Foundation Programs

The Rays Baseball Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of those in need within our community, focusing primarily on education, youth development, wellness and social responsibility. Key contributors to the foundation include Rays owners, players, corporate partners, fans and employees.

Big Game James Club

In 2010, Rays pitcher James Shields, and his wife, Ryane, along with the Rays, donated a suite to begin a special club for foster children called the Big Game James Club. In 2013, the suite was renamed the Home Run Club following Shields’ trade to the Kansas City Royals. On Opening Day 2023, James symbolically retired as a Ray and the Home Run Club returned to its original name, the Big Game James Club. In partnership with United Concordia Dental, the Big Game James Club will continue to offer a sense of stability and belonging to foster children and support for adoptive families. More than 30,000 suite tickets have been donated. Furthering the organization's support for foster children and families, the ballpark also plays host to a permanent Heart Gallery exhibit, displaying professional portraits and personal biographies of children waiting to be adopted. The Home Run Club and Heart Gallery events hosted by the Rays have resulted in numerous adoptions for local foster children.

Rays Jersey Program

Since 2014, the Rays Jersey Program has outfitted more than 95,000 Tampa Bay area tee-ball players and coaches with jerseys and caps. The program covers more than 80 different leagues in nine area counties and has saved the leagues more than $1 million dollars in equipment costs. As a result of these savings, officials from some of the participating leagues have noted that they now have the ability to pass these savings along to participant families. They have also been able to repair their scoreboards, provide upgrades to dugouts, add fencing for fields, purchase additional equipment and grounds crew supplies and repair concession stands and other areas of their facilities.

Reading with the Rays

Since 2006, the Rays Baseball Foundation has teamed up with Suncoast Credit Union for the summer reading program Reading with the Rays - Read Your Way to the Ballpark. Reading with the Rays encourages kids to avoid summer reading loss by participating in a fun and interactive reading program over the summer months. More than 500,000 Tampa Bay area students from nine surrounding counties have participated since its inception. Participating libraries track their progress and award prizes for reaching certain goals, including free tickets to a Rays game. The program is made possible through a partnership with Suncoast Credit Union, Tampa Bay Times Newspaper in Education, the Rays and public library systems in Charlotte, Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties. Learn More

Rays Science of Baseball

Throughout the month of June, Rays baseball operations staff taught STEM curriculum at Academy Prep campuses in Lakeland, Tampa, and St. Petersburg. Across five days at each campus, staff members taught over 90 students lessons from the Rays Science of Baseball program, which includes subjects such as geometry, physiology, and statistics. The program culminated with a career day at Tropicana Field.

South St. Petersburg Neighborhood Initiative

The Rays launched the South St. Petersburg Neighborhood Initiative in response to the tragic 2009 shooting death of 8-year old Paris Whitehead in South St. Petersburg, an underserved community located next to Tropicana Field. In keeping with our mission, this program has focused on youth and education, benefiting the following organizations:

  • Education
    • Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg
    • Campbell Park Elementary
      • Field Days
      • Great American Teach In
      • Mentoring
      • Rays Room
  • Write Field Program
  • Support of Youth Recreation
    • Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast
    • Burg Baseball
    • Field Renovations

Through various scholarship programs in the Tampa Bay area, the Rays Baseball Foundation has contributed more than $2 million since 2008, supporting scholars in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Sarasota, and Manatee counties.

  • Academy Prep Centers for Education
    The Rays Baseball Foundation awards annual scholarships to Academy Prep locations in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Lakeland. Academy Prep provides a supportive academic environment designed for students who may not have succeeded in a traditional school setting. The centers inspire and empower economically disadvantaged students to become future community leaders through a rigorous middle school program coupled with ongoing graduate support.
  • Barry Jones Memorial Scholarship
    In memory of beloved front office staff member Barry Jones, the Rays Baseball Foundation established the Barry Jones Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship recognizes a Manatee County student who exemplifies outstanding academic achievement and a commitment to community service.
  • Don Zimmer Memorial Scholarship
    The Rays Baseball Foundation and Clearwater for Youth partner to present the Don Zimmer Memorial Scholarship, given to a high school senior who demonstrates the leadership and strong character of Don Zimmer.
  • St. Petersburg College Foundation First Generation Scholarship
    Through the Rays' support of St. Petersburg College Foundation First Generation Scholarship Initiative, over 50 students who might not otherwise have the chance to attend college, have the opportunity to continue their educational aspirations.
  • Take Stock in Children Scholarships
    Since 2012, the Rays Baseball Foundation has committed to students participating in Take Stock in Children in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee and Pasco counties. The partnership is aimed at giving students the financial resources and mentorship support they need to successfully achieve a postsecondary education at any Florida state college. Take Stock in Children provides a unique opportunity for low-income and at-risk students, many from minority families, to escape the cycle of poverty through education. The program offers students college scholarships, mentorship and hope for a better life. The program's comprehensive services start in middle school, continue through high school and include helping students transition to college.
Team Smile

Since 2018, the Rays have partnered with Team Smile, an advocacy group that partners dental professionals with professional athletic organizations to provide life-changing dental care to underserved children in their communities. In 2018-19, the Rays hosted more than 400 children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast and local foster care groups for a free dental day at Tropicana Field. This year, Team Smile provided free dental care to children from Campbell Park Elementary and John Hopkins Middle School. The children received dental work completely free of charge, including X-rays, screening, and educational material on how to protect their teeth. The value of care provided since 2018 totaled nearly $225,000.

Tuesday's Champion

Before every Tuesday home game at Tropicana Field, the Rays host a child from the Make-A-Wish Foundation or Children's Dream Fund at the ballpark as a part of a special program called "Tuesday's Champion." Tuesday's Champion, presented by RIPA & Associates, invites the kids, along with their families, to be on the field during batting practice where they can meet and interact with Rays players and coaches. They are then treated to dinner in the Rays Club before taking the field and throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Along with these experiences, they are also given a personalized jersey and a bat. The children selected for the program are battling life-threatening illnesses and many come straight from the hospital for this special experience.