ST. PETERSBURG — David DeJesus was in the Royals' dugout that October afternoon in Kansas City in 2010 when Rafael Soriano struck out Mike Aviles to close out the Rays' 3-2 victory on the final day of the season and clinch the American League East title.
DeJesus watched the Rays celebrate on the field and later heard about the champagne showers and the champagne slip-and-slide concocted in the visiting clubhouse.
“I thought, 'Man, that would be awesome to be a part of,' ” DeJesus said. “And now I'm on this side.”
DeJesus has been in the major leagues since 2003. This is not only his first playoff race, but it's also the first time he's been on a winning team.
“It's cool, that's for sure,” DeJesus said.
Rays relief pitcher Jamey Wright has been in the big leagues since 1996 — two years before the Rays joined the American League. He spent last season with the Dodgers and nearly made the playoffs, though Los Angeles spent September chasing the San Francisco Giants.
This is the first time Wright has been on a team that has held a playoff position this late in the season.
“It feels soooo good,” he said. “It's intense. I like it. You want to pitch every game. You want to contribute every night.”
Before coming to the Rays, Wesley Wright had pitched for the Houston Astros since 2008, so ... playoffs?
The Rays claimed Wesley Wright off waivers in August. Like DeJesus, who began the year with the Chicago Cubs and made a brief stop with the Washington Nationals before being traded to the Rays, Wright has gone from a last-place team to one whose season very well could extend into October.
“Tonight was one of the most exciting games I've ever been a part of,” he tweeted after the Rays' 12-inning win against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday.
DeJesus was happy to be traded to a contender. Wesley Wright was glad to be picked up by a contender. Fortuitous moves for both players.
Jamey Wright signed with the Rays in the offseason with designs on ending his career-long playoff drought.
“You got the reigning Cy Young (David Price). You got (Evan Longoria) and (Ben Zobrist). You got a young pitching staff,” Jamey Wright said. “They already knew they were going to be pretty good before I came around.”
Jamey Wright said he dreamed the other night he was pitching in Game 7 of the World Series.
“Threw a no-hitter and struck out Randy Johnson to win the game,” he said. “Randy Johnson!”
Now that's pennant fever.
It's enough to make an 18-year vet who can remember playing on only two winning teams during his career dream. Especially when that 18-year vet is 38 years old and not sure how much longer he will play.
“My wife told me the other day this my last year,” he said. “She said it in 2011, too.”
Longoria, Zobrist and Price have played on playoff teams or playoff contenders every year since 2008, when the Rays shocked the baseball world by winning the AL East, the AL pennant and going to the World Series.
They know how to pop a cork.
Like DeJesus, Jamey Wright has watched other teams clinch playoff berths.
“Oh, yeah, that's a good time,” he said. “A good time sitting there watching that.”
Eight games remain in the season, and the Rays are so close to making the transition from playing meaningful games in September to playing mean-everything games in October.
“It's an honor and a blessing,” DeJesus said. “It's cool coming to the park knowing we have a chance to make history with the Rays.”
It's cool driving in the tying run in the bottom of the 11th with a two-out hit, which DeJesus did in the 12-inning win against Texas, and cool driving in the winning run in the bottom of the 18th inning, which DeJesus did to end Friday's nearly seven-hour marathon.
It's cool to be celebrating late-season victories.
“I've seen both sides now,” DeJesus said. “And I like this side better.”