As reported by many outlets, the Rays will be retiring longtime baseball advisor Don Zimmer’s number on Opening Day 2015. The Rays will honor the late baseball lifer with a ceremony before the game where they will hoist his number 66 to the rafters alongside the numbers of Wade Boggs and Jackie Robinson.
While there is no doubt Zimmer should have his number retired and be recognized for his contribution not only to the Rays, but to Major League Baseball, I’m not sure Opening Day is the right day to do it. Opening Day is such a busy day for baseball, I’m afraid the acknowledgement of one of the most colorful characters in baseball history could be minimized.
The Rays play the Red Sox, Rangers, Mets, and Yankees at home this year. Don Zimmer either played for, coached, or managed each of these teams. If the Rays wanted to give Don Zimmer his own day, a better opportunity might be while the Rays play one of those teams, the first opportunity of which is Friday, 4/26 versus the Yankees.
Or the Rays could wait until near the 1-year anniversary of Zim’s passing. While they are on the road on the exact day (June 4th), they do play the Red Sox a few weeks later. The Rays could acknowledge Zim’s history with Boston on Friday 6/26. Or they could wait until August and celebrate Don Zimmer’s time with the 1962 expansion Mets when the National League New Yorkers visit Tropicana Field from Friday 8/7 to Sunday 8/9.
Another out-of-the box idea would be to host the ceremony on July 2 versus the Indians. July 2, 1954 was Don Zimmer’s debut. Retiring his number on the day he started his Major League career would definitely be a nice touch.
From strictly a business perspective, the Rays also miss out on the added promotion by retiring Zimmer’s number on Opening Day. Fans are already coming to the ballpark, and the Rays have no problem selling out Opening Day. The ceremony now becomes a bonus for them, similar in time (but opposite in meaning) to a pennant raising. By hosting a Don Zimmer Day on another day, the Rays can promote the event individually and draw fans who attend for the sole purpose of seeing the ceremony. They could turn a regular season game into an event.
I’m sure the Rays will do right by their longtime adviser. Don Zimmer meant a lot to the team, to the players, and to Major League Baseball. I just think that by retiring Zim’s number on Opening Day, the Rays may be inadvertently reducing the impact his recognition should have.