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.
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.
Before long, Longoria could be pushing Derek Jeter as baseball's foremost pitchman. It makes sense because Longoria is reminiscent of Jeter. 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."
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"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.
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