Rays celebrate 17th Pride Night

June 10th, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG -- The message Saturday at Tropicana Field was spelled out in a sign on the right-field wall, with the Rays’ “TB” logo and the last word presented in Pride-themed colors: “Baseball is for everyone.”

The Rays celebrated their 17th Pride Night before and during the second game of their series against the Rangers on Saturday. The sign on the outfield wall will remain throughout June, which is Pride Month, as a symbol of the club’s continued support for the LGBTQ+ community.

“Pride Night is all about demonstrating in a very visible way that baseball is for everyone,” said team president Brian Auld. “We open our doors to the entire community and celebrate, in particular, the LGBTQ+ community by having a special afternoon for them here at Tropicana Field.”

Reliever Colin Poche warms up prior to the Rays' Pride Night game vs. the Rangers

As part of the celebration, there were rainbow-colored flags hung around the ballpark, and former MLB umpire Dale Scott -- the first openly gay official in any of the United States’ four major male professional sports -- threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Rays reliever Colin Poche.

The club made a $10,000 donation to St. Pete Pride, offered special Pride-themed ticket packages and gave away Pride flag window clings. In the middle of the second inning, a video played on the right-field scoreboard detailing efforts by the Rays and Rowdies to back LGBTQ+ efforts and support the community, including the memorable and moving Pride Night in 2016 dedicated to the 49 victims of a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The video ended with a message: “The Rays and Rowdies are excited to continue their support of the LGBTQ+ community.”

“I think we have always felt proud that our organization is about acceptance, about welcoming and really creating an environment where everybody feels like they belong,” said Stephen Thomas, the Rays’ vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion. “So we feel proud to celebrate our Pride Night celebration and feel proud that we can bring a sense of community to the LGBTQ+ community.

“We've been able to do a Pride celebration for over 17 years and really strive to create an experience that is meaningful for individuals where they can truly feel like they belong and they can be themselves and have a safe space to just enjoy a ballgame.”

That sentiment is also reflected in the permanent signage posted around Tropicana Field. The Pride-themed sunburst logo in right field, for instance, has been a fixture in that spot the last two years -- not just during Pride Month. There are also daily reminders of Tampa Bay’s support for historically marginalized communities and other groups: “Somos Rays” in left field, “Black Lives Matter” in center field, a recognition of police officers who died in the line of duty and a plaque in right field honoring prisoners of war.

“All those things are really community-led,” Auld said. “It’s usually leaders in their respective communities letting us know things that we can do that just sort of remind everyone what our organization and what our wider Tampa Bay region are all about.”

A groundskeeper finishes painting a Rays logo in Pride colors prior to the Rays' Pride Night game vs. the Rangers

The only thing different about this year’s Pride Night at Tropicana Field was the Rays’ uniforms. Last year, most Tampa Bay players wore rainbow-colored sunburst logo patches on their sleeves and identically themed “TB” logos on their caps.

The club intended to do the same this season. But MLB informed teams during the offseason that they could only change their gameday uniforms for league-wide observances like Jackie Robinson Day, except for two teams (Dodgers and Giants) granted exemptions based on a pre-existing agreement, and Pride Night is considered a local event.

Adhering to MLB’s policy, the Rays wore their standard uniforms on Saturday but allowed players to wear Pride-themed accessories -- leadoff hitter Yandy Díaz, for instance, sported a rainbow-colored band on his right forearm -- and found other ways to visibly express their support, including the sign on the right-field wall.

“Certainly today being Pride Night, we welcome our LGBTQ+ community -- not just today. It's an everyday thing,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “We want everybody to come out here and feel safe at the ballpark.”