Tampa Bay Rays
Allen wastes no time fitting right in
ARLINGTON, Tx. - You walk into a strange clubhouse two weeks after the season started, look for your locker, search the room for familiar faces and hope you fit in with your new team. Unless that new clubhouse belongs to the Rays, because your new teammates have a way of drawing you out. "You have guys who come up and talk to you," Chris Gimenez said. "You don't have to sit there and say, 'Hey, man, my name is Chris. My name is Brandon.' You have plenty of guys coming up talking to him, welcoming him to the club, 'Hey man, good to have you here.' It may not sound big, but that's huge for a guy." Brandon, of course, is Brandon Allen, who joined the Rays on April 21 after being waived by Oakland, even though he was the A's Opening Day first baseman. His last at-bat was April 7. He struck out.Different story in Tampa Bay. Two plate appearances, a bases-loaded walk one night to force in a huge insurance run and a two-run, walk-off home run the next afternoon. "He's in now," Gimenez said. "He's good to go." The first month of the season has been a world wind, Allen said, from playing first base for the A's when they opened the season in Japan against the Mariners to struggling at the plate (0-for-7, five strikeouts) to being waived and claimed by the Rays. "Everything happens for a reason and everything is going to work out," Allen said. "I'm here as of now, and I'm thankful for that." The start to Allen's Rays career calls to mind another left-handed power-hitting first baseman with a habit for striking out and an even bigger habit of coming up big in huge moments – Dan Johnson. In fact, both were claimed off waivers from Oakland and joined the Rays on April 21, Johnson in 2008. Both crushed pinch-hit home runs in their first official at-bats, though Johnson's homer didn't come until Sept. 9 of that year at Boston because he was taken off the roster April 22 to make room for Gabe Gross. Still, the legend of Dan "Bleeping" Johnson began with a dramatic moment. Time will tell if Allen can make a run at Johnson's role as the Rays' all-time leader in seasons saved. Like Gimenez, who arrived in time for spring training after being claimed off waivers days before the start of camp, and even Johnson back in that wild 2008 season, Allen finds himself immersed in a culture that permits success because it encourages a player to be himself. "In this atmosphere you feel like you're going to succeed every time you go up there," Allen said. "Every time you go out to play you feel like you've already succeeded with these guys. Everybody is behind each other and then you come in (the clubhouse) afterwards and have a good time. That atmosphere absolutely lightens things up and you can go out there and have fun." Allen had his postgame whipped cream pie to the face and pulled the cord on the Captain Morgan sign that hangs in the corner of the Rays clubhouse, the honor given to the player of the game when the Rays win at home. "You're an outcast if you don't have fun," he said. "It's been an enjoyable experience. I hope I can stay a while." Allen is with his third organization in the past two seasons. Also, there are those Hideki Matsui rumors, and should the left-handed hitter with some pop eventually join the Rays, well, someone has to go. But Allen is a Ray now and certainly is one of the guys. And he is the author of one of the team's best moments of this young season – a walk-off homer that received plenty of airtime on ESPN and the MLB Network. "Best run around the bases so far," Allen said. "I don't know what can be better. Maybe doing it in the World Series."
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