Tampa Bay Rays
Conrad proves to be big hit with Rays
ST. PETERSBURG - The latest do-everything utility infielder for the Rays is named after Brooks Robinson. How cool is that? And it has nothing to do with the fact his mother, Gail, played third base for years in a coed softball league in southern California. Gail and Jerry Conrad lived outside of San Diego when their little bundle of joy came along in January, 1980. They are baseball fans. They both admired the Orioles hall of fame third baseman. They named their little boy Brooks. Brooks Conrad made a couple of plays during the second inning of Friday's win that would have made Robinson smile. First, he scooped up a slow roller with his bare hand and threw the runner out at first base. One batter later he moved to his left to field a sharply hit grounder and started an inning-ending double play.Like the other mid-season acquisitions the Rays have made – outfielder Rich Thompson and infielder Drew Sutton – Conrad is familiar with the back roads of baseball, having spent seven years in the minor leagues before breaking the surface of pro baseball with Oakland A's in 2008. He made his big league debut at Tropicana Field. He was 0-for-3. "I always hoped that I would get a chance to get up here and make it," Conrad said before Friday's game. "As long as I had a job every summer I was fine with that. I'd go out there and play my hardest. Once I got my first taste of it I kept working and hoped I would get the opportunity to stay." He didn't stay long in Oakland but caught on with the Braves in 2009, where he spent the entire 2010 and 2011 seasons in the big leagues. You might remember Conrad as the guy who committed three errors in Game 3 of the 2010 National League Division Series when, playing second base, he booted three plays, including one in the ninth that allowed the Giants to win 3-2. The veterans in the Braves clubhouse were waiting for Conrad after the game, having formed a circle with their chairs around his locker. It was a much-appreciated show of support. And those who covered that game remember how Conrad patiently answered every question, talking responsibility for putting his team on the brink of elimination. "You got to own up to your mistakes," Conrad said. "That's how I was raised." Meet the newest Ray … Conrad doesn't wear batting gloves. His teammates give him a hard time because he gets dirty during batting practice. One of Conrad's biggest regrets is that he never played football, which he calls his favorite sport. He roots for his childhood football team: The San Diego Chargers. "Big Charger crazy nut," he said. He knows how to change a diaper. His wife, Jessie, is a nurse, and he's spent plenty of offseasons playing Mr. Mom. "It's a lot harder than doing this," he said of playing big league baseball. He's also parked cars, worked for a temp agency and drove a forklift while he and Jessie tried to make ends meet during his minor league days. Conrad wanted to be a baseball player for as long as he can remember. He used to grab a bat, toss a baseball in the air and smack it across the backyard. "I always wanted to be a baseball player," he said, "so I'm one of those lucky kids who is still doing what I always wanted to do."