A helmet, and a helping hand for Victorino

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victorino_090903.jpgWhile David “Lord Helmet” Wright has suddenly become ashamed of his massive brain protector, Shane Victorino is going in the opposite direction.

The Phillies center fielder is giving the fancy new Rawlings helmet a try. Victorino has always kind of looked like a little leaguer anyway in that double-flapped model, so he doesn’t have much to lose.

Then again, the Flyin’ Hawaiian seems to like to do things his own way. And that’s often a good thing. Victorino, for instance, is doing his part to try to help out high school sports in his home state of Hawaii.

According to the New York Times (with thanks to the Sporting News), Victorino has cut a check for $10,000 to help out the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, which faces some tough budget cuts.

The fact that Hawaii is facing problems is not unique to the rest of the country during these times, but Hawaii certainly faces a unique set of circumstances. There are 95 high schools spread across the set of islands, and travel can be difficult and expensive, requiring ferry rides or — if lucky — plane flights.

And with no pro teams and limited college sports options, high school sports play a greater role in the lives of many residents.

Victorino said he felt a need to step up and help. From The Times:

At last count, officials had collected more than $700,000 of their $1.2 million goal, helping the association keep sports seasons going and avoid the prospect of forcing students to pay to play.

“It was almost like an obligation to do that,” Victorino said before a recent Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park. “It tells me something. In Hawaiian culture, everybody’s got each other’s back. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen anywhere else, but it is true in Hawaii. Family is No. 1.”

If enough money is not raised, athletes may be asked to pay their way to competitions, something Victorino said was unimaginable.

“You shouldn’t have to pay to play as a kid,” he said.

Rob Manfred says Tampa Bay must pick up pace on new stadium

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants Tampa Bay to work a little quicker on getting the Rays a new ballpark.

Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg has been working for nearly a decade to get a new stadium for the club and signed a three-year agreement with the City of St. Petersburg early in 2016 to search for a site in the Tampa Bay area. Manfred wants that search to pick up some steam.

“I think it’s fair to say we want the process to take on a better pace moving forward,” Manfred said Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, home of the Rays since their first season in 1998.

The Rays were averaging 15,815 fans per game before Wednesday night’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays. That is just over half the major league average of 30,470. Tropicana Field and its location have been almost universally blamed as the reason for the poor attendance.

“I’ve been pretty clear that they need a new facility here, a major league quality facility in an A-plus location,” Manfred said. “It is time to move that decision to the front burner here in Tampa.”

The matter of how a stadium would be financed has been tabled until a site is determined, but Sternberg continued to express confidence in the Tampa Bay market.

“I’ve had the opportunity to bail on it many times over the years,” he said. “I won’t say this is a slam dunk, it’s certainly not. But I think we can do something that’ll at least double our attendance. That’s a lot to ask for.”

Manfred said Major League Baseball “doesn’t have a firm timetable” for what steps to take if the Rays fail to get an agreement to build a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area, but but added that “it is a topic of discussion in the industry, the lack of progress.”

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Robinson Cano leaves game with hamstring tightness

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Bad news for the Mariners this evening: Robinson Cano left Seattle’s game against the Atlanta Braves with tightness in his left hamstring.

Cano walked off the field after legging out a double — his second of the game — in the third inning. He pulled up as he approached second base and walked off the field, accompanied by a trainer. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. The Mariners have a day off Thursday before opening a series at the Yankees on Friday night, so they have some time to evaluate him.

Cano is hitting .277/.377/.460 with 19 homers and 78 RBI on the year.