We were lucky. We were fortunate to witness living history up-close, a rare gift made possible because of proximity and circumstance. It will be missed now that it is gone, like a breath that hung in chilled air.
Don Zimmer’s death Wednesday at age 83 served as a collected pause. There has been plenty wrong with this Tampa Bay Rays’ season of late — they enter a four-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Tropicana Field on a 10-game losing streak — but memory of the man they affectionately called "Zim" and "Popeye" became a chance to recall all that is right with a lifestyle he cherished.
He came. He saw. He loved.
His tireless passion touched the Rays since he became the team’s senior advisor in January 2004. He was a lifer in the truest sense, both an ambassador and a joy.
Zimmer will be remembered in a pregame ceremony Saturday at Tropicana Field. It will include a video tribute. Prominent faces from his past are expected to be present to pay respects. There will be poignant moments, scenes to capture both through camera and soul.
Eventually, baseball will be played again. The game, like life, moves on. It waits for no one man. A tie between its present and venerable history has been taken from this world. But more strikes will be called, more swings will be taken, more voices will sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" before the bottom of the seventh inning.
Here’s a look at the upcoming Rays-Mariners series:
SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS
Kyle Seager (Mariners): He hit .367 (11 for 30) with three home runs and eight RBI in seven games from May 29-June 4. He had three multi-hit games in the span, including going 4 for 5 with one home run and three RBI in a victory over the New York Yankees on June 2. He has hit .265 with nine home runs and 37 RBI this season.
Kevin Kiermaier (Rays): He hit .471 (8 for 17) with two home runs and two RBI in six games from May 31-June 5. He had hits in all but one game in the span (June 1 against the Boston Red Sox). He has hit .379 with three home runs and four RBI this season.
Justin Smoak (Mariners): He hit .077 (2 for 26) with 10 strikeouts in seven games from May 29-June 4. There were three games in the stretch where he struck out at least twice. He has hit .211 with seven home runs and 29 RBI this season.
Jose Molina (Rays): He hit .154 (2 for 13) with two strikeouts in seven games from May 30-June 5. He went hitless in five games in the span. He has hit .140 this season.
11: Seasons Zimmer spent with the Rays as a senior advisor before he died Wednesday in Dunedin, Florida. He wore 14 different uniforms in his 56 years in the majors as a player, coach and manager. His longest stint, however, was with Tampa Bay. He spent 66 years in professional baseball.
4: Times left-hander David Price has produced double-digit strikeouts this season, after he totaled 11 in the Rays’ 5-4 loss to the Miami Marlins on Wednesday at Tropicana Field. He allowed five runs (one earned) and nine hits in the defeat.
2010: Last time the Marlins won the Citrus Series before this year. With an 11-6 win Thursday at Tropicana Field, Miami won the season series 4-0, sweeping the series for the first time since winning three consecutive in 2003.
"Really difficult evening. I found out about the third or the fourth inning. I told the coaches. We didn’t want to tell the players on the bench at that particular moment. We kind of waited until the end. I just attempted to address the boys. It’s not easy. Yeah, we lost a good buddy tonight." — Manager Joe Maddon in speaking about Zimmer’s death Wednesday. The Rays honored Zimmer with a moment of silence before Thursday’s game.
"Honestly, from my perspective, everybody is on board with this. From the manager to the coaches to the players to the trainers to the clubhouse, we’re a pretty tightly knit group. To this point, and I hope it continues, nobody has been pointing fingers at anybody." — Maddon after the Rays’ loss Thursday. They’ve been swept in four consecutive series for just the third time in team history.
"It’s unbelievable, something that nobody has been a part of here. It’s almost to the point that it’s ridiculous." — Left fielder Matt Joyce after the Rays’ loss Thursday. Tampa Bay is one loss short of matching the 11-game losing streak lived from Sept. 3-13, 2009, the longest before the current skid.
PROMOTIONS AND GIVEAWAYS
June 6 — Tampa Bay Times Ticket Tandem Rays Beach Towel