Feature: Tampa Bay Native Son Returns to Coach the Team
Meet Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays Manager
Kevin Cash says he grew up practically living at the baseball field near his house in North Tampa. “You hear about kids whose dads force them to play, well my brother and I never had to be pushed,” says Cash. “We got home from school, did our homework and couldn’t wait to get to the ball field to hang out with our buddies. We loved the game.”
Now decades later, Cash is completing his first year as manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, a dream job he could never have imagined back in his Little League days. It’s made even sweeter because the job is right here in his own hometown.
“I have received unbelievable support from the community,” says Cash. “Aunts, uncles, friends and people I haven’t seen in years have all leaned over the dugout to say hello. It’s been a very special season.”
Before the Rays, Cash was in Ohio, where he managed the bull pen for the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland was great, he says, but Tampa Bay is home. Besides, this past winter, while his buddies in Cleveland were snowed in, Cash took pleasure in texting that he was out on the patio and it was 75 degrees.
When he’s not focused on baseball, Cash enjoys family time at his home in Westchase. He and his wife Emily have three young children—daughters Camden, 9 and Ella, 8, and son J.D., 3.
The girls aren’t that into baseball, says Cash, but J.D. is never without either a fishing pole or a baseball in his hand. It just might be in the family DNA. Cash, his father and his late uncle all played baseball, first in high school and college, then later in the pros.
“Growing up in that type of environment really helped me enjoy the game at a young age,” says Cash. “I was a kid who loved to practice. I liked being in the batting cage just as much as I liked the game.” Cash went from Little League to the baseball team at Gaither High School in Tampa, and then Florida State University. After college he had stints with the Red Sox, Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. He played with the Rays in 2005, back when the team was still called the Devil Rays. In 2011, he stopped playing ball and moved into management.
Was it tough to follow in Joe Madden’s footsteps? Not at all, says Cash, who at 38, is also the youngest manager in the league. “Often when a new manager comes in, it’s because something bad happened, but what an opportunity it has been for me to come into such a great culture with a great group of players,” says Cash.
What can fans expect from this year’s upcoming season? Cash says he’s excited and optimistic. “Last year was a learning experience for me, but we have a solid foundation. And at the end of the day, the Tampa Bay Rays are a very competitive team.”