An old friend awaits Rays in Arizona

by Gary Shelton on June 27, 2023

in general

Rays run across Longo again./CARMEN MANDATO

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

The ballplayer is older now, maybe wiser. His colors are different, as are the adjectives that describe him.

He is no longer the kid, no longer the phenom. He has become wealthy at his game, but it has not given up on him yet.

He is Evan Longoria. Around here, he is the best there ever was.

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For a long time, it seemed as if he had all of the greatest hits in the history of the franchise. Once, he said that Carl Crawford was the best Ray there ever was. But for all the fans that Crawford has, that's just not true. This was Longo's town, and when he walked out the door, it was one of the most dismal days in the history of the franchise.

Tonight, the Rays run across Longo again, now an infielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He is 37 now, no longer a kid, no longer the guy who strapped a franchise across his back. His batting average has shrunk to .233, but ask yourself: Do you want to face this guy in a key situation? Me, neither.

He was a three-time all-star here. He played in a World Series. His home run in Game 162 remained the biggest hit in the history of the team.

But in Tampa Bay, we are numbed to the sight of stars leaving for the big money. David Price did, and he never quite matched his success here. Blake Snell made the Rays look silly recently, but he's not the same pitcher he was in his Cy Young year.

Look around now. Mike Zunino just got released. So did Will Myers. Ji Man Choi is hitting .125. It's a tough game.

Oh, there are successes. Nate Lowe continues to look like the guy who got away. He's hitting .273 with eight homers. Travis d'Arnaud is hitting .283. Matt Duffy is at .303. Willie Adames is hitting .209, but the Brewers will tell you how valuable he is.

Ah, but as alumni go, there is a special place in the hearts of Rays fans for Longoria. He simply meant more when he was here. He was perhaps the best interview the Rays ever had, but he didn't care much for the duty.

He was great with the glove, good with the stick. But he was on his way to a big payday, and so the team decided to move on without him.

Hey, I miss the guy. He spent five years in San Francisco, and now he is in Arizona.

At the core, however, he is a Tampa Bay Ray.

Heck, for a long time. he was the Tampa Bay Ray.

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