When we polled people around ESPN this week, asking about the biggest stories of the year, the rise of the Tampa Bay Rays was never outside the top two. The lock for Rookie of the Year in the AL is Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. In his words, he opens up a bit on what he was like before he landed here.
Work Ethic, And …
"From the time I can remember playing baseball, I always enjoyed being the guy that everybody looked up to. From day one in college, I was always the first one on the field, last one to leave. I enjoy being around the guys. That's where the work ethic comes from—that, and the time I failed a class in college."
My Failed Class. Ugh.
"First semester junior year, I had this criminology teacher who was a huge baseball booster. I was taking everything for granted, thinking I had the school by the balls and I could do whatever I wanted. I loved going to her class but I wasn't turning in any assignments. I didn't think she was going to fail me, but she did. That was a kick in the butt—one of the turning points in my career."
The Switch to Third. I Stunk.
"I was always a shortstop until I got to Long Beach State. I knew going in that Troy Tulowitzki was playing short and I was going to move over to third. Even though I started preparing for it before I got there, it was still a little bit awkward. I was always getting yelled at, especially my first year, because I was throwing the ball away all the time. We had six different bunt plays and I would mess them up non-stop. I'd run in and my coach would be looking at me like, 'What are you doing … you're supposed to be retreating back to third!' I was terrible my first year. I missed signs all the time at the plate. And not even during the game. After practice, we'd have a sign session. Me being the dumb kid, I wouldn't pay attention and the coach would call on me and I'd have to get yelled at. That was typical."
I Used to be Tiny
"My power is my biggest strength as a hitter, which is funny, because I was tiny in high school. After Friday night football games, we'd hit In-N-Out and I'd have two three-by-three's—that's like a triple cheeseburger—and some animal style fries covered with cheese, special sauce and onions. Still, I was only like 5'6", 150 as a sophomore. I had no power. I think I hit like five home runs in high school. Between high school and junior college is when the majority of my physical growth took place. I didn't work out at all, but I just started getting bigger. My one year in junior college, I hit 11 home runs."
"I didn't play football or basketball in high school, but I did play two years of water polo. I grew up swimming, and so one time during PE class I was smoking everybody in the pool. The water polo coach just happened to be there, so he asked me if I wanted to play. I did it because it was great for endurance. They say swimming is the best thing for you as a baseball player because it gets your arms and legs into shape. Back then, all I cared about is that it got me shredded up."