ST. PETERSBERG, FL – When people in the sports world talk or think about the “Big O,” the first name that comes to mind is Hall of Famer basketball great, Oscar Robertson. To me, the “Big O” means Orestes Destrade.
Orestes is the Tampa Bay Rays “Diamond in the Rough.” He is the class of the Ray’s organization. Let me add, that the Rays have some incredible people that you can make this argument for. People like Dewayne Stats, and Jake Hornstein, etc. The list goes on and on. I am a board member for the Ted Williams Hall of Fame and I have gotten to know a lot of the very fine people that work for the Rays. It’s not fair to single one out over another, but I have known Orestes since he was a Yankee farm hand and I can honestly say that he was always very solid and mature as a kid. He always helps all of our young players, both English speaking and Latinos in every facet of life and yet he was a kid himself.
Today, he is still doing the same thing except he has taken it to the next level by being very supportive to people of all walks of life. There isn’t a week that goes by that this man is not seeing some kid in a wheelchair or a poor person just down on his luck. I like to think that he has learned some of these wonderful traits during his formative years with the Yankees. It is no coincidence that he was a left handed first baseman just like Lou Gehrig. Lou Gehrig was once asked, “Why do you go out of the way to help people?” And Gehrig answered, “We’re Yankees-It’s what we do.” I always think of the Big O whenever I hear that, however because he is a Ray, the saying should be, “I’m a Tampa Bay Ray, it’s what I do.”
If you want to know about the Big O and his baseball exploits, then you can Google him. I like talking about the person that I am lucky to call my friend. A person that is so proud of being a part of the Rays organization that it makes me jealous because I know how much I love the Yankees. The Big O is a person that is so tireless in his efforts to reach all people whether it be in St. Pete, Bradenton or Tampa. This spring, I don’t know how many functions I have attended and this man is always there. Orestes, I am sure, doesn’t realize that he makes me better at what I do because he is truly a great example. I am sure people from other organizations have learned a lot from the Big O just by watching what he does.
Let’s not forget that actions speak louder than words! Besides Orestes responsibilities as a FOX Sports analyst doing pre and post-game shows, the Rays were very smart in appointing the Big O “Director of Baseball and Community Outreach.” Orestes is just a good guy that works for a good organization in a good town. Kudos to the Tampa Bay Rays, they know what they have in the Big O and vice versa. I like making fun of the Big O because sometimes I see his ad campaigns with Genuine Motors, Granite City of Tampa or Appliance Legal Funding. I say next you’re going to tell me that you represent a golf resort, and he said with his shy little boy looks, “I represent Stream Song Golf.” I could only smile and say that it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
Even though he only played for the Yankees for a very short time, his leadership skills left a lasting impression on George Steinbrenner who would always go out of his way to say hello to the Big O whenever he ran into him.
The Boss once said, “If it weren’t for Don Mattingly, this young man would have made a great Yankee.”