Simply Baseball Notebook: Cover Stories

The Legend of Joey Gathright

February 2005

The Legend of Joey Gathright


The diminutive Joey Gathright maybe slight in stature (he’s generously listed at 5-10, 170 lbs) and unaccomplished on the diamond (he has just 52 big league at bats), but at the tender age of 24, his exploits have already reached legendary status – well, sort of.

Gathright was a sophomore in high school, or so the story goes, when a strange, if not reckless, idea just popped into his young head, "(My teammates and I) were just sitting there waiting on our rides after practice and for some reason, I went and jumped my first car," he explained. "I don’t even know why, it just happened."

This was no tiny car mind you; we are talking a mammoth Lincoln Towncar here, "I’ve done it probably 30 times," the Mississippi native said. "I just don’t do it anymore." When asked if this unique practice is restricted in his contract, Gathright simply smiled and said "Something like that."

There’s more to Joey Gathright than his car jumping ability, namely his speed. Just how fast is this gregarious youngster? Is he faster than teammate and reigning stolen base king Carl Crawford? "I don’t know," Gathright responded. "We’ll never race, so I guess we’ll never know." Apparently, neither could deal with the indignity of losing.

Curiously, the two have yet to exchange base stealing tips as well. "I am sure (Crawford) has his methods for stealing bases and I have my own that I’ve developed the three years I’ve been playing," Gathright explained.

Despite not playing baseball during his senior year of high school because of a shoulder injury, the Devil Rays selected the raw youngster in the 32nd round of the 2001 draft. After showcasing his blazing speed in the low levels of the minors, Gathright stole 69 bases at two minor league stops in 2003 and earned an invite to spring training in 2004. It was there where he opened the eyes of the big league staff, but was unable to crack the opening day roster.

Gathright however, took the demotion in stride, "I didn’t expect to make the team out of Spring Training," he commented. "I just wanted to show them what I can do."

After spending the early months of the season at Triple A Durham, Gathright was called up in late June and made his debut on June 25. Although his first stint in the big leagues was short lived, the fleet-footed outfielder did return to the majors briefly in late July and was called up when the rosters were expanded in September.

"I wasn’t really worried about going back down to the minors," the rookie said of his up-and-down season. "I have fun at Triple A, I like Triple A."

Joey Gathright has already leapt over cars in a single bound; can he now make the jump to big league regular in 2005? Stay tuned.

-David Zingler

Gathright's page @ Baseball-Almanac.com

Gathright's page @ TampaBayDevilRays.com


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