MLB: Local teams have eyes on World Series
With opening day for the 2014 Major League Baseball season upon us, it got me thinking about Lou Fiorentino, a long-time Anna Maria Island Little League coach and baseball afficiando. He died in February 1998 at the young age of 54.
Fiorentino was passionate about his Boston Red Sox team and baseball in general, and often proclaimed in November that “there’s only 124 days until opening day.”
He rarely missed a game, MLB or LL.
Ah. Opening day.
That’s the day that hope springs eternal, particulary for our two local spring-training teams, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Rays obviously play in their regular season in St. Petersburg, while the Pirates have called Bradenton their spring home since 1968.
Improbable two seasons ago, there is a good chance these two teams with local ties could meet in the World Series in October.
On website lists both the Pirates and Rays with 25-1 odds of winning the World Series with win totals of 88.5 for the Rays and 85.5 for the Pirates.
Pittsburgh, which lost the 2013 National League division series in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals, is returning most of its team from last year’s surprise run, including National League MVP Andrew McCutchen, slugging third baseman Pedro Alvarez and potential ace pitcher Gerrit Cole. He made two starts as a rookie against the Cards in the NL division series.
The Pirates are legitimate contenders to win the NL Central Division title along with the Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds.
The Tampa Bay Rays also are contenders, but they’re in the American League East, arguably the toughest division in baseball. They’ll be battling the defending World Series champs, Boston Red Sox, who defeated the Rays in the 2013 American League championship series along with the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and last year’s favorite, the Toronto Blue Jays, for a chance at post-season glory.
The Rays are primed by keeping the team intact. They return a gold-glove calibur infielder, third-baseman Evan Longoria, shortstop Yunel Escobar, second-baseman Ben Zobrist and first-baseman James Loney.
In the outfield, they have 2013 rookie-of-the- year Wil Myers for a whole season, in addition to left-fielder David DeJesus, who came over in a late-season trade for the whole season. They also upgraded the catcher position by trading for Ryan Hannigan.
The main reason for any success that the Rays may have is their pitching staff. Everyone thought ace pitcher David Price would be traded, but he returns to lead a rotation which is among the best in baseball. He will be followed on the mound by Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Chris Archer and, for the time being, rookie pitcher Jake Odorizzi, who takes the place of the injured Jeremy Hellickson.
The bullpen has undergone a makeover that includes bringing in former closers Heath Bell, Juan Carlos Oviedo and Grant Balfour to an already talented group that includes Jake McGee, Joel Peralta, Cesar Ramos and Brandon Gomes.
The season is a long grind and good health and a little bit of luck will certainly be needed for either of our teams to make a World Series run, but the possibility is there.
See you at the ballpark.
Two teams emerged from pool play during March 29 action at the Anna Maria City Hall horseshoe pits. The team of Bob Lee and Dom Livedoti earned a tight 22-17 victory over the team of John Crawford and Bill Wright to earn bragging rights for the day.
March 26 action saw eight teams earn 2-1 bragging rights, resulting in an eight-way tie for first place.
Play gets underway at 9 a.m. every Wednesday and Saturday at the Anna Maria City Hall pits. Warmups begin at 8:45 a.m. followed by random team selection. There is no charge to play and everyone is welcome.
Last week to sign up for AMICC spring sports
The center is holding open registration for the spring lineup of adult and youth sports programs.
Adults can play soccer, kickball and basketball, and youths will be playing baseball and basketball.
Registration for adults is $75 for center members and includes a jersey; non-members pay $110. Registration for youths is $75 for center members and includes a jersey. Non-members pay $105.
The center’s annual membership fees include use of the fitness center, and membership secures value program pricing for a year.
Captains, coaches and sponsors also are needed.
• Adult soccer tryout: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 3. Teams will be chosen immediately after. Games will be played Thursday evenings at the center. The tryout date for adult kickball is April 8, at 7:30 p.m.; teams will be chosen immediately afterwards. Games will be played Wednesday evenings at the center.
• Adult basketball tryout: 7:30 p.m. April 9. Games will be played Tuesday evenings.
• Youth baseball tryout: 6 p.m. Friday, April 4, for 5-7 year olds; 7 p.m. for 8-11 year olds. Team selection will follow. Games will be played Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays.
• Youth basketball tryouts: Monday, April 7. 5-7 year olds at 6 p.m.; 8-10 year olds at 6:30 p.m.; 8 p.m. for 14-17 year olds. On Tuesday April 8, 11-13 year olds try out at 6 p.m. Team selection will follow tryouts. Games will be played Monday thru Saturday.
Register at the center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria, or online at www.islandcommunitycenter.com.
For more information, call athletic director Matt Ray at 941-778-1908, ext. 9205, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.