Longoria’s star is rising on and off the diamond

Evan Longoria could soon be baseball's No. 1 pitchman.
Evan Longoria could soon be baseball’s No. 1 pitchman.

Evan Longoria won’t turn 25 until October, but he already has exceeded all expectations for someone who went undrafted out of a Los Angeles high school in 2003.

• He became an All-American at Long Beach State after spending a year at junior college, and ended up as the third pick in the 2006 draft. He soared through the minors, reached the majors early in 2008 and has established himself as one of the game’s top players.

• He was a unanimous winner of the 2008 AL Rookie of the Year award, has made two All-Star teams, won a Gold Glove and set a rookie record for homers in a postseason (six).

• He averaged 30 homers and 99 RBIs in his first two seasons and started his third season Tuesday night by slamming a monster home run — a 473-foot shot that was the third longest in Tropicana Field history — in his third at-bat.

So what’s next?

Becoming a commercial star, of course.

Even if you don’t see the Rays on national TV much in the coming months, prepare to see a lot of Longoria. He is starring in two ads — one for New Era caps and on for the MLB 2K10 video game (he is the cover boy) — and has a role in a Pepsi spot. All figure to be played often during baseball broadcasts.

Longoria is reminiscent of Derek Jeter, baseball’s foremost pitchman. He has the All-American looks and although obviously confident, he comes across as humble and as guarded as he can be in interviews. Still, you can sense his personality.

He shows this in his role in the New Era commercial in which he plays a James Bond-like character who zooms around Tampa Bay seeking the culprit whom he believes has snatched his cap. While Longoria is not new to the camera, this was the rare instance when he wasn’t wearing his No. 3 jersey. In jeans and T-shirt, he felt the difference.

"When I wear my baseball uniform during a commercial shoot, my comfort level is unbelievable. I feel like I can do anything in my baseball uniform," Longoria says. "When I had to wear my civvies, it made me feel like I was acting."

At one point in the chase, Longoria finds himself on a street trolley walking up to a young blonde. He stops and introduces himself in what is supposed to be "a spoof of Ferris Bueller."

"That was acting," Longoria says. "I would not have done that."

Even though he is young, somewhat rich and famous and still single, he has an image to maintain — and Alex Rodriguez 2008 is not what he has in mind. Longoria, in fact, says he "had to politely decline" participating in a Rays’ promotion in which the club would have given away T-shirts with "Mrs. Longoria" on the back.

"I don’t want to project the image of me having all these women with my name on the back of their shirts," he said. "That’s not something I want out there."

Unlike teammates Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena, who are eligible to become free agents in the fall, Longoria is a Ray for the long haul. He remains under club control through 2016 as perhaps the biggest bargain in the majors. His $950,000 salary for 2010 ranks 19th on his own team.

When Longoria talks about upping his profile, he is quick to point out how he enjoys "getting the Tampa Bay Rays out there."

"So the more opportunities I get to be on a national media stage, I try to take," he says.

For his endorsements to grow, so must his game. Longoria improved across the board in his first full season, finishing 2009 with 33 homers, 44 doubles, 100 runs, 113 RBIs, a .281 average and .364 on-base percentage. Another year of facing the same pitchers should help his pitch recognition, which should allow him to reduce his strikeouts and improve his batting average.

Considering how fast and far he has come since high school, such improvement is as likely as a successful recovery of his cap in his new commercial.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

Evan Longoria could soon be baseball's No. 1 pitchman.
Evan Longoria could soon be baseball’s No. 1 pitchman.

Evan Longoria won’t turn 25 until October, but he already has exceeded all expectations for someone who went undrafted out of a Los Angeles high school in 2003.

• He became an All-American at Long Beach State after spending a year at junior college, and ended up as the third pick in the 2006 draft. He soared through the minors, reached the majors early in 2008 and has established himself as one of the game’s top players.

• He was a unanimous winner of the 2008 AL Rookie of the Year award, has made two All-Star teams, won a Gold Glove and set a rookie record for homers in a postseason (six).

• He averaged 30 homers and 99 RBIs in his first two seasons and started his third season Tuesday night by slamming a monster home run — a 473-foot shot that was the third longest in Tropicana Field history — in his third at-bat.

So what’s next?

Becoming a commercial star, of course.

Even if you don’t see the Rays on national TV much in the coming months, prepare to see a lot of Longoria. He is starring in two ads — one for New Era caps and on for the MLB 2K10 video game (he is the cover boy) — and has a role in a Pepsi spot. All figure to be played often during baseball broadcasts.

Longoria is reminiscent of Derek Jeter, baseball’s foremost pitchman. He has the All-American looks and although obviously confident, he comes across as humble and as guarded as he can be in interviews. Still, you can sense his personality.

He shows this in his role in the New Era commercial in which he plays a James Bond-like character who zooms around Tampa Bay seeking the culprit whom he believes has snatched his cap. While Longoria is not new to the camera, this was the rare instance when he wasn’t wearing his No. 3 jersey. In jeans and T-shirt, he felt the difference.

"When I wear my baseball uniform during a commercial shoot, my comfort level is unbelievable. I feel like I can do anything in my baseball uniform," Longoria says. "When I had to wear my civvies, it made me feel like I was acting."

At one point in the chase, Longoria finds himself on a street trolley walking up to a young blonde. He stops and introduces himself in what is supposed to be "a spoof of Ferris Bueller."

"That was acting," Longoria says. "I would not have done that."

Even though he is young, somewhat rich and famous and still single, he has an image to maintain — and Alex Rodriguez 2008 is not what he has in mind. Longoria, in fact, says he "had to politely decline" participating in a Rays’ promotion in which the club would have given away T-shirts with "Mrs. Longoria" on the back.

"I don’t want to project the image of me having all these women with my name on the back of their shirts," he said. "That’s not something I want out there."

Unlike teammates Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena, who are eligible to become free agents in the fall, Longoria is a Ray for the long haul. He remains under club control through 2016 as perhaps the biggest bargain in the majors. His $950,000 salary for 2010 ranks 19th on his own team.

When Longoria talks about upping his profile, he is quick to point out how he enjoys "getting the Tampa Bay Rays out there."

"So the more opportunities I get to be on a national media stage, I try to take," he says.

For his endorsements to grow, so must his game. Longoria improved across the board in his first full season, finishing 2009 with 33 homers, 44 doubles, 100 runs, 113 RBIs, a .281 average and .364 on-base percentage. Another year of facing the same pitchers should help his pitch recognition, which should allow him to reduce his strikeouts and improve his batting average.

Considering how fast and far he has come since high school, such improvement is as likely as a successful recovery of his cap in his new commercial.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

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