There are just six days until opening day, or Opening Day, and the return of baseball has me feeling nostalgic. So let’s think of our six favorite Rays of all time (the start date may vary depending on your fan birthday).
Your six favorite players are not, to be clear, the six best Rays players. Of course some of your favorites might also be top six for talent and accomplishments. But there are always players who grab a piece of our hearts and it’s not because they are especially good. Maybe it’s someone from your hometown, or a player whose ability to overcome obstacles has won your admiration. Maybe he’s got a great smile or a graceful way of turning the double play.
I’m a sucker for a player who would be at home in one of my college classes, which colors my list (below, in no particular order). And I became a Rays fan in late 2005, so none of my favorites are from the early days.
Sam Fuld, both because of who he is and the particular spark he gave the 2011 Rays when it seemed like all was lost (and I can’t think of him without thinking of Ian Malinowski’s terrific tribute_)
Carlos Peña, for his backstory (minor league contract!), his giving the Rays a truly legitimate power threat, his intelligence and his positive outlook.
James Shields, because if you don’t like it, pitch better. (Here’s my tribute from last year)
Mallex Smith, because of the speed, the Florida medallion and the notebook
Tyler Glasnow, because of the tantalizing potential to put it all together and just blow the league away, the hair, and because while he likes to project a California surfer cool, he’s a very smart guy with real curiosity about the world who is driven to be the best.
Willy Adames, because I could tell that he was meant to be a leader even when I saw him play in Lo-A. The smile, the athleticism, The Relay.
Honorable mention: Three I loved, for very different reasons but whose Rays careers were derailed by injury: Desmond Jennings, Fernando Perez and Brent Honeywell. (And for fun you can see Perez’s acting chops here, and yes it’s satire.)
Who are your six favorites?