I knew putting together the ninth edition of Timeout would be a tough task. It would be a hard act to follow with the seventh and eighth editions being the guys from RSBS.
The ninth would need to find someone who is against the grain. Someone you might call a rebellious type. Someone who writes their blog in blue and has an incredible love for their team. Someone you might call a renegade. Not just any renegade though. This would require a Rays Renegade.
Cliff Wittig is a 48-year old Beverage Industry Consultant who is originally from St
. Petersburg, Florida. Nowadays he resides in Clearwater, Florida and roots for his team with his high quality blog, Rays Renegade, and his season tickets in right field.
Covering all topics Rays, Cliff blogs about player updates, personal stories and behind the scenes actions among other things. This Rays fan even has his name on the Rays/Pepsi Fans Wall of Fame at Tropicana Field for his dedication to the team.
This guy is such a renegade I will leave his answers in blue and against the normal text I use for interview answers.
First things first. Please break down the name Rays Renegade for us and why you chose that for the blogosphere?
First part is easy. I am a hometown fan of the Tampa Bay Rays, and I am a fan by my own choice. My father was born in Philadelphia, and my mother was born in Pittsburgh, but before we had a team, I was an Baltimore Orioles fan. I am a Rays until I die.
Now Renegade, that came out of my personality quirk of not conforming to popular opinion and my ability to instigate things as a kid. I was one of those kids that was 5′ 8″ in 6th grade and then everyone else caught up to me. And the song “Renegade” by Styx was a favorite of mine for extreme training as a roller speed skater as a kid. Very high energy song.
It’s not a leap of faith to say you are a die-hard Rays fan. In a recent post you took a picture of the seat you maintain for your season tickets. How special is it to have that seat and with your name on it?
I think I feel more pride in that after years of trying to obtain a team by any means, we built a domed stadium without a team, and finally being granted an expansion franchise. It made me proud to build to be from St. Petersburg, Florida. From our first professional game against the Detroit Tigers, until the last out in the 2008 World Series, everyone knew my allegiance was to the Rays. I will never be a passenger on the Rays victory bandwagon, I am always going to be the guy who collects the tickets for other to ride on the wagon.
Do you make it to all 81 games?
I wish I could say yes to that without a problem. But I make it to about 75 games a year without fail. I have had to take a few sick days a year, and I got bit by a brown spider and missed a whole series once. I am not on any record pace, just enjoying my time in my seat in right field talking to players and fans about this great team. But it is my goal every year to try and pull off the perfect season ( 81 games).
Tampa had, for lack of a better terminology, been the lowely team in the AL East really since it’s inception. What affect if any do think dropping the Devil from the name had?
You that is funny. We had a Saturday Night Concert Series this past year at the Trop., and M C Hammer said ” Take the Devil out, and the Wins come in…”. I seriously do not think it had anything to do with the logo and uniform change, but that the Rays players and coaches finally clicked and began to believe in themselves and the team’s goals and expectations. But if you want to throw some divine intervention into it……….I do not think we would throw that away either.
I personally had trouble not calling them the Devil Rays last season and I know others who felt the same. Has there been any instance where people around you have said the same?
I found it unique and profitable for the Rays front office to dock people in their offices and the media $1 ( for charity ) if they used the wrong name in print or on the air. I have been calling them the “Rays” since maybe 2000. There are the odd fans that still wear the neon lettered D-Rays jerseys and pronounce the team still as the D-Rays, but I take the situation with a grain of salt. Not everyone will come on board right away, but this year I hope the teams success ends that scenario. That would be like the New York media introducing Carsten Charles Sabathia as the New York Yankees Opening Day pitcher in 2009.
In it’s short history as the Rays, who is the player you favor most and would say is the best player to put on the uniform?
I have a lot of favorites from the lists of ex-Rays. I think on the current team, Carl Crawford has the ability to be the best in the field to ever put on the team’s colors. At his young age, he is on track for a huge career, but who knows if it will end in Rays blue and white. My favorite Rays drafted player who ever put on the jersey is Josh Hamilton. I think the guy had the whole world in front of him and dropped the ball, but had the courage to pick himself and the ball back up and strive to still show he has the desire and ability to inspire and entertain millions of young fans for his life’s changes.
Who would you say is the first Rays player to reach the Hall wearing the Tampa uniform?
I know he will not be wearing the jersey, but I wish it could be Fred McGriff. He might have gotten here near the end of his career, but the guy was pure class and gave 110 percent every game. After him, it might be Scott Kazmir, who has 47 wins towards the 300 win plateau. If he can find his slider again, it will be trouble for the American League. Kazmir has done more for this team than most people know about. He was the youngest member of the 2008 starting pitching staff, but has more major league experience than anyone in that rotation.
You commented on my blog in my Stan Musial post about being able to put gas in his car as a youngster. You also commented how your uncle played for the Yankees for awhile. Being around players and the game, is it safe to say you have a baseball pedigree running through your blood?
I would like to think I do. I had a chance in college to make a life choice to play football or baseball. I chose football because it was at the time, the most secure financial future That ended up being the wrong choice, but no regrets. My father owned a Pure Oil/ Union76 gas station that was at a crossroads to going out to the beaches in St. Petersburg. He was a boxer in the Navy and became friends with a lot of the coaches becuase of his love for the game. A lot of the ball players come down in the off season to live here, and I got to spend a lot of my youth watching Spring and regular season games at Al Lang Field. I live in a Spring Training town ( at that time ) and the players were a little more at ease in the community and with kids like me.
You’ve mentioned you are a Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame member for the Rays.That seems like an awfully cool thing to be a part of. How did you get nominated and or win?
I was nominated first with letters submitted by the fans. Then I was selected by the Ray’s nomination committee. I was inducted as “Mr. Lucky”, still not sure why that name stuck, I too laugh and smile about it all the time. I also was inducted the same day as ESPN Basketball commentator Dick Vitale, who we all know is a great Rays celebrity fan. We now have over 100 fans on the Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame, which celebrates the pride and enthusiasm of Rays fans.
Lastly, the Rays were the darlings of the Series last year because of their rise from mediocrity. They have added some pieces and look to be as strong as last season. If they falter this year and not make the playoffs, what in your opinion would it be because of?
I can tell you it will not be from lack of confidence or work ethic. Rays Manager Joe Maddons new credo for 2009 is ” 09 > 08 “. With a mantra like that you know that the team has set its goal and will have 162 ( hopefully more ) games to achieve them. If they do not get to the playoffs, it will not be because of lack of effort or ability. The American League East is geared for war in 2009. Every battle won will be fought long, hard and to the last out. There is too much at stake to sit back and enjoy anything until after October is here and gone by any team in this division.
If we do not win, and the playoffs disappear from view. I will still stand tall and clap long and hard for the effort and the teams determination to stay in the fight to the last breathe. Winning is now in The Ray teams blood, and with every playerpushing themselves and supporting each other, losing will not be an option in 2009. My expectations before 2008 was that 2009 would be the year for a Rays revolution. It came a year earlier than expected, but should we sit back, or fight to retain that beautiful trophy for anot her year?
So a renegade leads the ninth Timeout to its ending. Look forward to more in depth writing from Cliff att Rays Renegade and more episodes of Timeout from the Rocky Mountain Way