The Tampa Bay team is quirky, perhaps a bit dorky, but certainly they’re always smiling.
It’s hard not to when you have an unconventional coach like Joe Maddon, “man-child” players like David Price, and a closer who shoots an imaginary bow-and-arrow after each save. The quirkiness extends outside of the team, as well. The Rays promotions have included a “Zim-Bear” (truly terrifying), a Joe Maddon gnome, and a DJ Kitty puppet. Another furry friend of the team, Astro the French bulldog, is arguably more famous than his owner, and he’s already had a few promotions to his name.
Yet, this season all the fun comes back to the clubhouse. Tampa Bay’s themed road trips have become well-known throughout the league now. Last season they set up a disco ball in the locker room. This season—only a few weeks in—there has been an abundance of random acts of fun (as I like to call it).
Let’s take a little survey of what’s occurred in the Rays clubhouse over the past week. This season there has been:
Now, some may find these things to be utterly ridiculous, but is that necessarily a bad thing? Others might say it’s distracting to the team and the goal of winning because isn’t that what we’re all here for?
Coming from someone who watches this team every day, I would argue that professional players know what the goal is: winning. We get it. They get it. It’s a business.
However, baseball is also supposed to be fun. I think the Rays and Joe Maddon are just trying to remind themselves and the fans of that aspect. The fun can easily get lost in statistics, analysis, contracts, trades, etc. The Rays always fight until the very end (several notable games in the past have proved this), and I think a part of that comes from the fun atmosphere that is instilled in the clubhouse. They respect each other, they respect the game, and they know that each day is another opportunity.
Each day also brings another random act of fun, and that’s something to look forward to. That’s something that keeps the players coming back with their heads held high.