It's just stuff, really. Baseball jerseys, photos and newspaper pages tucked under glass. Silly-looking plastic figurines jammed into a few boxes. Dirty baseballs and scribbled-on scorecards. • A half-dozen empty champagne bottles. But as James Shields goes through the unexpected and uncomfortable process of packing up to leave the Tampa Bay area after spending the past dozen years in the Rays organization, he stops occasionally to muse that it's so much more — the remnants of the only life he has ever known. • "There's a lot of memories, so many memories, good memories," Shields said. "There's just a lot of stuff. It's amazing to sit here and think about how many years and how many things I've done. It's awesome."
Sad a bit, too. Amid the obligatory excitement Shields shares about joining the Royals thanks to the December trade, he admits there is pain in leaving, especially of someone else's volition.
"It's just bittersweet for me," he said.
"I've been in this organization for 12 years. I've formed a family here. That's the sad part about it. All the way down to Vinny (the Tropicana Field guard) in the parking lot. I've known a lot of people for a long time."
Shields was 18 and fresh out of a California high school when he showed up for his first instructional league camp. So while he has grown from a 16th-round draft pick to an All-Star and an ace, he also has grown up in the Tampa Bay area.
He and his wife, Ryane, bought their first house here, sent their oldest daughter to school here, had their second daughter here.
They also got heavily involved in charitable causes here, specifically to help foster children and the adoptive process, forming the Big Game James Club (which he said will remain in place at the Trop).
Leaving Tampa Bay area difficult for former Rays pitcher James Shields
Tampa Bay Times | Jan 25