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
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
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
"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.