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Evan Longoria kicks off 'Reading with the Rays' program

Rays third baseman Evan Longoria visited the Pinellas Park Library on Wednesday morning to kick off "Reading with the Rays -- Read Your Way to the Ballpark," a summer reading program geared towards Tampa Bay-area grade school students. Longoria read to a group of children and discussed the importance of reading, encouraging them to read over the summer.

Longoria's books of choice for his captive audience? Bats in My Attic by Sydnie Meltzer Kleinhenz and Rick Stromoski and If I Were a Jungle Animal by Amanda and Tom Ellery.

"There are some guys on the team, namely Sam Fuld, who I'm kind of envious of because I know he did his summer reading," Longoria said. "And now he's much better than me at the crossword puzzle."

The Rays Baseball Foundation, in partnership with Tampa Bay Times Newspaper in Education, kicked off the fifth season of "Reading with the Rays-Read Your Way to the Ballpark," which encourages kids to read and awards prizes for reaching certain goals, including a free ticket to a game this summer. The program is made possible through a partnership with the public library systems in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Citrus, Pasco, Polk and Hernando counties.

-- Jonathan Gantt / Real-Time Correspondent