Rays to Celebrate Inaugural 'Play Ball Weekend'

The Tampa Bay Rays will celebrate the inaugural 'PLAY BALL WEEKEND,' a league-wide effort by MLB and all 30 Clubs to engage young baseball fans and celebrate the continued support of youth participation in baseball and softball.

May 9th, 2016

The Tampa Bay Rays will celebrate the inaugural 'PLAY BALL WEEKEND,' a league-wide effort by MLB and all 30 Clubs to engage young baseball fans and celebrate the continued support of youth participation in baseball and softball. The initiative officially launches May 14-15 in ballparks around the League, with the Rays celebrating during their home series vs. the Oakland Athletics on Saturday, May 14 and Sunday, May 15.

On Saturday, May 14 the Rays are hosting PLAY (Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth), a free fitness seminar for ages 11-16. Logan Forsythe, Rays Athletic Trainers, the Taylor Hooton Foundation and Henry Schein Cares Foundation will educate local youth about the importance of leading healthy and active lives. The clinic will take place from 9-11 a.m. at Tropicana Field.

Saturday and Sunday, the Rays are partnering with the Baseball Tomorrow Fund to host an equipment drive. Fans are asked to donate their new or used equipment at Gates 1 and 5 to benefit the Tampa RBI program. Fans who donate will receive a voucher for one complimentary ticket to a future Rays game. In conjunction with the equipment drive, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund will also be presenting Tampa RBI with a $5,000 grant in a pregame ceremony on Sunday, May 15.

Also on Saturday and Sunday, local youth players will take the field with the big leaguers just moments before first pitch and participate in a cap exchange on the field. One youngster will be chosen to deliver the game's lineup card prior to the start of each weekend game.

Rays Play Ball Toolkits will be available at all Guest Service locations. The toolkits were created through a partnership with USA Baseball and provide information to youth players and coaches to help with proper play and instruction.

On Sunday, all kids 14 and under will receive a Plastic Bat and Ball Set presented by Chevrolet.

PLAY BALL WEEKEND is an extension of the PLAY BALL initiative (PlayBall.org), which launched in 2015 as the sport's largest effort to encourage widespread participation in both formal and casual baseball and softball activities. PLAY BALL WEEKEND also is a symbolic recognition of what MLB Clubs do year-round to support the growth of youth baseball and softball in their respective communities and beyond.

"The Rays remain fully supportive of the Play Ball initiative," said Rays President Brian Auld. "This inclusive program offers kids the opportunity to enjoy all that our great sport has to offer, whether it be their first time on the field or they've been playing for years."

All 30 Clubs will feature a variety of customized and unique ballpark elements in support of PLAY BALL WEEKEND. Additionally, Clubs will collectively distribute more than 320,000 plastic bat & ball sets throughout the United States and Canada, both in ballparks and at community events.

Additionally, Major League players, coaches and managers all will wear specially made PLAY BALL t-shirts during batting practice and PLAY BALL patches on their uniforms during the weekend's games.

PLAY BALL is a joint initiative between MLB and USA Baseball. In addition to encouraging participation in both formal and casual baseball activities, PLAY BALL aims to give kids the opportunity to enjoy the game in a fun environment by highlighting the many ways baseball can be played and providing memorable experiences; introduce young people to the sport who otherwise may not have the chance to experience it; and offer a healthy and active lifestyle options where many of those opportunities are being offered less frequently.

PlayBall.org is the PLAY BALL initiative's online home and is accessible via MLB.com, USABaseball.com and other partner websites. PlayBall.org features youth-oriented content, including baseball trivia and quizzes, and video highlights from MLB games, social media content, photos and a "Play Ball Near You" interactive map that locates local community leagues. The site also features access to video podcasts and highlights from MLB Network's new youth-focused show "Play Ball," which features interviews and on-field demonstrations with top players throughout the League, including Nolan Arenado, Curtis Granderson, Matt Kemp, Francisco Lindor and Evan Longoria. "Play Ball" airs on Saturdays at 10 a.m. ET. PlayBall.org also links to USABaseball.com, which provides players, parents and coaches with the information and resources to help with proper play and instruction, including education videos featuring Hall of Famer and MLB Network analyst John Smoltz, among others. Health and safety information, including through the Pitch Smart and Play Sun Smart programs, also is available.

For the third straight year, the Rays, Majestic Athletic and Suncoast Credit Union provided jerseys and caps to over 10,000 tee ball players and coaches for more than 80 leagues. The program reached Little League, Cal Ripken, Dixie and Pony T-ball teams in Charlotte, Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties. The annual savings from the initiative, as reported by the participating leagues, is estimated at approximately $200,000. As a result of these savings, officials from some of the participating leagues have noted that they now have the ability to repair their scoreboards, provide paint upgrades to dugouts, add fencing for fields, fund new equipment purchases and grounds crew supplies and repair concession stands and other facilities. For more information on Rays youth baseball and softball initiatives, please visit raysbaseball.com/playball.