and Longoria stepped up again.
He sent a ball into orbit. 4-3 Rays.
Longoria would record another hit later in the game that brought in the Rays fifth run; he would later draw a walk and steal base. The Rays went on the win the game, the series, and eventually the American League Pennant before succumbing to the Philadelphia Phillies — and the weather — in the World Series.
It was a phenomenal season for Evan Longoria, and he would be recognized for his efforts with the American League Rookie of the Year award. He would go on to spend the next decade in a Rays uniform as the team went through several more postseason runs and massive changes to their roster with Longoria remaining the lone constant...until he too, was finally traded in December of 2017.