Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Players, fans enjoy interaction at Rays Fan Fest

Reading with the Rays, baseball clinics and Q&A sessions among many activities offered
MLB.com @wwchastain

ST. PETERSBURG -- Baseball season felt close on Saturday at Tropicana Field.

The Rays held their annual Fan Fest, and the building swelled with fans hoping to mingle with players and take in some of the many activities offered.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Baseball season felt close on Saturday at Tropicana Field.

The Rays held their annual Fan Fest, and the building swelled with fans hoping to mingle with players and take in some of the many activities offered.

Tampa Bay players battled a traffic jam on Interstate 75 to make the journey from Port Charlotte, Fla., to take part in the activities.

"I really do enjoy interacting with the fans," catcher Curt Casali said. "I think it's a great way to increase the Rays brand and a great way for us to meet some new people and figure out who is supporting us on a day-in, day-out basis.

Video: Casali discusses upcoming season at Rays Fan Fest

"I think Fan Fest is just a really cool way for fans to gain access to us in a way that they normally couldn't. Actually having personal conversations with us and seeing us outside of our comfort zone, maybe doing things that we aren't normally doing, I think it's a great experience."

"I enjoy it," outfielder Steven Souza Jr. added. "It's a good opportunity to connect with the fans. When you get locked into the games, you get locked into your zone. Obviously, you try and set aside a little bit of time for the fans, but this gives you an opportunity to see the fans away from the field and to get to know some of the people who are supporting you."

Among the activities featured for kids at Fan Fest were Reading with the Rays, speed pitch, batting cages, a home run derby, baseball clinics in the infield, a high-five station with Rays players and running the bases.

Tweet from @RaysBaseball: Getting our reading in with @ChrisArcher22 on the @pepsi stage, presented by @SuncoastCU. #RaysFanFest pic.twitter.com/POjpwqkpfg

Rays players, coaches and mascots Raymond and DJ Kitty could be seen at various stations throughout the day.

A "Phone-A-Friend" stage was set up in center field where Rays players would call friends and family members for fans. Among the players who made calls were Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Casali and Richie Shaffer.

The Rays also used their social media accounts to give fans more opportunities for team and player interaction and exclusive prizes through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat contests.

Rays manager Kevin Cash and Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons were on hand for Q&A sessions. In addition, the stage featured various panels with Rays coaches, broadcasters, prospects and team officials.

Tweet from @RaysBaseball: The best panel of broadcasters in baseball, live NOW on the @pepsi Main Stage at #RaysFanFest. pic.twitter.com/KK92Qa8WA8

Fan Fest is "good interaction," Cash said. "[The fans] ultimately want to get out and see the players."

Representatives from the Rays' ticket sales department were available throughout the day to assist with ticket purchases, and a Rays Charity Yard Sale took place that featured unique game-used and autographed memorabilia dating back to the club's inaugural season. All proceeds benefitted the Rays Baseball Foundation. Proceeds from Don Zimmer collectables benefitted the Clearwater for Youth Don Zimmer Memorial Scholarship Fund for local high school seniors.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com.

 

Tampa Bay Rays