Rays Ready For Opening Day.

With the MLB and the MLBPA finally coming to a decision to play a 60 game regular season, the Tampa Bay Rays have released their 60 man roster and let’s just say we are stacked.

Per usual with the club, the pitching staff this year might be the best in baseball. With Blake Snell coming back from injury, Morton, Glasnow should be our starters. Castillo, Alvarado, and Yarbrough are some of my favorites on the mound as well. I am interested to see how top prospect Brendan McKay bounces back after struggling against Houston, but they cheat so if I was him I would just go out there and show my stuff.

The problem with the Rays has always been scoring runs. I feel the additions of Hunter Renfroe and Yosh Tsutsugo will had some power batting to the line up, with Yoshi probably sharing the DH role with Ji-Man Choi. I am looking for Choi to have a big year, coming off his great performance in the playoffs. KK, Lowe, and Meadows are going to do their thing in the outfield so I am not worried about that.

The big news for the infield was the addition of No.1 MLB prospect Wander Franco being added to the taxi squad of the club. I could see Franco maybe getting some playing time when Adames isn’t in the game but I am not sure how the team plans to use Franco once he reaches the field. Fans are definitely excited to see him so I feel like now is a good time to bring him up.

With a great team on paper for this season I am expecting the Club to win around 38-40, games probably end up being a game behind the Yankees but just good enough to make it in the Playoffs.

Although it has not been announced if fans can come to games, I know I will be cheering on my Rays from home courtesy of the MLB TV subscription given to seasons ticket holders. Rays Up!!!

Undiscovered Classics: Casey Veggies- Life Changes

When you think of artists that survived after leaving a prominent group you can think of to many that have made it. After leaving Odd Future in its early days Casey Veggies made a name for himself on the West Coast for being that spitter with mainstream appeal. On his 2013 mixtape “Life Changes” Young Veggies crafted the blueprint of what today’s West Coast Hip Hop should be.

In the world of West Coast Hip Hop I feel there are three different forms of it. One is from a more conscious aspect like Blu or Kendrick. The second is that gangster shit that artists like YG and Nipsey put down, but there is also this weird third form has a accessible main stream appeal that artists like Dom Kennedy and Casey Veggies provide. The Cali vibe these type of artists create just make you wanna ride down Gulf BLVD with the windows down.

This project dropped the year I graduated High School so it is very nostalgic for me. As soon as I got my first car I burned a CD with my all time fav tracks “She In My Car”, “Faces”, “Whip It”. The Drugz produced “Whip It” is my go to Veggies song. Just a simple Japanese strings over trickling hi hats was the vibe during those SPC days. The Dom Kennedy assisted “She In My Car” is perfect example when I say Mainstream West Coast sound.

Not to say that Veggies is a lacking when it comes to introspective lyrics. On the two part track “Love=Hate, Ulterior Motives” Veggies gets deep into his difficulties finding the right girl. Anytime the TDE production group of THC makes a track for Veggies it’s always flawless. The did a few tracks on his debut album “Live And Grow” but we will talk about that another day.

It might just be nostalgia that makes this album a classic for me but Veggies is the man. I feel he doesn’t get the love he should, mainly because he gets boxed in as just West Coast rapper but since when was that a bad thing. Yeah I am from the South but you get tired of listening to trap shit all the time, some times you gotta just ride out to some Young Veggies.

A Different Side Of Florida Hip Hop.

When you think Florida Hip Hop, many people would be quick to say “Only Miami puts out that work?” But I am here to tell you, Zhudaru1963 is putting on for the St.Petersburg Hip Hop scene.

Featuring artists Kayo Da Beast, Heyeyella, Acoupstix, as well as many other artists that are featured on Zhudaru1963. The collection of different artists gives off a “Revenge Of The Dreamers 3” vibe. I really dug how the first two tracks featuring Kayo, had more hard hitting production, with “No Cap” being my fav track off the project. Tracks like “Slow” and “Burn Slow” give you that smoking song and club song every one can get down with.

If your looking for just dope true to life bars, look no further to the Kalixo Ratchet track “True”. Everything Kalixo spits feels authentic, which definitely adds to his lyrics dealing with the trials and tribulations of street life.

The production on this project is really top notch with a lot of melodic trap esque beats that allow Acoupstix to float over tracks like “Arrogance”. Some of the tracks a little bit of a Lil Baby vibe but I ain’t mad at it, that shit slaps especially on “Go Off”.

As a whole I really enjoyed this Zhudaru1963 project. What the collective could do for St.Petersburg Hip Hop is really special with Rod Wave blowing up out of the area, the flood gates have been opened, allowing St.Pete to have its time to shine in the game. Check out Zhudaru1963.com for more dope music and merch.

Retire 29.

Retiring player numbers is a big part of honoring a players legacy with an organization. It builds a teams history by giving current players something to strive for. Although the Rays are one of the younger teams in the MLB I feel there are still plenty of potential players in our history that deserve to have their number retired in the Trop. I think Fred McGriff’s number 29 should be the next player honored by the Tampa Bay Rays.

Don Zimmer’s number 66 was retired on April 6, 2015.

As of 2020 the Rays only have three numbers retired in their history. Wade Boggs number 12 is retired due to the contributions he had on the organization during its early years as well as being the clubs only Hall Of Famer. Every club around the league has retired the number 42 in honor of the great Jackie Robinson. The most recent number retired was that of Don Zimmer, who’s coaching number 66 was retired after his death in 2015 for his 10 year career with the club.

McGriff was just 7 HRs shy of reaching the 500 club.

Retiring McGriff’s number 29 could be a great moment for the club as well as the fans. McGriff is a home town hero, born in Tampa he played 1B for the Devil Rays in their inaugural season playing with the club from 1998-2001. He made one all star game in 2000 and had a career renaissance with the team. The Rays could make it a throwback night with McGriff giving a speech reflecting on his career with the Devil Rays. Other than Wade Boggs the only throwback jerseys the team sells are of McGriff so why not boost that even more by honoring him with a jersey retirement. No word on who or when the next player and number will be retired but it’s been five years since the last inductee. I would definitely wait til the 2021 season when fans are able to pack the Trop and cheer on McGriff like back in the old days.

Showing Love To The Season Ticket Holders.

The MLB will implement a 60 game season with players starting camp by July 1st and games set to begin in late July. Rays fans more now than ever should get behind the team regardless of the squabble between the owners and MLBPA. The players still have to agree on the safety protocols they must undergo during the pandemic, but after having every offer get shut down by the owners I am pretty sure they will agree to it.

Despite the shortened season the Rays are projected to have one of the best teams in the league so if we did end up winning the COVID Series I wouldn’t be mad.

With no fans being able to attend the games fans from all across the Tampa Bay Area should tune in to the games. Showing our support from a distance will help the team rise in popularity and viewership, hopefully squashing those damn Montreal split season talks.

I feel the area is indeed a baseball city that will get behind the club, once they continue to have some back to back winning seasons. By far I see the most supported team in the area is the Rays based on merch and gear being seen on fans everyday at my work. For some reason we just can’t get to the games. But with the drought in sports for the last few months I am hoping the community will get behind the club.

Once fans can go back to the stadiums the Rays will hopefully have a more die hard fan base, ready to fill the Trop up like we did for the playoffs last season. The sold out play off games that happened to be during the week games both sold out, showing the community will support a winning team. The people at Jit Camp will stand with Rays Republic as supporters of the club, eventually making Rays games the must see attraction after the pandemic.

Brady Jersey The Drip.

I can remember all the way back to fifth grade when I got my first jersey, it was a Brady Pats jersey. Even though number 12 is rocking a different uniform this season, as a St.Petersburg native and Brady lover, you know I was hype when the Buccaneers showed off Brady in his new threads.

The white Gronk jersey is my favorite out of the three he showed off.

Brady isn’t the only former Pat that will be rocking the Pewter and Red this season Rob Gronkowski also showed off his new jersey earlier this week, all three will definitely have my bank account looking sideways. Every time I see the white jerseys I love them more and more. Usually I am not a fan of white jerseys but these are definitely the drip.

The Pewter color way is my favorite of the Bucs current uniforms.

First I will probably get every players Pewter jersey but for my favorites like Brady, Gronk, Lavonte, and Godwin I will probably get all three color ways of their jerseys. But with this being my first year of being a season ticket holder I will have a plethora of jerseys to wear, keeping me Bucced up for years to come.

Stay In Tampa Bay.

With the rumors of the XFL being revived via a new buyer, the Dallas Renegades packed up their facility, bringing more credibility to the San Antonio relocation rumor from earlier this year. Orlando was rumored to be looked at as the relocation city for the Vipers, for the leagues second season. Will the Vipers be moved to Orlando, this die hard fan is here to say, Get Your Own Team!

The Vipers are always looked at as having one of the lowest attendances in the league, despite only having two home games one of which was a Sunday night game. The first game had 18,117 fans the second only had 12,249. For having a winless record at the time I felt those were decent numbers for an upstart spring team.

I imagine the league saw the untapped potential for Orlando to have pro football with the USFL’s Orlando Renegades averaging 25,000 fans. More recently the AAF’s Orlando Apollo’s averaged about 20,000 fans per game. Former Apollo’s coach Steve Spurrier has said on record recently if the league did come back to Florida he would be down to coach. Spurrier coached the Apollo’s to the leagues only championship.

Not saying that Orlando shouldn’t have a team but I feel it would be better to just revive the Apollo’s or make a new team as an Expansion team to usher in the new rebranded league. With teams in Tampa and Orlando a rivalry is definitely set up allowing fans to travel to both games, making what could be some of the leagues best match ups. Back in the day the Bandits averaged 43,000 fans per game, proving Tampa Bay is a market Spring Football can thrive in.

Y’all Can Keep The Craft Beer, I Got Exotic POP.

For me instead of sitting around drinking a shitty Bud Light or some fruity craft beer, I rather be sipping on some Big Moe Bar Yar grape soda or some exclusive lychee Fanta out of Japan. My friends might ride on me for it but who cares I’m the one sipping on unique beverages.

Earlier this year I covered the rise of Team Exotic POP in the community. With the Rap Legends soda line adding Mac Dre and Big HAWK sodas, the team is finally ready to open up distribution. With the Exotic Snax line bringing back Dunkaroos the entire Team Exotic POP is looking to continue doing big things in 2020.

Operations are going live June 27th in honor of Dj Screw and S.U.C. You already know the good people over at Jit Camp have put their application in to become the official Exotic Pop distributors in the Tampa Bay Area. The goal is to spread my love of unique beverages and exotic sodas with my entire community as well as bring Team Exotic POP to an untapped market. I know for a fact the city is ready.

Life Is Good Being A Tornadoes Fan!

Despite their Inaugural Season being put on hold, the Tampa Bay Tornadoes and the rest of the AAL are showing no signs of slowing down.

The Tornadoes recently hosted a few scouting and try out events to get a look at some untapped local talent from the Tampa Bay Area. I am sure many former players from some the the areas top high schools came out to see if they have what it takes to play in the AAL.

Right now my favorite player on the team is lucky number 7 Brion Carnes. The former 4 year starter at Manatee High school showed what he had on the pro level putting up 2,780 yards and 55 TD for the Cedar Rapids Titans of the IFL. I definitely need to add a Carnes Tornadoes jersey to the collection.

As of now no word has been officially said if the 2020 season is canceled but with the NAL and IFL both making cancellations of their season’s I am sure the AAL will follow suite. An announcement on the season is supposed to be made on July 25th.

If I have to wait until the 2021 season to see my Tampa Bay Tornadoes take the field against the rest of the rising AAL than so be it. It just gives the team more time to put the best product on the field, hopefully bringing more Championships to the Tampa Bay.

Rays Build For The Future.

With the 2020 MlB Season in doubt, the league still held its annual draft. Since the Tampa Bay Rays did pretty well last season, winning 96 games, the team had the 24th and 37th picks in the first round.

Scouting this season was even harder due to COVID 19 cutting many baseball seasons shot as well as not being able to physically scout players. The Rays pride themselves on having great scouting and building the team through the draft, rather than paying big money free agents like our AL East Rivals.

With the 24th pick the Rays selected Nick Bitsko RHP out of Central Bucks High School East. A lot of data on him was collected on the soon to be 18 year old virtually, with him throwing pitches up to 98 MPH. With his eligibility changing, he was projected to be the top prospect of the 2021 Draft, so if you look at it that way Bitsko is a steal. Some believe he doesn’t have the stuff to be a starting pitcher in the league but after a few years in the Minor Leagues, I am sure he will be a great addition to the already stacked Rays pitching staff.

With the 37th and final pick of the first round the Tampa Bay Rays selected Alika Williams SS out of Arizona State. Some felt the Rays might have reached on Williams, but I think the club was drawn to his skills on the defensive side of the field. His hitting is lacking but I think being on the same team as the No.1 pick Spencer Torkelson hid some of his offensive deficiencies. Last season he had a .333 average and was walked more than he actually got hits. If the Rays use him more from a defense aspect, I think he will be better off. With top prospect Wander Franco already playing his SS position and on the brink of being called up to the Majors, I think we won’t be seeing Williams in Rays gear for a minute. Plus team leader Willy Adames is already a staple in the organization so we are good from a SS perspective.

With the Rays remaining picks I’d like to seen them beef up the closing pitching rotation. Also other than Choi I feel the club always lacks when it comes to hitting power. I would like to see them pick up a big bat in one of the later rounds.