06/12/2008 1:36 PM ET
Eric Hinske: A career in the AL East
Former AL Rookie of the Year a welcome addition in Tampa Bay
I've played all seven of my big league seasons in the American League East. I came up with Toronto before joining Boston. Now I'm in my first season with the Rays, so I think I've developed a pretty good feel for the teams in our division.
It's unusual that I've played my whole career in one division despite changing clubs a few times. Maybe I'll spend my whole career in the AL East. People joke with me all the time that I'll be playing for the Yankees and the Orioles next. I'll be standing out in right field, and some fans will yell that out to me once in a while. It is kind of funny.
I don't know if there are any real advantages. I know the pitchers in our division, but they know me pretty well, too. The book on me is out there. Everybody pitches me the same way. They make some adjustments -- as do I -- and right now, that is the name of the game for me. I just try and stay one step ahead.
It seems like I have friends and former teammates on every team we play in our division. I have many good friends on those clubs, but, like all players, we put friendships aside when we're competing against each other. I take the approach of going about my business.
I'm from the Midwest originally, but I've grown to like it on the East Coast. I'll always be a Midwesterner at heart, but I love that there are so many good baseball fans in the East. I've enjoyed playing in front of the crowds both in Boston and Toronto, and we're starting to draw here in Tampa, too.
There's no secret to drawing more fans. It's because we're playing good baseball here in Tampa. We've opened up a lot of eyes this year. It's not simple to come in and beat us.
On the whole, our division is strong. New York and Boston are always there. The other two teams -- Baltimore and Toronto -- are very good this year, too. There are no easy layups in our division -- or the in entire AL, for that matter.
Our club has something good going on right now, and I think we have the talent and the mindset to sustain it. We take a consistent approach, and, if we go about our business the right way, good things will happen. We're doing that and we are having fun in the process.
It would be great for all of my teammates here to experience the kind of ultimate high I had last year with the Red Sox. Winning a World Series title will always be special for me. The way the Red Sox gave me my championship ring a couple months ago was pretty cool, too.
Both the home and visitors clubhouses connect to the weight room at Tropicana Field. I was told that someone wanted to see me in the weight room, and when I walked in, the whole Red Sox team was waiting for me with the ring. I got a lot of hugs, and it was a real special moment.
It was cool that I was able be a part of a club that won a World Series championship, and nobody will ever be able to take that ring away from me. But now, I'm 100 percent focused on helping the Rays win their first title.
Eric Hinske broke into the Majors with the Blue Jays in 2002, winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award. With 11 homers so far this season, he's tied for the Rays' lead with Carlos Pena and just four shy of 100 for his career.