ST. PETERSBURG - For a baseball player, being away from the game for extended periods can be an eternity.
As the first overall selection in the 2007 June Amateur Draft, the wait to pull on your first jersey and run out to the warm sun of your first big league spring training, it can be a mind numbing experience.
"I haven't played baseball in seven months," said David Price. "There is definitely excitement, nervousness, there's everything. I am looking forward to having a good time. It was fun (the first workout) and relaxed. You get your work in and get out of here. You wake up early get out early and get in a day of baseball."
The 6-foot-6, 225-pound southpaw is taking it all in stride, just as he did when he was an All-American at Vanderbilt, where he swept college's most coveted honors - The Golden Spikes Award, The Dick Howser Award and Baseball America's College Player of the Year.
The Nashville native will likely start the season at Double-A Montgomery, and, with a wealth of talent and confidence, could be on a fast track to the big leagues, not because there is a dearth of pitching in the Rays' organization. If anything, the team is loaded with arms now.
With at least $8.5 million invested in the 22-year old, the money is just part of the story. Price may very well be the most gifted player ever plucked from the draft.
You would think that with the fat contract, a trunk full of trophies and being one of the best hurlers in SEC history (11-1, 2.63, 194 K in 133.1 innings, shattering his own school record in ’07), it would be easy for Price to come in full of himself.
"I just go in and play baseball, learn from it, and have fun," he said. "Spring training for me is to just sit back and listen to guys like Troy Percival, Scott Kazmir, Dan Wheeler and those types of guys. I want to listen to what they have to say and not really say too much; kind of be a mute."
With their new team name, Price is genuinely a Ray of sunshine.
LIVING IN THE MOMENT: This may be the best team Scott Kazmir has ever been around in his brief major league career and that could be a good sign as the Rays try to sign him to a long-term deal. The 2007 American League strikeout king was impressed. "With the additions that we have made this past offseason, everyone I have talked to on the team is very excited with what we have and what we are capable of doing. We are anxious to get the season started," he said.
THROWING OUT THE FIRST PITCH.....: With his return to Tampa Bay, Rays pitcher Trever Miller will participate in tomorrow's Miracle Little League's Opening Day by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at 8:45 a.m. (2950 75th St. N., St. Petersburg). Miller and former teammate Jorge Cantu were a big part in the building of the special needs park for children with disabilities where their motto is: "Every Child Deserves a Chance to Play Baseball."
SIGNING ON THE DOTTED LINE: The Rays have agreed to terms on one-year deals with LHP Kurt Birkins, RHP Matt Garza, RHP Edwin Jackson, RHP Calvin Medlock, C Dioner Navarro, OF Fernando Perez, OF Justin Ruggiano, RHP Juan Salas and RHP Mitch Talbot.
SIGNING ON THE DOTTED LINE - PART II: Edwin Jackson will sign autographs from 2-3 p.m. tomorrow at Baywalk as part of Diversity Day, sponsored by the NAACP.
THE DAILY NEWS: 33 of 35 pitchers and catchers worked out…catcher Dioner Navarro is in Venezuela on a family emergency and his return time is undetermined…RHP Juan Salas is delayed in the Dominican Republic with visa issues. Eight position players worked out today: OF Rocco Baldelli, SS Jason Bartlett, INF Reid Brignac, 3B Evan Longoria, OF Fernando Perez, OF John Rodriguez, OF Justin Ruggiano and OF B.J. Upton.
TURN ON, TUNE IN: The Rays hot stove radio show, "Countdown to Opening Day", goes live from Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill Monday, February 18 at 7 p.m. on 620-AM WDAE. Ferg's is located at 1320 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg, adjacent to Tropicana Field (727-822-4562). Monday's show will feature Rays Senior Vice President, Baseball Operations Gerry Hunsicker and pitcher Matt Garza.
Ted Fleming, the manager of TBSN Radio 510, has been covering the sports scene in the Tampa Bay area for the last decade via radio and print. His radio show, Speaking of Sports, is syndicated by the Black Athletes Sports Network live daily for two hours, starting at 11:00 A.M. Additionally, he is a stringer for the PA SportsTicker and has previously worked for WEEI in Boston, ESPN 1050 in New York and Metro Sports. You can reach him by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.