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Maddon pleased with Rays' growing popularity

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Joe Maddon took the managerial reins prior to the 2006 season, he expressed his desire to make the Rays a destination spot where other players would want to play.

Given what many of the new players have expressed about why they decided to join the Rays, Tampa Bay has indeed become a destination spot. Maddon's chest seemed to swell when asked about that fact.

"That's the part of the beauty about what's going on here right now," Maddon said. "We lost some really pertinent people. But the guys coming in really want to be here. And there's others that want to be here, too.

"And that's really complimentary. But the guys that are here and want to be here, it's almost like they've accepted the program before they even know what it is. It's such an easy sell to them, 'this is what we do and why we do it.' OK, I like it, let's talk about it some more. It's kind of fascinating that a lot of really good players see us as a desirable place to be. That's probably the highest compliment we can receive as a group."