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Rays’ Evan Longoria wants to lead less, produce more in 2016

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Evan Longoria isn’t worried about everyone else’s game. Just his own.

Longoria, long acknowledged as the face of the Tampa Bay Rays, is surrendering some of the leadership role in an attempt to bounce back to be one of the game’s elite players.

“Nobody wants that pressure every day,” Longoria told reporters at the team’s training facility in Port Charlotte. “For me, I felt it a lot last year. I was hard on myself. And I know that it’s not the best thing for you mentally.

“At the end of the season, it stinks. You’re tired, and sometimes it’s not as enjoyable being here because you’re so mentally drained. It’s more trying to take the weight off myself, but also knowing that the rest of the guys are capable. It’s not like I’m trying to trick myself into not having to do things or be a leader or whatever. I really feel like I don’t have to be anymore because we have guys who are capable.”

Still, Longoria remains one of the voices that can make the other Rays listen. That isn’t likely to change. But Longorgia’s numbers were ordinary a year ago, a .270 average with 21 home runs and a .273 average. He hasn’t been an all-star in six seasons. He was not on MLB’s list of 10 top third basemen in the game.

“I think I am (elite),” he said. “Maybe my numbers aren’t. I think there are a lot of different ways to impact the game. I would love to put up numbers that I did in 2009 or 2010.”

If that means not being in front on a daily basis, well, the Rays can live with it.

“I don’t have to do as much,” Longoria said. “I don’t feel that weight or that responsibility anymore. I guess maybe I won’t be so hard on myself. I think it really helps not feeling that pressure every day.”

As far as being a great player again, Longoria shrugs.

“I care about being a good player for this team,” he said. “That’s really all that matters. I could hit on home run, and if it was a home run in the World Series to help us win, that’s a successful year.”

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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