11 Exciting Factoids About MLB’s Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays

MLB’s Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays rank as a favorite for many for countless reasons. While some are taken by its legacy, others are drawn in by the Tropicana Field, formerly known as the Florida Suncoast Dome or Thunderdome, which was built to beckon The Rays to the area. It’s well recognized that the Rays are one of the most colorful teams in baseball and  it’s a fact that their faces are always painted for battle. However, there are some other facts that aren’t quite as well known.

  1. Did you know that the Tampa Bay Rays were featured in the film, ‘The Rookie’? MLB player Jim Morris, who had had a sparkling but brief career, was a 35-year-old baseball coach who was able to pitch 98 miles per hour. For two seasons, he was a relief pitcher for the Rays.
  2. Raymond is the official mascot of The Rays. Raymond was once identified as an undiscovered species of dog… a seadog by the name of “Canus Manta Whatthefluffalus.”
  3. DJ Kitty, a cat wearing a Rays jersey that uses a turntable, went viral in 2010. The black and white feline was featured on the MLB.com and Huffington Post sites and in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times online. Of the cat, some spectators said, “It’s just too much for words. So awesome it hurts.” It’s a fan ritual to rally around DJ Kitty.
  4. While the stadium, Tropicana Field, was constructed for baseball, a host of other sports utilize the facility, including soccer, tennis, and equestrian events. In fact, in 1996, Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals took place at the arena, and visitors were able to watch Lightning and the Philadelphia Flyers go toe-to-toe. With more than 26,183  people fans in attendance, it was the largest single-game attendance figure in NHL history.
  5. Local Tampa Bay leaders sought to acquire another MLB baseball team during the 1980s and 1990s before opting to create a new one, The Rays. According to reports, the Chicago White Sox, the Minnesota Twins, the Texas Rangers, the San Francisco Giants, and the Seattle Mariners were among the many considered for relocation to the Tampa Bay area.
  6. More MLB  Spring Training games have been played in St. Petersburg than any other city. This is impressive considering the MLB didn’t arrive in Tampa Bay Rays until 2008.
  7. Following the conclusion of 2007, Stuart Sternberg, who then had the controlling interest in the team, changed the team’s name from “Devil Rays” to “Rays,” so that it would refer to the sunshine, rather than a manta ray.
  8. The Rays Republic, which is the moniker for the team’s fan base, has a host of notable fans and outrageous traditions.
  9. Once a year, the Rays hold a “cowbell night,” and free cowbells are giving away, meant to ring when the opposition’s batter has two strikes when the Rays make a good play, or when the opposing team’s fans chat. Principal owner Stuart Sternberg got the idea from the Saturday Night Live sketch.
  10. Frequently, Rays games receive visitors, who happen to be… wrestlers? In the past,  The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobs and Jerry Sags), Brutus Beefcake, and Hulk Hogan have made appearances during games. John Cena has also made numerous appearances.
  11. Since the 2008 World Series, the Rays players and coaches have taken to wearing mohawks during the playoffs.


Tampa Bay’s Millennials are Encouraging Winn-Dixie, Publix to Carry Local Products

stephen overtonMillennials are provoking grocers, such as Winn-Dixie and Publix, to carry products that are produced in/near/around the Tampa Bay area.

Mike’s Pies, a 20-year-old staple in the Tampa Bay community, is an example of homegrown goods that’s been featured in supermarket Winn-Dixie. On its Winn-Dixie’s shelves for more two years, the 9-inch pies have sold well, selling at $7 to $8 each. Today, Mike’s Pies can be found in more than 500 Winn-Dixie bakeries. Sales are climbing for Mike’s, it’s now up 57 percent. The relatively small company has 64 employees who prep and bake 30,000 pies each week.

Over the last handful of years, consumers have expressed a hunger and thirst for local and regionally produced items. Grocers are making the effort to meet demands, and this is positively impacting small businesses and the local economy.

“I think what’s happening is everyone’s looking for that local brand they can associate with in the marketplace,” Mike’s Pies owner Michael Martin, told Tampa Bay.

Millennial consumers are the largest subset in the nation, and their shopping trends have changed the market, and their buying power is helping to dictate trend movement. Millennials are more inclined to buy local because they perceive it and made with better products. Millennials tend to be more trusting of these brands.

Publix Super Markets have created special branding efforts to draw attention to local products, aware that this will beckon Millennial dollars. “100% natural,” products with a name, or “made in Florida” are buzzwords

“Millennials have driven things now for the last several years,” he said. “Particularly for produce in the last few years we have made more of an effort to promote the fact that those items are grown locally when that’s the case.”

“I joke all the time that I’m really tired of the word millennial,” said Cammie Chatterton, owner of Tampa-based Bay Food Brokerage. “I’m at corporate Publix three to four days a week working on promotions, and at every meeting the word comes up.”

CDS Hot Sauce Products, which produces Tabañero Hot Sauce, has capitalized on this trend. Publix launched Tabañero in 1,300 stores this summer, coming a long way since it was founded in 2011, when it was exclusively sold in restaurants. The young population’s taste for the spicy condiment has helped to boost the CDS, which has reached a $1 billion valuation. The company is presently on track to sell 7 million bottles of hot sauce.

Grocers have developed a symbiotic relationship with local businesses than to the support of millennials, who are considered to be smarter about food and more conscientious about what goes into their mouths.


Tampa Bay Restaurant Spotlight: Taco Bus

Stephen OvertonThese days it seems like you can’t go wrong with Mexican food. There are so many ways in which you can spin a dish to have a Mexican flare, and with the help of worldwide chains like Chipotle, Qdoba and Moe’s Southwest Grill, Mexican/tex mex food is reaching new heights! Some of these major food establishments have locations worldwide based on their tremendous success. Just to give you an idea of success, Chipotle became a publicly traded company in 2006, with a share price of $42. In August of 2015, almost 10 years later, the stock price was valued at $750! Talk about a huge upside (Chipotle’s current stock price is $461).

Enough with Chipotle and the other leading brands, the point of this post is to highlight a smaller player unlike the brick and mortar restaurants mentioned above. Let’s cut to the chase and talk about Taco Bus, a delicious Tampa Bay restaurant on wheels! Taco Bus has locations in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Downtown Tampa, Brandon, University of South Florida, Soho and Lakeland. Taco Bus offers what you’d come to expect from a Mexican restaurant or taqueria: burritos, tacos, tostadas, quesadillas, tortas and more. Widely popular in the Tampa area, Taco Bus has been featured on two major food TV shows in Food Network’s Diner’s, Drive-ins, and Dives with Guy Fieri and Travel Channel’s Man v. Food Nation with Adam Richman.

During Guy Fieri’s visit to the bus, he tried chicharron tacos, butternut squash tacos and a chilorio torta. For those who may be unfamiliar with what a torta is, it’s simply a Mexican sandwich. Taco Bus makes their torta with pulled pork in an ancho pepper sauce with roasted garlic, refried beans, and cheese. On the television show, Guy remarked after having the sandwich that it was the best he’s ever had. For such a prominent TV star who’s visited thousands of food establishments, and being from California (a Mexican food haven), Guy’s comment is saying a lot!

On Man v. Food Nation, Adam Richman and Taco Bus owner, Rene Valenzuela, together made a beef kabob taco. Traditionally served as a shish-kabob, Taco Bus makes a unique play on the dish serving it up taco-style. On the show, Adam Richman said “the flavors are gigantic and unbelievable” and he doesn’t often have a taco that brings bacon and sirloin together.

If you’re looking for a quick eat and bold, fresh flavors, and happen to be in the Tampa Bay area, look no further than Taco Bus! To check out their main site head here, and if you like’d to get your mouth watering, check out the menu here.

A Beginner’s Guide to Wakeboarding

stephen overton

After a few months of the cold weather, I like to take a break and visit a tropical island.  It’s a welcome distraction and I indulge in the delights of the warm weather. One of my favorite things to do on a warmer day is hit the water. Laying out by the pool can be nice, but I prefer to be active. Wakeboarding is my preferred activity, but I’ll take surfing, jetskiing or snorkeling if you’re offering. If you haven’t tried wakeboarding, I want you to go out and do it now! Or, at least try it on your next warm-weather vacation. Like hiking, you should be prepared before you hit the water. To make sure you’re safe while you test out your new favorite hobby, I’ve put together a short list of tips to help you start wakeboarding.

First thing’s first, make sure you wear a lifejacket. This goes without saying, but I just want to remind you. Wear a personal flotation device (PFD) anytime you’re in the water. Once you’ve got your lifejacket on, find someone to be your spotter. Since you’re new to wakeboarding, you will need to have another pair of eyes on you. The spotter is responsible for you, and he, or she, will keep the driver alerted about your position at all times, and keep their eyes out for other approaching boats, or objects in the water.

Alright, so you have the very basics covered. Now, you have to get yourself on the board. Before you go out into the water for the first time, decide which foot you want to face forward. This is most basic wakeboarding tip, and you should know before you’re out on the water. Decide by figuring out which foot you intuitively place forward. Imagine you’re about to kick a ball or you’re catching yourself after a stumble, the foot you place first will be the foot that faces forward.

Now, take a beginner’s stance. Place your back binding far back, closer to the end of the board, and align it at zero degrees. You should be able to press your weight directly on the top of the rear fin. Your front binding should be between a 15-27 degree angle, and point slightly towards the front of the wakeboard. During your first few wakeboarding trips, you should use a shorter rope, so it’ll be easier to get up on the board and out of the water.

stephen overton wake boarding

Now that you’re on the board, stay as close to it as you can. Keep your arms and knees tucked in, and stay crouched down until your fully out of the water. As you stand up, take it slow and make every more deliberate, so you can evenly balance and distribute your weight. As you get up and out of the water, keep most of your weight on your front foot. Once you’re standing, remember to shift some of your weight back. As you’re standing, keep the row handle low. As you continue practicing, you’ll be able to hold it higher. The most important thing is to take your time. You should also stay relaxed, and avoid feeling frustrated. Practice makes perfect, and you will make mistakes, but that’s a part of learning. Remember, just have fun with it!


Dressing for Winter Hiking


Now that winter is in full swing, it’s time to get out and enjoy the crisp cold weather. Many adventurers will pack their gear and shy away from the cold weather, but I encourage you to go out and enjoy the winter. But, before you go out hiking, make sure you are fully equipped to handle the cold temperatures. Under the usual temperate conditions, you need to be careful. But, in the winter you need to be even more considerate of your surroundings and your gear. Here is some advice to make sure you can enjoy hiking in the winter.

Layering your clothing is critical. Your ultimate goal is to set up a hiking outfit that is comfortable in a range of activity. Ideally, you shouldn’t feel cold when you’re standing still, or sweat when you’re active. Avoid sweating as best you can. Remember, sweat evaporates extremely slowly in the winter. Once you stop exerting yourself, the remaining sweat can leave you cold and clammy. You can avoid this feeling by maintaining a steady pace during activity, and removing layers as you see fit. It is inevitable that you will spend some of your hike standing still, whether you’re waiting for a slower hiker, or stopping for a meal. So, whether you’re moving around vigorously or taking a pause, your clothing should be comfortable at any given moment.

You may be accustomed to dressing for the winter in your day to day life, and while the same basic strategy will apply to your hiking gear, you will need to be more thorough when dressing yourself. Your base layer is the foundation for your hiking outfit, it should keep you dry and move sweat away from your skin. You should wear something made of wool, or similar wicking fiber. Typically, hikers will wear their base layer with an additional layer, like a thin jacket or windbreaker. Next, you should add layers for insulation, like a fleece or wool sweater. The insulating layer should provide the most warmth, and should be easily added or removed. On top of your insulating layer will be a shell to protect you from the elements like wind, rain, or snow. Ideally you want your shell to be made of Gore-tex, or a similar all-weather waterproof but breathable material. The last layer will be your puffer jacket. Look for something with a down or high-quality synthetic filling, depending on your preference. This layer should be easy to put on or take off.

When you’re looking for layering pieces, stay away from cotton, even with your socks or underwear. While cotton is comfortable and breathable for everyday wear, it will absorb your sweat and trap it near your skin while you hike. Your cotton layers will become cold and damp, which is dangerous and could lead to hypothermia once you stop moving. Remember, the key is to stay comfortable and dry. Do your best to avoid sweating, so start out cold by removing a layer before you start hiking, you can add or remove layers as your conditions change. Adjust your pace to optimize your body temperature. Slow your pace as you hike uphill to avoid overexerting yourself, and move faster downhill to keep warm. Most importantly, communicate with your group. Do not force your slower hikers to overexert themselves, have them lead the group, or position them near the front of the group to set the pace. Hiking is an adventurous activity, but it is important to stay safe!



A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking Gear



If you plan to start hiking soon, it is important you pick the right gear to carry on your journey. It is crucial to your safety, as well as your progress, that you select the right gear for yourself. Here are some things to consider when shopping for gear.

Boots: One of the most important things you will need is proper footwear. Since hiking involves a lot of footwork, it is important you pick sturdy boots. Nothing can ruin a hike like a bad pair of boots. The right boot will provide comfort, support and traction. Hiking puts strain on your feet and ankles, so it is important to take care of them if you want to continue your development as a hiker. Boots should also protect you from the elements of nature, be sure you pick a pair that are water resistant, warm and sturdy. Please note: you will need to break your boots in before you take them on a hike. Otherwise your hike will be painful, with potential for blisters and twisted ankles.

Socks: Picking socks to wear on a day to day basis is easy enough, but you’ll need to be more thoughtful when selecting hiking socks. Pick thick moisture-wicking socks made of natural fibers like wool or cotton, or synthetic blends. Make sure to try them on with your boots, to ensure they work well together.

Backpacks: The size of your pack will depend on the type of journey you’re planning. Backpacks are categorized by size and measured in volume, using liters as standard unit. Remember, this is meant to measure space, not liquid. One liter will hold a little more than a quart. Smaller packs are ideal for day hikes, while larger bags work well for longer term adventures. No matter which pack you choose, do your best to carry only your necessities. Over-packing means using your energy to carry unnecessary weight. On the other hand, underpacking can create its own issues, so be sure to take inventory of all you needs.

Hiking Maps: I cannot stress the importance of knowing your path enough. The most experienced hikers travel with maps. They are vital to your navigation and safety. While trails may already be laid out in front of you, a few missteps can easily leave you lost. Make sure your map is current, and has a standardized form of measuring distance. The usual guideline is one inch on a map per mile. Before you start your hike, familiarize yourself with the symbols and patterns, so you know what to anticipate.

Stephen’s Other Website

You probably already learned that Stephen loves hiking.  Hike on over to his other website to see his great work with non-profits in the Tampa area by clicking the link below.

To Non-Profit Website

Thanks for stopping by…

Thanks for stopping by Stephen Overton’s blog dedicated to his hobbies and interests.  Walk the virtual coast with him and tune in for more updates about his passions.