Evan Longoria is one of baseball's brightest young stars and a big reason the Rays have been atop the AL East for much of this season. The 25-year-old third baseman started the season at Triple-A, but he was called to join the Rays on April 12 and proceeded to earn a trip to the All-Star Game. He had hit 22 homers with 71 RBIs when he fractured a wrist on Aug. 7. Longoria recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com:
MLBPLAYERS.com: You've received a lot of media attention this season. How have you handled it?
Longoria: I feel like I've done a pretty good job at handling it. What we have done as a team has been a lot more than most people expected. It's certainly been more than I ever expected. It's fun. Besides, I enjoy talking to the media.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What question have you been asked the most?
Longoria: I've been asked a thousand times about what has contributed to our success. People are just trying to figure out what has changed this year when compared to every other year in our club's history. I have no problem with answering that question repeatedly. It's much better than answering questions about being in last place.
MLBPLAYERS.com: A lot has been made of the contract you signed a few months back. How long did those negotiations take place before you agreed on a nine-year deal?
Longoria: To be honest with you, I wasn't that involved in the contract talks. I let my agent handle the majority of the discussions. I really didn't get involved until the last week and a half -- toward the end of the process. I couldn't give you an accurate time frame for the entire discussion.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Every player remembers his first game. What do you think you will remember the most about yours?
Longoria: I got my first hit in that first game, so it was a big deal for me. It was an RBI single off Daniel Cabrera. I'll remember that hit, if nothing else, for the rest of my life. I was pretty nervous going out there, but I was excited to get that first pitch out of the way. After that, it kind of felt natural for the rest of the game.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Can you take me through that first home run?
Longoria: I think my first home run came on a two-strike pitch, a fastball down and in. It came off Brian Bruney of the Yankees. I battled for a little bit, and he finally gave me a fastball I could handle. When I hit it, I knew it was gone. It was sort of a surreal experience.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You're a West Coast guy playing on the East Coast. How do you like it on the East Coast?
Longoria: I like it a lot. That's one of the main reasons I decided to sign the long contract with the Rays. I definitely wouldn't have signed a long-term deal with Tampa Bay if I weren't comfortable living here for a while. I love St. Pete. I love Tampa. It's a great place to be for me. The people in the community are great, and I seriously couldn't ask for anything more.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How do your family and friends follow your career on a day-to-day basis?
Longoria: They have the MLB package on TV so they can watch almost every game of mine. If it's not on TV they also have the MLB package from MLB.com.
MLBPLAYERS.com: In college, your major was criminology. What led you to that selection?
Longoria: To be completely honest with you, I had to change majors my sophomore year so I could play in a certain baseball league. I was a kinesiology major, but I couldn't stay in the program without taking summer school, which would have interfered with baseball. So I made the switch.
MLBPLAYERS.com: When you were younger, you played in the Cape Cod League. Was that the first time you used wooden bats exclusively?
Longoria: I had fooled around with wooden bats before and played in some leagues where we used wooden bats, but that was the first serious competition I had participated in where wooden bats were the standard.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You enjoyed a varied 2007 in that you participated in Spring Training with Tampa, played at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, played for Team USA and also in the Arizona Fall League. Did you know where you were at all times?
Longoria: It was pretty crazy. I was in something like five or six different spots last year. When you travel a lot, it makes the year go by quickly. It was a good experience for me. I had fun with every club that year. We almost won the Triple-A championship. It was pretty cool.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.