Diving stop earns Rays ballboy Braden Coles trip to MLB All-Star Game

ST. PETERSBURG — Reliever Shawn Armstrong said he has had to learn to trust the glove of the Rays All-Star.

Not the one on the field, third baseman Isaac Paredes.

The one protecting the bullpen.

Ballboy Braden Coles isn’t on the roster, but he will be in Arlington, Texas, for this year’s All-Star Game. Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that he won the fan vote for one of the game’s two Ball Crew spots.

“It’s just a huge honor, and I’m very blessed to be in the situation,” said Coles, whose role is part of his duties as a member of the home clubhouse staff at Tropicana Field. “Very grateful for everything and thankful for all the fans who voted for me.”

Coles, 20, made a name for himself when he laid out to make a diving stop on a foul ball down the rightfield line during a March 30 game against the Blue Jays. The play went viral, earning him a spot on SportsCenter’sTop 10.

“It was unbelievable,” said reliever Jason Adam. “He made it look easy. It’s not an easy play. It’s a play I’d botch, for sure.”

But for Coles, who played shortstop at Marquette Catholic High School in Alton, Illinois, it was just like his preps days all over again.

“This one was just cool because it happened to be on an MLB field,” Coles said. “That was the difference. Actually, this one was a little easier, because I didn’t have to get up and make a throw. Just had to do a little flip and toss the ball in the crowd.”

The game was only Coles’ third as a Rays clubhouse attendant, but he quickly made his mark. Afterward, his phone blew up with praise and congratulations. The same happened when he was voted in for the All-Star Game.

“Everyone’s really been supportive about it, so it has been great,” he said. “That (support) is how I got here.”

It’s fitting Coles was voted in during the series against the Yankees. He worked as a clubhouse attendant for the New York team during spring training the past two years. His dad, also a former Yankees clubhouse attendant, helped him get the position.

While working the visitors side of the field this spring, Coles learned about an opening with the Rays, which led to a regular-season job.

Rays ballboy Braden Coles watches from the home bullpen during Wednesday's game against the Yankees at Tropicana Field.
Rays ballboy Braden Coles watches from the home bullpen during Wednesday’s game against the Yankees at Tropicana Field. ( LUIS SANTANA | Times )

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Armstrong said Coles has made many great plays on foul balls, not just the one that went viral. The reliever said he needs to stop flinching when the ball comes his way and trust Coles, whose job is to sit in front of the bullpen and protect the relievers.

“I can’t say enough about him,” Armstrong said. “He works his tail off down there for us, and we’re very appreciative, for sure.”

This is the first year MLB allowed the All-Star Ball Crew to be selected by fan vote. Coles will be joined by Orioles ballboy Tyler Smith.

“It’s pretty cool that they’re doing that for the ballboys this year,” Armstrong said. “It just (serves as) a testament to giving guys an opportunity to be a part of it and do things.

“I was pumped to find out (Coles) was on the books as an option,” said Adam. “I’m so excited for him. He does a great job down there protecting, but he does a great job at every aspect of his job. He deserves it, and I think he’s going to have a blast.”

In addition to being on the field for the All-Star Game, Coles also will get to attend the Red Carpet Show and MLB Draft as part of MLB All-Star Week.

“Originally, I was planning on going back home to Illinois (over the break), but my plans have changed,” Coles said. “I’m just really excited for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

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