Wednesday, March 20, 2013

“Rally plantain” coming to Tampa Bay?

Forget Gatorade! Try the plantain
If the Tampa Bay Rays have any sense this season, they’ll insist that their top relief pitcher keep a plantain in his pocket at all times.

Because it has become one of the comical gestures of the World Baseball Classic that came to a close Tuesday night with the national team of the Dominican Republic defeating the ball club from the commonwealth of Puerto Rico by a 3-0 score.

IT ALMOST SOUNDS like a larger-scale version of the Caribbean Series that was played last month (with Mexico’s team prevailing, instead of finishing at the bottom of their group as they did in this month's tourney).

Now as I write this commentary, I don’t know how much the "rally plantain” as it has come to be called deserves credit for the success in leading the Dominican ball club to an undefeated tourney and the bragging rights in international baseball for the next four years.

All I know is that Equipo Puerto Rico, which in recent days figured out ways to beat the baseball powerhouses of the United States and Japan, could not overcame the powers of the plantain.

 Perhaps the road to victory is for your top relief pitcher to keep a plantain (which depending on how ripe it is can look remarkably like a banana, but is a heck of a lot more starchy) in his pocket while sitting in the bullpen. Let's just hope he doesn't get hungry, or else your winning season becomes his snack.

FOR THOSE OF you who haven’t been paying attention to the baseball tourney played the past couple of weeks, Dominican relief pitcher Fernando Rodney is the guy who took to keeping a plantain with him during the ballgames – claiming it brings some sort of mystical power to the team.

Considering that the Dominican ball club was the only one to go undefeated throughout the tourney, and would complete that streak with a Tuesday night victory, perhaps something has to be said about all this hooey.

And not just a tacky joke about how Rodney really has a plantain in his pocket, so he’s NOT all that happy to see you.

It’s an amusing anecdote, and a cutesy picture whenever Rodney whips the plantain out of his pocket and waves it about.

SO HOW DOES this linger on?

For Rodney is the veteran pitcher in the U.S. major leagues who last season was the top relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays – 48 saves and an ERA of 0.60. Although it should be admitted that Rodney has pitched professionally in the major leagues here for a decade, and 2012 was by far his best season.

So who’s to say how effective he’ll be in St. Petersburg, Fla., when he pitches this season? Although he has looked fairly sharp on the pitching mound during this tourney (even if you think that cap tilt of his is a tad silly).

What could hurt with the rally plantain making an appearance at Tampa Bay ballgames? Even though Rodney himself said during post-game interviews Tuesday night that the plantain's powers would be put to rest until the next World Baseball Classic come 2017!

AT THE VERY least, it could provide an entertaining moment for the fans – or at least the ones who bother to show up. For the Rays are in that perpetual argument about a lack of attendance despite the fact that they have shed their long-time losing ways in recent seasons.

Supposedly, their stadium is a deadly-dull domed arena that has no personality. Let the rally plantain become a part of the atmosphere.

That is, unless, some umpire actually thinks there’s a reason that a plantain somehow gives a pitcher an undue advantage and tries to ban the banana-like fruit!

The “power of the plantain!” Let’s make it the latest baseball import from Latin America as we prepare for the April Fool’s opening of the regular season in this country.


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