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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Tampa Bay Devil Ray third-baseman Aubrey Huff fouls a pitch off his leg during recent baseball action at the Trop.
Devil Rays continue winning ways

In my most recent column on the Lightning's improbable run to the Stanley Cup, I mentioned that perhaps the Devil Rays might not be that far away from competing for Major League Baseball's biggest prize. With its 2-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday, June 20, the Rays have won 11 games in a row and have compiled a 22-6 record over the past month. That is the best record in the majors over that span and has improved the Rays to a best-ever mark of 32-34 to help overcome its dreadful 10-26 start.

With a roster full of young up-and-coming stars like Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli and Aubrey Huff, the Rays aren't just a bunch of overpaid "superstars." Under the guidance of Tampa native Lou Pinella, the Rays are playing an exciting brand of baseball that is finally translating into wins.

Now if only some people would go to Tropicana Field and witness this on a first-hand basis. Unless the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox come to town, almost nobody is going to see these kids play. They're averaging around 10,000 fans for each game, which is skewed by the high attendance for the Yankee games.

The Rays play at Toronto for three games June 22-24 before returning home to host the defending World Series champion Florida Marlins June 25-27. The Blue Jays then come to town June 28-30.

For a lot less money than a pro football or hockey game, you can enjoy a MLB game in the 72-degree comfort of the Trop.

Get on out and support the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. They could be our next big winner.

Manatee High girls soccer team gets FAST
Several current members of the Manatee High girls' varsity soccer team, along with several prospective members of the team, are taking part in speed and agility training with FAST, Florida Acceleration and Speed Training, which is based at Island Fitness Center in Holmes Beach.

The Her-icanes team members, who advanced to the regional quarterfinals the last two seasons and are coached by this writer, are hoping that the FAST training will improve their overall team speed and explosiveness to give them a leg up on their competition.

Island Fitness Club owner John Belsito has put together an all-star cast of experienced trainers who first assess each athlete before putting them through a series of exercises and drills to maximize each athlete's full potential. The end result of the training is to increase the overall speed and explosiveness for each of them.

Heading up FAST is Aussie Mark Kovacs, a former National Collegiate Athletic Association tennis doubles champion who specializes in testing world-class athletes and working with young aspiring athletes. Kovacs holds a master's degree in exercise physiology, a bachelor of science in exercise science and holds several certificates all related to physical conditioning and exercise.

Other trainers working with the girls include Belsito, a former collegiate basketball and hockey coach who has a master's degree in healthcare and is a licensed healthcare risk manager, and Jason Gerhart, a certified personal trainer and former triathlete, who also played soccer and swam at the collegiate level.

One of the first things that changed for the Manatee girls was in the way they stretched prior to competition. Instead of the normal static stretching that most athletes employ, Kovacs and the rest of the FAST trainers have introduced them to movement stretching, which not only gets them loose and ready to compete, but builds strength and flexibility in key areas of the body. This strength and flexibility can reduce injuries while increasing speed and agility.

The girls are working out twice a week for the remainder of the summer and will continue the workouts when soccer season gets under way in September.

FAST is also working with the Southeast High School football team in addition to holding workouts at Lakewood Ranch and Bradenton Academy. For more information on FAST, call 713-2955.

Cortez Kitchen golf tourney aids cancer survivor
The Cortez Kitchen held a golf tournament on Saturday, June 19, at the Manatee County Golf Course to help raise money for BJ Lipke. Lipke, who was diagnosed with cancer in October 2003, has been battling the dreaded disease hard, and appears to be winning. He is finishing up on chemotherapy treatments and hopes to be able to get back to work in two to three months.

The Kitchen's golf tournament, which raised almost $3,000, will go a long way to help Lipke concentrate on his recovery.

The tournament was a two-man scramble and Tony Keebough and Tim McDaniel combined to shoot a four under par to claim first place. Keebough also claimed the longest-drive competition when he boomed his tee shot 340 yards on the 410-yard 10th hole.

Other winners were Mickey Thompson, Ralph Cole and David Swafford, who each won a closest-to-the-pin contest on the three par threes.

Tournament organizer and Cortez Kitchen owner Pete Barreda wanted to thank the sponsors for their support. They include the Sandbar, Beach House and Mar Vista restaurants, the Sea Horse, A.P. Bell Fish Company, Moores Stone Crab, the Guthrie family and, of course, his crew at the Cortez Kitchen.

Congratulations to all of the winners and best wishes for a full recovery to Lipke.

Law, Curtis claim sixth annual Demarest Memorial tourney
Bill Law and Neil Curtis teamed up to shoot a 59 and defeat 62 other golfers in the two-man scramble to win low net in the sixth annual Peter Demarest Memorial Golf Tournament held Saturday, June 19, at Pinebrook Ironwood Golf Club in Bradenton.

Demarest, a former postal supervisor and local golf aficionado, passed away six years ago and was a good friend to all who knew him. He was a regular at Palma Sola Golf Club and had given Grego's Almost to the Beach Tavern owner Greg Koeper a putter shortly before he passed away.

Koeper had the putter mounted for display at Palma Sola, but they wouldn't hang it up so he started the tourney to remember his good friend and golfer. The putter is now on display at Grego's and the tournament is a yearly must-attend event for local golfers.

In addition to the two-man scramble, there was a blind draw for four-man champ, which was won by Steve Mansfield, Rich Corali, Jim Peterfeso and Ron Birtwistle with a 127 combined score. Garth and Chas McMullen teamed up with Curtis and Law to claim honorable mention with a 128 combined score.

Bob LeBlanc won the longest drive for the men, while Vickie Hugenberg captured the women's long drive contest. Closest-to-the-pin winners were Tom Olkosky, who claimed the prize on number five, while Rick Crawford won the contest on hole number 12.

In other related tournament news, Scott O'Brien entered the tournament with his father Jim and had plans to buy his dad a new set of golf clubs for Father's Day. Thanks to the generosity of Pat Heagarty, Scott didn't have to. His father won the set of clubs that Heagarty donated in a raffle, saving son Scott some serious money!

Congratulations to all of the golfers who participated.

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