ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays took another opportunity to recognize their 25th anniversary season on Saturday afternoon, unveiling a pair of commemorative statues honoring two of the most famous moments in franchise history.
One statue depicts Evan Longoria celebrating his iconic walk-off home run in the 12th inning of Game 162 of the 2011 season, the solo shot down the left-field line that sent the Rays to the postseason. The other is of Akinori Iwamura stepping on second base, arms raised, before leaping in the air after recording the final out of the 2008 American League Championship Series that secured Tampa Bay’s first trip to the World Series.
The statues -- crafted by local sculptor Steven Dickey in collaboration with Bronzart Foundry, Inc. -- were unveiled during a ceremony outside Gate 4 at Tropicana Field, with Iwamura in attendance. Additionally, the club offered giveaway replica figurines of the Longoria and Iwamura statues for fans attending Saturday’s game against the Blue Jays, and Iwamura threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
“Very grateful that I have a statue right there,” Iwamura said through an interpreter. “I'm glad that I'm a part of the history that happened.”
Iwamura, 44, expressed his “love” for the Rays and the entire Tampa Bay region but jokingly said he hopes nobody will mess with his likeness. He was happy to once again relive the memory of that final out in Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS: the 0-1 pitch by David Price, the ground ball hit by Jed Lowrie and, finally, his part in the play.
“I remember that was a bad hop when that thing happened, but I'm glad that I was able to catch the ball,” he said, smiling. “And I'm glad I didn't give the ball to [Rays shortstop] Jason Bartlett.”