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Staats' memoir illuminates value of positivity

Longtime Rays broadcaster details childhood, career in new book

As the title implies, the memoir by veteran broadcaster Dewayne Staats is more than an autobiographical collection of baseball memories and career highlights. It is positive and uplifting, even when he discusses topics that are anything but.

"Position to Win: A Look at Baseball and Life From the Best Seat in the House" chronicles everything from his Midwestern upbringing, to his nearly two decades of calling the action for the Rays, to everything in-between. And while there's plenty to tell -- he worked with Hall of Fame announcers Gene Elston and Harry Caray and for George Steinbrenner, after all -- this formula is common enough in memoirs.

What sets this work apart is the unifying theme throughout. Staats relates the concept of positivity to his own career, to baseball and to the world at large.

One consistent lesson is the value of persistence. Like many kids in the early 60s, he was a huge fan of baseball. Even though he lived in Illinois, he began following the expansion Houston Colt .45s as a natural extension of the Westerns he watched on Saturday mornings. But what really set him apart was that he wrote to Elston and, when he received a reply, began peppering the professional announcer with further notes, asking for autographs, proposing trades and eventually even arranging a meeting when the team, now called the Astros, visited St. Louis.

That relationship isn't the only reason he got his first big break when he was hired for the Astros booth in 1977. He had also put himself in a position to be in the right place at the right time by taking advantage of any opportunity to hone his skills, both in college and eventually in the Minor Leagues.

It's the same thing, he suggests, as when the Rays faced long odds on the last day of the 2011 regular season. Tampa Bay needed to beat the Yankees -- and needed the Red Sox to lose to the Orioles -- to secure a playoff spot outright. Boston, undefeated when leading after eight innings that season, lost in the ninth. And after trailing 7-0, the Rays came back to win in extra innings.

Staats credits the never-say-die atmosphere created by manager Joe Maddon with the comeback.

"The personality and mindset of these ... Rays prepared them for precisely this kind of situation ... They had put themselves in a position to win. And in life, that's what you have to do to have a shot at attaining your goals," he writes.

Maintaining a positive outlook isn't always easy. It certainly wasn't when his first wife, Dee, passed away from cancer.

He used baseball as a refuge. He tried to remain composed, a lesson that had been reinforced while covering the Cubs and watching Greg Maddux pitch.

"More than any pitcher I'd seen, the bigger the moment became, the softer he threw. Greg knew that hitters would be fired up, waiting for the fastball," he recalled. "I see a direct application to life. When you're in a crisis, maintaining a sense of calm ... is far more effective than yelling and screaming and possibly losing control of the situation."

As it turned out, a family friend, Carla, lost her husband around the same time. They eventually married.

Reading the book, it can seem uncanny how well-ordered his life has been. Job opportunities -- with the Astros, Cubs, Yankees, Rays and ESPN -- seemed to arrive at just the right time. Unanswered prayers turned out to be blessings in disguise.

Sure, there has been some serendipity involved. But Staats makes it clear that he believes faith, preparation and hard work are all traits that can improve almost anyone's circumstances in just about any field. This book makes a pretty good case that he's right.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for
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