Like everyone, I followed the story of Lee Roy Selmon’s stroke and untimely death this weekend. I will not endeavor to add to the long list of columns that have already set out his legacy in such detail. He was a great man and a great athlete. In reading about all he accomplished, I was left wondering, who among the local Tampa sporting scene is ready or able to fill Selmon’s incredibly large shoes.
Part of Selmon’s legacy, maybe the hardest part to quantify, is that he was everything everyone expected him to be. There were no unmet expectations in Selmon’s life. There are a lot of Hall of Fame athletes. How many of them were the first ever pick of an expansion franchise? That carries unbelievable expectations (just ask Tim Couch). Selmon wasn’t just charitable (most professional athletes these days at least recognize that they should say they want ‘to give something back’), he was a true community leader that made Tampa a better place through his charitable and post-athletic professional efforts.
I really think there are only four potential torch-bearers for Selmon’s legacy: Josh Freeman, Vinny Lecavelier, David Price and Evan Longoria. I wrote about the young generation of budding stars earlier this season because the Tampa Bay sports scene is an entertaining as it’s ever been. By process of elimination, Vinny is the most likely to be Lee Roy 2.0 for several reasons. Like Lee Roy, he was the top pick of a struggling franchise. Like Lee Roy, he met and exceeded those athletic expectations. And, like Lee Roy, he has made Tampa his home and has taken a leadership role in one of the city’s most important charitable causes.
Price, Longoria, and Freeman have also met (at least to date) the high expectations that came with their draft position. But, Price, Longoria, and Freeman are all very early in their career and, combined, have a total of 7 professional seasons in this city, and in that time, none has either made Tampa their home or become the face of a non-athletic endeavor.
If I had to make a prediction, however, the next community leader to come from our athletic community is David Price. Price is still a young man negotiating the rigors of Major League Baseball but, there is something about his personality that leads me to three important conclusions:
1. He is a lifer;
Maybe it is naivete or wishful thinking but, there is something about Price that tells me he is not heading for a New York/Boston pay day. For whatever reason, he seems like less of a mercenary than Evan Longoria. I cannot quantify this or point to any objective evidence. I just think he’d be willing to stay with us (particularly in a new ballpark) for his career.
2. He is a leader;
Watch Price in the dugout some time. He is the nucleus of every conversation. When he is on the dugout rail haranguing an umpire, everyone else in the dugout is on the rail giving the umpire the business. When he is joking around between innings, everyone else is joking around between innings. That is a quality that cannot be learned and that is necessary to be a leader outside of the athletic forum. By all accounts, Vinny Lecavelier is a great guy that is loved by his teammates, but he doesn’t have that leadership “it.” When the going gets tough, Lightning players take their cues from Marty St. Louis. That doesn’t make Vinny a bad guy, it just separates Price from him when forecasting our future leaders.
3. He is charitable.
Price isn’t the face of any charitable activity in our community as of yet. In fact, he is behind Longoria and Freeman in this regard. But, based on what I hear from inside the clubhouse, he is a truly generous and friendly person. That always translates into charitable leadership. Here’s hoping Price follows Selmon’s lead in this regard.
Here is the beauty of the Tampa sports scene. There is a true abundance of young, talented, intelligent stars. Whereas a prior generation of Tampans were blessed by one Lee Roy Selmon, we have the opportunity to be blessed by two or more. That, in the end, is a fitting tribute to Lee Roy Selmon.