By Lily Belcher
In 2017, four years removed from their last playoff appearance, Rays Manager Kevin Cash selected an ebullient former outfielder to fill the void left by the loss of First Base Coach Rocco Baldelli. Osborne ‘Ozzie’ Timmons was called up from his coaching position with the Durham Bulls to serve not only as a spirited coach, but as a friend and role model to the young team Cash had assembled.
Before rejoining the Rays as a coach, he played five years in the Majors, but, like many, his baseball days began in the little leagues, where he played with Durant High School’s principal, Gary Graham.
“[Playing with Timmons] was two things. Number one, it was a lot of fun because he was always a fun person to be around, both on the field and especially off the field. … People gravitated towards him. But, the second thing that was the reason he was fun to play with on the field, was that we won a lot.”
Graham and Timmons attended Brandon High School and the University of Tampa (UT), playing on their schools’ respective baseball teams until their graduation from UT in 1991. While Graham pursued a career in education, Timmons signed his first baseball contract after being drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the fifth round of the 1991 draft.
Graham recalled Timmons’ optimism as early as Little League, which has translated to his Major League coaching. Timmons said he keeps the Rays players positive throughout the game by “pump[ing] them up to keep them going.”
Timmons is known to spend time in Tampa Bay schools, acting as a coach and mentor. Durant was fortunate enough to be part of his off-season stops last year. Durant students had the opportunity to meet Timmons, who offered advice for students, athletes and Major League hopefuls.
His genuine and lighthearted personality isn’t just reserved for the players on the field. Before games, he walks down the line of fans, signing autographs and occasionally playing catch with young fans, proving his approachable and good nature.
Timmons will return to the diamond on February 27 as a first base coach and assistant hitting coach when the Rays begin their spring training at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte to defend their American League Champion title.