Tampa Bay Rays’ Evan Longoria Provides Needed Leadership

January 17, 2011 – 10:50 am by timgunter

In just three years, Tampa Bay Rays’ Evan Longoria has established himself as one of the elite third basemen in the Major Leagues.  In his rookie season, on his way to winning Rookie of the Year, he slugged 27 home runs with a decent average and good production in other offensive categories despite only playing in 122 games.  He followed that up with a strong sophomore campaign in which he increased his totals in all five of the major hitting categories.  Although he had a great second season, there was reason to believe that he would perform even better in his third year.  In 2010, Longoria showed marked improvement and set a career best in steals and batting average.  However, he also saw his homer un, RBI and run totals drop, and actually hit five less (22) than he did in his rookie season.  However, the decrease in power did have some advantages for his game.

Longoria saw his strikeout total drop and his batting average rise by 13 points.  While you could call last year’s totals a letdown, I would actually argue that our expectations were just a little bit too high.  It is easy to forget that, at age 25, he is still learning.  Longo is still probably a season or two away before we see his real potential, but I would think it is safe to say we will see him continue to improve as a hitter.

Evan Longoria joined Fox Sports Radio with Petros and Money to talk about the strange route he took to get to where he is in the major leagues, what it was like to get drafted by the Rays and land in a division with the Yankees and Red Sox, and how the Rays are going to do moving forward in the division with a retooled Red Sox and Yankees club.

On the strange route he took to get to where he is in the major leagues:

“I was a slow-developing kid.  In high school, I was just a lot smaller than I am now, a lot less athletic due to the fact that I was just a late-bloomer.  I didn’t really become a man until I was really out of high school and even out of junior college.  That really was the turning point for me when I really started to put on weight and gain a little speed and strength in that junior college year and I was able to take that into Long Beach and turn it into something pretty good.”

Whether he has noticed a difference in players attending college vs. those joining the minor leagues and working their way up:

“For me, if I was telling my son to go one route or the other I would definitely advise him to go to college.  The transition from high school to professional baseball is a huge step, a huge jump.  When I got out of college I went into rookie ball, and A ball and AA ball, that first year I didn’t feel overmatched to a certain extent.  I mean I felt that I was a little bit out of place just because there had been guys that had been playing from high school on and they had been playing baseball for five or six years but I didn’t feel too overwhelmed.  I thought college was a big help for me.”

What it was like to get drafted by the Rays and land in a division with the Yankees and Red Sox:

“I will tell you what; at the point I didn’t know a whole lot about the Rays.  I knew that they were a kind of bottom feeder of that division at the time but that was something that I wasn’t even looking at.  I mean I was looking more towards just getting out and playing professional baseball and seeing where I matched up with guys who are already in pro ball and just having the opportunity to play pro baseball in general.  Once I got higher and higher up, I started watching the big club a little bit more and see what they were doing.  When I got up in 2008 when I had a chance to be up it was such a magical experience I mean all of the pieces fell into place for us.  It was just something that I look back on and can’t believe happen but just so happy to be a part of it.  I wasn’t really looking at that point to make an impact at the major league level.”

How the Rays are going to do moving forward in the division with a retooled Red Sox and Yankees club:

“Well I am positive.  I am very positive.  We have a great group of guys, a great core group of guys that I have been around since I signed in 2006, David Price, Reid Brignac, BJ Upton, Sean Rodriguez now from the Angels, Matt Joyce.  We have a lot of guys that have been with us still, James Shields and all of our starting staff is pretty much still together minus Garza.  So we got a lot of talent left within our organization and I am really looking forward to doing what we did last year.  Again, we know, and I have known this since 2008 when I got up, it is tough to be in the market we are in to make those big moves like the Yankees and the Red Sox.  That is something that we have dealt with obviously in the three years that I have been up and been able to have some success with it and I think that is what we are looking forward to doing this year as well.”

Evan Longoria on Fox Sports Radio with Petros and Money

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