Johnny Damon “You know I definitely miss the American League East. I just feel like this is where I belong.”February 10, 2011 – 7:00 am by Steven Cuce
Johnny Damon is finally returning home as he was the newest addition to the 2011 Tampa Rays along with Manny Ramirez. The irony of it all is that Damon and Ramirez were part of a “Big Three” in Red Sox baseball history along with David Ortiz that helped lead Boston to their first World Series title in 2004 since 1918. Damon was part of the crew that helabeled as “idiots” that helped erase the curse for the Red Sox. Now Damon will take his talents to Tampa and try to restore faith in organization that has lost an ample amount of veteran star players to free agency.
As a member of Detroit last season, Damon batted a measly .271 with 8 HR’s and 51 RBI’s although he did play in Comerica Park, which is known as a pitchers park. Damon feels he can turn up his game in Tropicana Field and he even had Scott Boras put a new “fun” attendance clause into this contract to prove it. Manny and Johnny look to prove the doubters wrong this season by leading the forgotten Rays to another AL East crown despite all the free agent losses in the offseason.
Johnny Damon joined WQYK in Tampa with JP Peterson to discuss how important it is to be playing with Manny Ramirez again to bring levity to the locker room, does he think he can hit more home-runs than last year now that he’s playing at Tropicana Field, coming back home to Florida and playing for the Rays, does he believe the Rays can win the AL East and a new “fun” attendance clause in his contract.
How important is it to be playing with Manny Ramirez again. Joe Maddon told the media this was a big part of bringing you two players in. How much levity does this bring to the clubhouse?
“Oh it’s very important to any team. I mean Manny takes a lot of pressure off of me. He’s going to take a lot of pressure off the young kids. Manny [Ramirez] is ready to go out there to the world and prove that he is still one of the best hitters around, but getting along with Manny [Ramirez] has never been work for me. I mean it’s always been easy. He’s always been a great teammate. He’s always been a great hitter.”
What about playing at Tropicana Field? Do you think you can hit more home-runs than last year?
“Well absolutely. I think that the American League East I think you’re probably facing tougher pitchers, but you also have some smaller ballparks. The Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium, the fight field line down in Fenway. You know playing in the NL or AL Central umm…you definitely took advantage of the extra base hits and all that stuff. I still ended up with 35 doubles, but the home-runs you really had to hit them, but it was a great experience to go play in Detroit. You know I definitely miss the American League East. I just feel like this is where I belong. I feel like Tampa is the place where I belong.
Tell me about coming back home to Florida and playing for your dream team in Tampa?
“You know I always wanted to play close to home and you know there’s something about it. You know just being able to get home whenever I want, see the folks. I’m a homebody. I love to have my friends around me. I love to have my parents around me. You know I lived in the Orlando area for 31 years now. I consider St.Petersburg…it’s part of central Florida and it’s something I’ve been waiting for a long time. I’m glad of the progress of the Rays team over the years. You know they’re no longer the laughingstock. They’re considered one the best out there with some of the best prospects, some of the best players. They’re making fans out of what they have here. We know there’s a lot of snow burned and all that stuff. The Rays are legitimately playing good baseball that a lot of people are going to start to follow them now and for many years to come.”
You believe you guys are contenders even with the pitching. You really believe the Ray can with the AL East?
“Absolutely. They had a strong team even before they got Manny and I. They’re are going to have to be some guys who are going to have to step up and play that every day position now. You know Reid Brignac, Matt Joyce, these guys are going to be called upon to step up their game and I think those guys are going to be ready. I meant the pitching staff. The starting pitching. This is going to be a good team for many years to come and also with all the draft picks they’re going to get come June. I mean this team could be very scary.”
You have an attendance clause in your contract? It’s kind of a fun clause? Explain it? You want the fans to come out and join you guys?
“You know the kind of things that Scott Boras is able to do. When he mentioned this to me I was just kind of taken aback. You know it’s a fun thing to have in a contract. You know it’s going to dictate on how well I play and how much I help this team win ballgames because if you win fans are going to come out a bit more. With guys like myself, who’s from the central Florida area, you bring on a guy like Manny [Ramirez], a lot of people will stay pay to see Manny Ramirez play, so this a fun clause. Hopefully we’ll get the fans out and ready to support a very good team.”