ST. PETERSBURG -- St. Louis comes to town to begin a three-game series Friday night at Tropicana Field, which will likely tug at the heartstrings of Rays manager Joe Maddon, who grew up in Hazleton, Pa., as a Cardinals fan.
However, seeing the Cards this time around won't be as big of a deal as previous meetings against his favorite team.
Maddon first got a taste of seeing the Redbirds when he was with the Angels.
"We played in St. Louis when Jack Buck passed away," Maddon said. "That was kind of a strange but interesting time, because growing up as a kid, I used to listen to KMOX all the time. I would listen to Harry Caray and Jack Buck on the radio. And eventually Mike Shannon became an announcer. I got to know Shannon a little bit.
"Then we played there with the Rays. I think that was in 2008, our World Series year. And at that time, I did a lot of conversing with [Al] Hrabosky and Shannon -- got to meet Stan Musial. Then the All-Star Game happened to be in St. Louis. I remember being in my hotel, which was right across the street from Busch Stadium for the All-Star Game. And there's Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, and I'm thinking to myself about all those times laying on the hardwood floor in my parents' apartment growing up in Pennsylvania, listening to these games out here that was right across the street at the old Busch. It was a cool thing."
So the bloom is off the rose a little bit for Maddon, but he still thinks the weekend will be special.
"Playing them here right now, I think it's interesting for our fans to see the Cardinals in our ballpark," Maddon said. "They have a rich tradition within their organization. But I've kind of gotten over my little quirkiness from playing them with the Angels, then with the Rays, and the All-Star Game. That was kind of special."
Maddon said he tries to remember his allegiance to the Cardinals when thinking about Rays fans, particularly the young ones, who will grow up holding a special place in their hearts for Tampa Bay.
"I want to believe some kids are becoming attached to us, like I became attached to that team back in the day," Maddon said. "At that time, man, it was all about the radio guys. The radio heads brought you into the ballpark, made you think about it."
Maddon noted that today it's much easier for a fan to stay in touch with his or her team.
"Back then, box scores were difficult to come by the next day, because they played in St. Louis and I'm in Pennsylvania," Maddon said. "And if they played on the West Coast, it might be two days before you found out exactly how Lou Brock did, or Curt Flood did. With this instant [access], whether it's the media here, or buying an MLB package and watching them on a nightly basis, my God, how interesting would that have been to watch the '64 Cardinals play every night. So it's different.
"I think that we used our imagination more back in the day, because we had to. Today, I think there's less to the imagination, because everything is real time."
Zobrist collecting doubles at rapid pace
ST. PETERSBURG -- Ben Zobrist entered Wednesday afternoon's contest against the Reds with a Major League-leading 27 doubles.
"It's been a lot of line drives, and it's been both corners of the field," manager Joe Maddon said. "It really comes down to hitting the ball hard consistently. That's why good hitters are good hitters. And I think he's been making more consistent hard contact."
Zobrist has 10 doubles in his last 17 games, leaving him one shy of his career high for a season (28 in 2009). His 40 extra-base hits rank second in the American League behind Boston's Adrian Gonzalez, who has 44.
Zobrist is on pace for 55 doubles, which would shatter the club record of 47 set by Aubrey Huff in 2003, and is a figure reached only eight times since 1950. Baltimore's Brian Roberts was the last to do it, when he had 56 in 2009.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.