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Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014
Rays

Rays will honor Zimmer on Saturday

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Published:   |   Updated: June 6, 2014 at 06:48 AM

— The Tampa Bay Rays will honor Don Zimmer on Saturday before their game against the visiting Seattle Mariners with a ceremony that will include a video tribute.

The Zimmer family is not planing a funeral or memorial service.

The Rays will add a patch to their uniforms honoring Zimmer, the team’s senior baseball adviser who died Wednesday at the age of 83.

Those from the baseball world expected to attend Saturday’s ceremony include Joe Torre, Lou Piniella, Jim Leyland, Andre Dawson and Tommy Lasorda.

The Rays held a moment of silence for Zimmer before Thursday’s game against the Miami Marlins at Tropicana Field.

It was the first public tribute for Zimmer in Tampa Bay, since the Rays did not announce his death during Wednesday’s game.

The Rays also have set up electronic billboards around the Bay area to display Zimmer’s picture and his No. 66.

Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist remembered Zimmer as one of the forces behind the organization’s turnaround that begin in 2006, Zobrist’s rookie season.

“I think he was a big part of that,” Zobrist said. “There’s no doubt that having him here for our coaching staff to bounce things off, for the players to bounce things off, having him around the clubhouse on a daily basis was kind of an accountability of sorts.”

Rays manager Joe Maddon often asked Zimmer to talk with a player who was struggling, because Zimmer had the rare ability to connect with rookies and veterans.

“Don’t underestimate how important that is. That’s really important,” Maddon said. “A lot of kids today, it’s like listening to their parents. They don’t.

“But if the grandparent comes along, they do. And Zim was kind of like the grandparent.”

Maddon said it was unique for the Rays to have a member of the staff with 66 years of professional baseball on his résumé, 56 of those spent at the major-league level. Zimmer was a member of 19 playoff teams as a player, coach or manager and was affiliated with six World Series winners.

“We were very fortunate to have him here,” Maddon said. “Every organization should have at least one of those, because those guys make a big difference.”

rmooney@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: @RMooneyTBO

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