Rays ballboy is catching airtime
Leaping grab of line drive brings newfound fame for teen
ST. PETERSBURG -- In his introductory year as a Rays ballboy, John Adams has had a lot of firsts. But even the 18-year-old Adams, who also spends time as a ballboy, couldn't predict Wednesday afternoon's events.
Adams made a leaping catch to snag a ball down the left-field line, earning a spot in the Top 10 plays on ESPN's "SportsCenter" on Wednesday night and in "Web Gems" on "Baseball Tonight."
"I came home and didn't really think it was going to be on," Adams said. "And in the first five minutes [of watching TV] I saw it. It was exciting."
The young ballboy's catch -- a liner off the bat of the Rangers' Ramon Vazquez -- joined B.J. Upton's at the top of the highlight reel, and even the Rays center fielder was impressed.
"Hard line-drive hit, to see him jumping on his feet and to catch a ball like that, that fast, is pretty good," Upton said. "[He's] got some good athletic ability."
Not a bad compliment coming from Upton, whose own diving catch in center field ended Wednesday's game and quashed a late threat from the Rangers.
Although Upton said he had never seen any other ballboy make a leaping catch like Adams', pitcher Scott Kazmir recalled one several years back.
"We had a guy, Ricky, that caught one," Kazmir said. "One time [Ricky] had to dive. [But] it was more of a fall. So, [Adams'] was the best one to me."
Fresh off his newfound fame, Adams was amazed by all the attention his catch generated. Even other Rays batboys could be heard whispering about the grab in the Rays clubhouse on Thursday afternoon.
"A bunch of friends, family, people I hadn't heard from in years [called]," Adams said. "So it was pretty cool."
The first-year ballboy has been a fan of the Rays since the franchise's inception in 1998 and said he applied for the ballboy position this season because it was the first year he was eligible.
Although Adams was bummed to receive the duties for the visiting clubhouse, he says the experience has been worthwhile.
The Palm Harbor, Fla., resident, who is also working at Hollywood Video to save money for college next year, is more accustomed to throwing the ball than catching it.
"It was so quick -- kind of bang-bang -- that I didn't have much time to think," he admits. "Which was probably a good thing ... I'm a rookie, I've never caught one in the air."
He just throws them.
Adams was a pitcher for Countryside High School's baseball team and says he would like to continue to play baseball when he goes to college next year.
The teen said he often struggles to keep his emotions in check in the visiting clubhouse, particularly when Kazmir, one of Adams' favorite Rays players, is on the mound.
But, Thursday morning, it was the Rays ace watching Adams on national TV instead.
"I saw it a couple times," Kazmir said. "I think he was excited. It's awesome."
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.