Rays' tribute to Kiermaier 'meant the world to me'

Club's longest-tenured player is headed for free agency; 2 members of staff announce retirement

September 25th, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG -- In the middle of the second inning Saturday night, the Tropicana Field video board displayed a montage of ’s top highlights and most memorable moments with the Rays, featuring a photo of Kiermaier and the words, “Thank you, KK.”

As the crowd of 22,169 stood and cheered, Kiermaier stepped out of the home dugout and waved to the fans, potentially the last time he’ll do so as a member of the only Major League organization he has ever known.

Kiermaier said he didn’t see that moment as a goodbye. But it could be farewell for now, as he is expected to become a free agent when the Rays decline his $13 million club option this offseason.

“A lot of unknowns, but I truly looked at it as just a moment of appreciation. And whatever happens from this point on, I had the moment that I wanted,” Kiermaier said Sunday morning. “I don't know if I'll be putting on this uniform and taking that field again, or if I'll be coming into this building on the other side -- which is such a weird thought.

“But I looked at yesterday's video as an appreciation, and just, if it were to be my last moment here, it's like, ‘Hey, we got to do something for KK.’ And they did, and I appreciate it so much and it meant the world to me.”

It seems likely Kiermaier will land elsewhere next year. The Rays have plenty of outfield options, and they seemingly acquired his long-term replacement in Jose Siri prior to the Trade Deadline. But Kiermaier hopes to have talks with the Rays after he completes his rehab from left hip surgery this offseason.

If nothing materializes, though, he’ll always have that video and plenty of memories. The three-time American League Gold Glove Award winner and 2015 Platinum Glove Award recipient is the longest-tenured Ray, one of their longest-tenured players ever and ranks fourth in franchise history in WAR, according to Baseball Reference, behind only Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford and Ben Zobrist.

“It just felt good to get a warm reception in front of the fans that I love and in the place that has been a home for me for nine years,” Kiermaier said. “That video was absolutely perfect yesterday. I'm glad I was able to kind of have my moment out there.”

Similarly, Sunday’s regular-season home finale brought a moment to recognize longtime bullpen coach Stan Boroski and Major League medical coordinator Paul Harker, both of whom will retire at the end of the season. Boroski and Harker each threw out a ceremonial first pitch and received a framed jersey during a pregame ceremony.

Harker, an original member of the Devil Rays, has spent 26 seasons in the organization and 32 years in professional baseball. Before serving in his current role, he worked as an assistant athletic trainer for Tampa Bay (2006-17) and held several jobs in the Minors before that.

“I can't imagine anybody that is more unwavering than him to making sure players can get back on the field,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Whether it's day to day as the Major League trainer that he was for many years or now as a rehab coordinator, his attention to detail and passion for helping guys has been remarkable.”

Boroski, 59, is the Rays’ longest-tenured coach with 13 seasons on the staff and 11 full years as the bullpen coach. He joined Tampa Bay as an assistant to the pitching coach in December 2009, bridging the gap from former manager Joe Maddon to Cash’s staff.

Boroski made the decision to retire before the season began but kept it private until only recently. He intends to retire to St. Cloud, Fla., and spend more time with his family. He has already made travel plans with his wife, Carol, and bought concert tickets for next March.

Boroski said his most memorable moment with the Rays was coming back to win Game 162 in 2011. He teared up in the clubhouse Sunday morning when discussing his memories of the 2020 postseason, specifically when Tampa Bay beat the Astros to advance to the World Series. But he’s still hoping to add another moment to the list.

“Winning out in San Diego and the part that the bullpen played in that and getting us back to a World Series -- and that's the goal this year,” Boroski said. “I want to outdo that moment. That's the goal.”