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May 21, 2007 May 20, 2007

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The Tim Raines Feature: Quite possibly the first halfway-decent piece I’ve written all season. The lead needs a little work, and this is just a rough cut of it, but you’ll see something close to this in the Democrat on the 24th.

I caught up with the Patriot-for-a-week a few days ago in Trenton, where he was settling into his new role as the Harrisburg Senators hitting coach.

When It Raines…
by Mike Ashmore

He thought it was over.

Definitely his career and perhaps his life.

When seven-time Major League All-Star outfielder Tim Raines was diagnosed with lupus midway through the 1999 season, nobody ever expected him to set foot on a baseball field again.

39 years old at the time, Raines lost 50 pounds during treatment for the sometimes fatal disease, which attacks the body’s cells and tissue.

After announcing his retirement shortly after making his diagnosis public, he fully recovered and was content with a life of playing golf and spending time with his family.

And then Bob Watson called.

Watson, the former Yankees GM and then scout for Team USA, asked him if he’d consider playing in the Olympics.

So in July of 2000, Raines and Pat Kelly came to the Somerset Patriots to showcase their skills for a possible spot on the Olympic team.

“Tim Raines was a consummate professional,” said Patriots manager Sparky Lyle.

“I knew him from when I played against him. He was really one of a few guys of that stature that I would have agreed to let come and play here.”

Raines, who Lyle considers the biggest name the team has ever had, appeared in seven games for the Patriots in 2000, hitting .346 with two RBI.

“I loved it, it didn’t seem like an independent league at all,” Raines said. “There were a lot of good players there, a lot of ex-Major Leaguers. I quite enjoyed it.”

Perhaps the most famous story from the potential Hall of Famer’s stay with Somerset was what became of his paycheck.

Owed around $400 for his brief stay with the team, he refused to accept the money, asking instead that it go back to the players for a team party.

“I didn’t really think that I was a part of the team,” he said. “I was up there for one reason, and that was to showcase myself for the US Olympic Team. I didn’t feel like I deserved to get anything for it.”

Unfortunately, neither Raines or Kelly made the team that eventually went on to win the gold medal in Sydney, Australia.

“I still think they should have taken him.” Lyle said. “He could have stolen a base on anyone, just from his knowledge from all those years.”

For Raines, it seemed his miraculous recovery would have no storybook ending.

“That was my one chance to be a part of the Olympics,” he said. “It was the only opportunity I had, and I felt bitter to say the least. I felt like I did enough to make the team.”

Instead of letting that end his career, Raines came back for the 2001 season and played in 47 games for the Montreal Expos before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles so he could play with his son, Tim, Jr.

After playing one more season with the Florida Marlins in 2002, “Rock” turned his attention to coaching and is now a hitting coach in the Washington Nationals organization after winning his second World Series ring as the Chicago White Sox bench coach in 2005.

“I spent 23 years in the Major Leagues, and baseball has been very good to me,” he said. “To me, I feel like I’m giving something back. I’m enjoying doing it.”

Next season, the collective eyes of the baseball world will focus on Raines, who is the premier candidate eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame in 2008.

Having finished fifth all-time in stolen bases with 808, and among the top 100 with 2,605 hits, it would appear as though he has a real chance for election in Cooperstown.

“My fingers are crossed,” Raines said with his trademark smile.

Brownlie Watch: Bobby Brownlie brought the stuff he had in his first start to the third one, allowing one run in six innings of work in a 2-1 win over the Road Warriors.

The Newark starter struck out six in the win, improving his record to 2-1.

Bladergroen Pains: The Road Warriors have signed INF Ian Bladergroen. Mets and Red Sox fans might remember him, as Blade-er-grown was dealt from the Mets to the Sox in exchange for Doug Mientkiewicz. He put up some pretty solid numbers with the Mets organization, but wasn’t really able to match them while with Boston.

The 24-year-old first baseman hasn’t played anywhere this season, and is a career .278 hitter in 324 games.

As recently as 2006, he was ranked the 17th-best prospect in the Red Sox organization by Baseball America.

Who’s Your Halama?: I’m in Trenton tonight and things have been a little busier than expected, so I’ll have those John Halama quotes up for everyone tomorrow at some point in the afternoon.

I hear some guy named Roger Clemens will be in Trenton on Wednesday, I’ll have to look into who this guy is…I bet he sucks, I hear he’s old. (Ha-ha)

Photo Of The Day:

Pat Ahearne warms up in the bullpen yesterday

The Ashmore Experience: What’s it like to cover a New York Yankees game? I recently had the opportunity to do so, and I wrote about my experience in my personal blog.

– Mike Ashmore (mashmore@patriotsbaseball.com)

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Comments»

1. jcb811 - May 21, 2007

Good Stuff!

I was just wondering about Ian Bladergroen. I did not see him on any MiLB roster. Thanks for the update!

As for Tim Raines, he is a class act. The times I’ve seen him, he has always been a pleasant person, he willing signs autographs for the fans and takes time to talk to them. I really did not expect it from a former player of his caliber.

2. jcb811 - May 21, 2007

Oops! I meant “willingly signs autographs”.

3. Fausto Gabon - May 21, 2007

I see that in Somerset, mascot Sparkee now has company in the form of Slider, some type of cat. I think it is time to a counterpart for General Admission.

How about Corporal Punishment?

4. b-fish fan - May 21, 2007

if this isnt the bluefish local coverage to a tee.empty seats galore but lets worry about the ceiling tiles.the media is as clueless as the people of lower fairfield county.

http://www.connpost.com/localsports/ci_5947230

5. BoosterBabe - May 21, 2007

In fairness, the team was away this weekend, there was a brief recap of the road game…not much else to cover…and at least there was something in the paper about the Bluefish. Front page of the sports section, no less.

Give ’em a break, bfishfan.

And I did see several tv commercials this past weekend on various cable channels. Nice hearing about the half price tix on Tuesdays and the Wed and Thur night promos with reduced prices on food and drinks. Might have made more sense to promote the upcoming series vs Somerset, rather than the past series vs Lancaster. But I will give the folks in the Front Office the benefit of the doubt and attribute that to a “traffic” problem at Cablevision. In my past life Buying advertising time on TV (including Cablevision), I know how entirely possible it is for Cablevision to have run the wrong spots. It happens ALL the time (from major networks to tiny little podunk tv stations, and everything in between). Hopefully the nice people at Cablevision will get the correct spots on this week and the word will get out.

AND there was a feature on News12 yesterday and this morning showing an interview with Nick Ortiz.

The media coverage is happening.
I’ve been critical on this blog about this in the past and I’m here to say it IS happening.
Give’em some credit where it’s due.

6. BoosterBabe - May 22, 2007

Bluefish just won their 8th game in a row, beating Somerset 8-4. Porzio gets the win, Ramos the save.
Darula scored 2 runs, one of them a solo home run (so much for “who’s not hot” in yesterday’s paper! Go Get ’em Bobby!) Ortiz got a 2 run dinger in the 9th to solidify the lead and the rest is history.

Bluefish are now 12-4. Unbelievable!
Red Sox are about to lose to the Yankees 6-2, I’ve got the Sox on TV and the Bluefish on the internet. Perfectly normal for me, I grew up in a house where my Dad listened to the Sox while watching whatever team he could get on the tv.

Bluefish are the hottest team in the league right now. Red Sox were the hottest team in baseball coming into tonight’s game…hope they don’t cool off. They can let the Yankees win one at home, I’m ok with that, but….we gotta win tomorrow!!!! 🙂

7. Paul - May 22, 2007

The Bluefish looked good tonight. The Patriots… well, the less said, the better.

The bad news for the Bluefish is that Luis Figueroa left the game in the eighth inning with what looked like a knee injury. I hope it’s not as serious as it looked, but it did not look good.

8. LIpaperlantern - May 22, 2007

do you know what networks the spots were supposed to be on at Cablevision?

9. BoosterBabe - May 23, 2007

No Idea. I didn’t make the buy so I wouldn’t know what channels they were supposed to be on. I only know I saw them, but can’t remember what channels I was watching when did. Most likely News12. But I think I saw them on a general entertainment channel, too (maybe TBS, something like that)

I do know Cablevision sells various packages of networks…you can buy just one channel but you get better rates if you buy a “package”. Bunch of spots that can run on any of “x” number of networks. That may have been what they did. Whatever they bought, the spots would only run on the CT systems though.


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