ST. PETERSBURG -- Kevin Cash homered in his first at-bat for the Rays in 2005. On Monday, he followed suit during his first news conference at Tropicana Field.
Out of the park!
Because the Rays named Cash their manager Dec. 5 and the Winter Meetings in San Diego followed shortly thereafter, Monday's event provided the first opportunity for many of the Tampa Bay media to meet the Rays' new manager.
Moments before the start of the event that came 10 days after the Rays named him the fifth manager in team history, Cash, the doting father, could be seen at the podium smiling and giving an endearing peek-a-boo-type wave to his kids.
Family members were stationed all over. Among them were his mother, Patsy, his father, Mike, and his wife, Emily, along with the couple's three children, daughters Camden (8) and Emily (6) and son J.D. (20 months). Also on hand were former Rays catcher Toby Hall and current Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi.
Emily, who met her husband while both were students at Florida State, glowed, talking about how efficient, humble -- and cute -- her husband is.
Mike, whose arm will never be the same, according to Kevin, because of all the batting practice he threw him, offered that he was "thrilled to death" about his son's new position, adding: "It's mind-boggling."
And Patsy, well, she's finally quit crying. Kevin said she cried tears of joy from seven in the morning to seven at night after learning of his post.
Hall, who was Cash's teammate on the Rays, called Cash "the perfect choice" and Odorizzi said he looked forward to getting to know Cash.
As for Cash, he's already been asked many times about becoming the manager for the Major League team where he grew up. He is the sixth Tampa-born Major League manager, a list that includes the likes of Hall of Famers Al Lopez and Tony La Russa along with Lou Piniella, who managed Cash on the Devil Rays. Still, he added just a few words to put his situation into perspective.
"It's an incredible honor to be named a Major League manager," Cash said. "And I don't think you can quantify getting to do that in your hometown. So it's incredibly special. It's a joy to get back home. That being said, it's about time to work."
Part of getting to work for Cash means finding his way out of Joe Maddon's gargantuan shadow. The former manager of the Rays ended his nine-year tenure with the team by exercising an opt-out clause in his contract before agreeing to a five-year, $25 million deal to manage the Cubs.
When asked about his task, Cash complimented Maddon's fine work with the team, as well as everybody else in the organization responsible for creating a winning culture at Tropicana Field. He then explained his approach.
"I think you have to be your own person," Cash said. "You take some bits and pieces from a lot of the managers I've been fortunate to come across. But ultimately it comes back down to the relationships with the players and valuing their trust. Valuing their opinions and then kind of putting a plan into place once you get to know them a little bit."
Cash has already been on the phone with players trying to get to know those who will be on his roster. He planned to take Odorizzi out to lunch, in fact he plans to "have a lot of lunches" before Spring Training en route to building the relationships he considers so vital to the job. And so far, so good.
"I am extremely excited about the optimism and energy that everybody that I've been fortunate enough to speak with has presented," Cash said. "It's go time now."
Many successful managers over the course of Major League history have been catchers and many have come from modest talents. Of the latter, Cash was asked why the less talented have seemingly found better results as managers.
"I think you're forced to learn more to stay in the Major Leagues," Cash said. "And it goes the same way with building the relationships. Unfortunately, sometimes, players that aren't superstars have to go a little more out of their way to connect with people. And then compound that with a backup catcher role where you're constantly communicating with pitchers. I think from that aspect you definitely learn more. But you go out of your way to learn the game also."
Matt Silverman, who moved from his role as team president to president of baseball operations, conducted the exhaustive managerial search that resulted in Cash's hiring. Now that Cash has been on the job, Silverman likes the decision to bring him aboard even more.
"All the things that we thought about Kevin going into the interview process and ultimately when we hired him have ultimately born out already," Silverman said. "And it was very reassuring to all of us that when Kevin got into the room and was a part of all of our conversations, he fit right in. He displays the energy we've talked about in every single setting. He looks to connect with people and already started forming relationships within the organization."
Cash admitted that he's already begun to tinker with the lineup, too.
"We were talking about players and acquisitions and rumors and all this stuff [while at the Winter Meetings]," Cash said. "Finally, I just started writing on a piece of paper. Here's the lineup. And I didn't even say anything to Matt, I just slid it over to him. He slid it back. It was kind of exciting to get to do that. And that time will come where we get a lot more involved. But those thoughts, you don't go without thinking about them daily."
The final touch to Monday's news conference brought a lighter note from Cash when he was asked when he thought it was going to really hit him that he was the manager of the Rays, to which he smiled: "It's going to hit me as soon as I get done doing this. I'm tired of wearing the suits. I'm tired of having all these bright lights. I'm scared to death that my [baby] is going to break a $250,000 camera back there. So that will hit me as soon as I get [away from the podium]."
Yes, Monday was a good day for Rays baseball.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.