Chronicle of a Rays Fan in Afghanistan


Jordi Scrubbings, our correspondent in charge of all things sensible, is back with an update on his trip abroad…

I’ve been in Afghanistan now for two months. Two weeks after I arrived, baseball season started. While it’s not incredibly difficult to stay in the know on what’s going on with my favorite team, it does feel a bit weird being so removed after being so close for so long.

Before I moved to Tampa in 2006, I had to follow baseball from afar in the desolate burg of Tallahassee, Florida. All I had was SportsCenter,, and satellite TV at the local sports bars. Here, I have but only one of these options. There is a pub of sorts, but they cater to the soccer fans (they call it “football”) and they don’t have the MLB Package. So all I can do is follow along on my favorite websites, and sometimes swing by

All is not completely lost, however. We do have the Armed Forced Network’s sports channel and every so often that is put on in the office. I do sometimes see a highlight or two and I actually did watch a few innings of a Mets versus Marlins game a few weeks ago. Those new Marlins uniforms are going to take some getting used to.

As a contractor, I don’t have to wear military attire here in Afghanistan. Some might say that’s a detriment as I have to pick what I am wearing every morning, but after my few years in the military a while back, I think if I had to go back to wearing the same thing every day I would go nuts. I like a little variety in my wardrobe. Although most of my undershirts are of the plain, solid color type, I did bring a few charismatic tees to remind me of home. I brought an FSU t-shirt, an Obituary concert t-shirt, a Power Moves Entertainment t-shirt, and of course, a Rays t-shirt.

There is one small condition to wearing Rays attire in Afghanistan, however. I can never wear my shirt outside my dorm without another shirt over it. My Rays shirt has a huge “TB” on the back and unfortunately, TB is the often-used acronym for Taliban, public enemy number one over here. The last thing I want is for someone not familiar with Tampa Bay to think I was wearing a shirt supporting the bad guys. Or worse yet, to think I was one of the bad guys.

(Rays marketing people, take note: if you are ever going to try to crack the Afghanistan market, push “Rays” and not “TB”. You don’t want to be a real-life version of the mythical “Nova” marketing tale.)

Since I have been here I have met one other person with Rays garb. A co-worker of mine who said his son lives in the Tampa Bay area came in wearing a Rays hat. People of course gave him guff for wearing a “Taliban” hat, but from my perspective, it was good to see someone else supporting the cause, even if he was only a casual fan by blood.

Although I haven’t seen a pitch or an at-bat by anyone in a Rays uniform, there a few things I do know.

I know Fernando Rodney has been another in a series of annual bullpen discoveries by the Rays. I am not entirely surprised by this, but I didn’t think he would be this good. Outside of a certain incident with a broadcasting booth at that Trop, Rodney’s a professional and although he had been clobbered in the last few seasons, I figured with some tinkering by the Rays coaches he would either be good or the Rays would cut him in spring training. Then he would have pitched for a few weeks in Durham until catching on somewhere else.

I also know that the Rays have been bit by the injury bug quite often this year. On one hand, I am glad they are getting hurt early instead of later in the season, on the other, it doesn’t bode well for the team when their best position players keep going down with injury. Fortunately, the Rays keep finding enough spare parts in the wastelands and scrap piles of Major League Baseball to hold themselves over while their starting regulars get healthy. Hopefully they get all their pieces in place prior to the postseason push.

(P.S. I purposefully placed “p”s in parallel in this part of the post.)

I’m definitely not surprised by Matt Moore’s struggles either. A few long-distance observations here: 1) he is only a rookie who started last year in Double-A. There is a lot to learn at the Major League level. 2) In the minors, he traditionally struggled early in the season. Through June of 2010, when he pitched for Port Charlotte, he was terrible in the early going. The strikeouts were there, but so were the walks and hits and hence the losses and the high ERA. Don’t give up on him, he’ll be fine.

All this, and the Rays are duking it out for first place with Baltimore.

Wait a second. Baltimore? I leave the country and the Orioles are a first place team? What’s going on over there? How did that happen? What is going on in America?

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