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Sonnanstine's parents make pilgrimage

Sonnanstine's parents make pilgrimage

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Last year, Tampa Bay rookie pitcher Andy Sonnanstine heard some guys talking about files that are kept at the Baseball Hall of Fame on every player who ever played Major League Baseball.

He mentioned it to his parents on a cab ride to Fenway Park, and they decided to visit Cooperstown and check it out. But when Don and Joyce Sonnanstine opened their son's file, it was empty. And they just couldn't let it stay that way.

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The Sonnanstines visited Cooperstown on Wednesday, following his Game 4 win in the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on Tuesday, to make a donation to the A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"I have been putting together some scrapbooks and I had a box of clippings set aside for the Hall of Fame," said Joyce Sonnanstine. "It is a little crazy and not in any order, but I will do better next time."

Sonnanstine's Rays have gone from a Major League-worst finish last year to first place in the AL East and a 3-2 lead in the ALCS in 2008.

"The team is young and are just a group of friends, there is no one big name leading them," said Joyce.

"They are just enjoying the moment," added Don.

Sonnanstine is a part of one of the youngest rotation in playoff history. The Tampa Bay Rays have five starters with an average age of 24.6.

"You can't tell if he's nervous," said his dad. "He is very calm and sees it as a strength not to show emotion."

Their son grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, where Don and Joyce still live, following the Indians, and Andy now faces some of the toughest hitters in the game.

"At first, you are in awe of these guys, but this year Andy struck out [Jim] Thome and [Ken] Griffey, the guys whose baseball cards you searched for over the years," said Don.

"He now gets to face the people he watched and admired," said Joyce.

The entire Sonnanstine family has become involved in the Rays' journey toward the Fall Classic. Andy's three sisters watched the game in Boston and other family that couldn't be there is following closely.

"It is great to see how this has spread through the family," said Don. "Joyce's mother is almost 90 and has vision problems, but always gathers with people to watch or listen to the games."

They've even had Tampa Bay fans from Florida send them newspaper clippings to make sure they get them. Some of those clippings are now in his file at the Hall of Fame.

But Sonnanstine is no stranger to Cooperstown. His 13-year-old travel team visited baseball's hometown, and he pitched on Doubleday Field. Now that his parents have come back to visit, they see the Hall of Fame a little differently.

"It is so neat to come here and the plaque gallery gives me chills," said Joyce.

"The Hall of Fame is impressive, but now that Andy is in the big leagues, it definitely adds meaning," added Don.

Samantha Carr is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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