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Saturday, Oct 20, 2018
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Wake-Up Call: Rays' Longoria riding high

The Wake-Up Call greets you each weekday with news, views and a few Tampa Bay area sports offerings to anticipate for the day and night. We encourage suggestions and contributions. Good morning! Here's a sobering thought: At his current pace, Rays third baseman Evan Longoria would finish this season with 168 RBIs. "We have big expectations for Evan,'' Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "But I think his run production is kind of on the high end right now.''
Kind of. Going into tonight's game against the Kansas City Royals, beginning a three-game series at Tropicana Field, Longoria leads the majors in RBIs with 55, while hitting 13 home runs and batting .327. "Obviously, you don't come into a season thinking you're going to be doing this well at this point,'' Longoria said. "You do prepare yourself for success and I prepared myself the best I could. With the routine I have, whether the results are there or not, you've got to continue to trust it." "I really haven't had a rough patch yet. I had a little slight scuffle [of a slump] on the last road trip. Other than that, I've felt pretty good. I've got to try and ride this out as long as I can.'' Two months into the season, Longoria is riding high. "Honestly, I can't say I'm surprised by anything that guy does,'' Rays pitcher James Shields said. "He thrives in the spotlight and has fun with it. He hits a home run and you can just see the smile on his face. He's one of the best I've ever played with - if not the best.'' The fans have noticed - and not just around Tampa Bay. Today's American League All-Star Game totals show Longoria leading all players with 1,036,071 votes, passing last week's leader, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. One year ago, Longoria was a rookie, still adjusting to major-league status. Now it seems like he has been here forever. "I don't play for the personal accolades, but obviously it's a great feeling to be recognized by the fans,'' said Longoria, a late addition to last season's AL All-Star team and also a participant in the Home Run Derby. "When you are being noticed, respected and liked by the fans, that makes you feel good when you go home at night.'' Only six players in baseball history have compiled a season with at least 168 RBIs (Hack Wilson has the record with 191 in 1930). But let's say Longoria cools off somewhat down the stretch. Even if he slows down to 150 RBIs, that has been accomplished only 12 times since World War II. "It's all about us being able to get people on in front of him,'' Maddon said. "If B.J. [Upton] and Carl [Crawford] get it going at the top, it's kind of stressful on the other team. It's always advantage Longo, advantage Carlos [Pena] in that situation. Evan likes being in the middle of this whole thing. He doesn't run from the attention. I actually think his work ethic has actually increased. He knows his job.'' Driving in runs. "As a three-hole hitter, when somebody doesn't make such a great pitch, you've got to make him pay for it,'' Longoria said. "But it doesn't always go as good as it has been going. Carlos and I in the middle of this lineup, it goes back and forth. One of us is going to be swinging the bat real well and the other one might be struggling a little bit." "Right now, Carlos is hitting the home runs [17 to lead the AL]. I told him the other day, 'You've got nothing to hang your head about. You're driving in runs and hitting homers. Your hits will come.' When I'm not swinging the bat as well, I look for him to pick me up.'' Two months into the season, Longoria's offense has been a constant pick-me-up for the Rays. He might not remain on a pace for 168 RBIs, but his early run production has everyone wondering.
How high can Longoria go? The Athlon Sports Big East College Football magazine is out and four University of South Florida players are on the league's preseason first team - defensive end George Selvie (also a third-team All-American), cornerback Jerome Murphy, safety Nate Allen and place-kicker Maikon Bonani. Second-teamers include quarterback Matt Grothe, running back Mike Ford, wide receiver Jessie Hester, offensive lineman Jake Sims, linebacker Kion Wilson and kickoff returner Dontavia Bogan. Offensive lineman Zach Hermann is on the third team. University of Central Florida women's basketball coach Joi Williams, who played at USF, has agreed to a four-year contract through the 2012-13 season. Last March, capping her second season at UCF, Williams helped the Knights to the program's third NCAA Tournament bid. Former USF baseball coach Jack Butterfield, who made his name coaching at the University of Maine (1957-74), was inducted Sunday into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame. Butterfield coached the Bulls for two seasons before joining the New York Yankees as a scout, then vice president of player development. He was killed in a 1979 car accident. After leaving USF, Butterfield was succeeded by Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts, who took the Bulls to their first NCAA Regional appearance in 1982. University of Tampa junior center fielder Tyler Cox was named recipient of a Rawlings South Region Gold Glove. Cox didn't make an error this season. He had 121 putouts and three assists. Cox is eligible for an NCAA Division II Rawlings All-American Gold Glove, which will be selected after the national tournament. Relief pitcher Tyler Clippard (Mitchell) hasn't allowed an earned run in nine of his last 10 appearances with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. Overall, Clippard is 3-1 with a 1.19 ERA. Since returning from his stint with the St. Louis Cardinals, outfielder Shane Robinson (Jesuit) has gone just 3-for-37 (.081) with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. Third baseman Jeff Baisley (Land O'Lakes) of the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats had a slow start this season, but he's batting .350 (14-for-40) over his last 10 games. Baisley's brother, Brian, plays for the Florida State League's Tampa Yankees. Gwen Mitchell, a partner with Deloitte & Touche, was elected for a one-year term as chairwoman of the Outback Bowl, the New Year's Day game at Raymond James Stadium. Mitchell has served on the bowl's board of directors since 2002. Additional officers elected by the board for the 2009-10 bowl include: Mitchell A. Shriber, CFP and financial consultant, AXA Advisors LLC, as vice chairman; Mike Kerrigan, account executive for WTOG-TV, as vice chairman of Hillsborough County; Kevin Smith, director of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission, as vice chairman of Pinellas County; Dale Dignum, executive vice president, First National Bank, as secretary; and Bill Cammarata, senior vice president, MetLife, as treasurer. Happy birthday to former University of Tampa offensive lineman Ron Mikolajczyk, who has the distinction of playing in four different professional football leagues - the CFL (Toronto Argonauts), WFL (Memphis Southmen), NFL (New York Giants) and USFL (Tampa Bay Bandits). Today, Mikolajczyk turns 59. Here's the answer to Monday's trivia question: Four members of Chamberlain High School's Class 5A state football runner-up team in 2001 have played in the NFL - defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (Eagles); wide receiver Brian Clark (Broncos, Bucs); linebacker/fullback Oliver Hoyte (Cowboys, Chiefs); and wide receiver Greg Lee (Cardinals, Lions).

Here's our daily sports trivia question, featuring a Tampa Bay/Florida spin. Try your luck by commenting below. Name the only graduate of a Tampa Bay area high school to lead the National League in RBIs.

Check for the answer in Wednesday's Wake-Up Call.
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