Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A hometown favorite

By Larry Young

Rays outfielder Matt Joyce hasn’t adjusted to playing at home.

But upon meeting him it’s clear the Tampa native and former Armwood High School star is happy to suit up for his hometown squad.

Before Wednesday’s game against Kansas City, he said he still “gets chills” when his name is called during the starting lineup.

“They were going nuts out in right field, yesterday,” Joyce said. “I heard them cheering Armwood, Armwood. That makes me feel wanted, and it gives you that confidence to go out and play at the top of your ability.”

He’s certainly done that with three home runs in the last five games.

The downside, however, is keeping up with ticket requests from family and friends.

“I try to limit it as much as I can because it is a distraction,” Joyce said. “This year I have 10 people that I get tickets to. Last year I had 20. If I can cut it in half, I’ll be doing a lot better.”

Entering yesterday's game, Joyce was hitting .316 with six RBIs, manager Joe Maddon felt great about his team’s new addition.

“His hands are exceptional and the ball really comes off the bat hot,” Maddon said. “I’m a big believer in him and I think he’s going to be a MLB player.”

Hopefully Joyce will one day about his pregame chills. But as his name was called and he trotted out to right field the fans greeted him with yet another warm welcome.

“I was wrecked,” Joyce said. “I had butterflies. I tried deep breathing but that didn’t help.”

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