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.
In 2010, James and Ryane Shields, along with the Rays, donated a suite to begin a special club for foster kids called the Big Game James Club. In 2013, the Big Game James Club became the Home Run Club. Even though founders James and Ryane Shields are no longer members of the Rays organization, their legacy of advocating for children in foster care lives on. The club continues to offer a sense of stability and belonging to hundreds of foster children and adoptive families throughout Tampa Bay. Each season, with the help of Eckerd, Family Resources, Guardian ad Litem, the Heart Gallery, Ready for Life and Youth Alternatives, over 500 foster children have become club members and attended a series of home games in the suite. When the suite isn't being used for club kids, Eckerd and the Heart Gallery use it for special adoption events. 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.
Since 2014, the Rays Jersey Program has outfitted more than 80,000 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. As part of the overall program, the Rays host instructional clinics for their players and coaches in partnership with the Positive Coaching Alliance. PCA provides tips to coaches and parents on how to provide a positive, character-building youth sports experience to their teams.
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 350,000 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
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:
- Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg
- Campbell Park Elementary
- Field Days
- Great American Teach In
- Rays Room
- Write Field Program
- Support of Youth Recreation
- Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast
- Burg Baseball
- Field Renovations
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 the past 2 years, the Rays have 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. The value of care provided totals almost $170,000 in dental care and education. Through this experience, the children received free oral health education, screening and treatment, and were taught that the mouth and body are linked to overall health. The children received dental work completely free of charge, including X-rays, screening and educational material on how to protect their teeth. Additionally, Raymond and DJ Kitty were on hand to greet the kids, along with the Ray Team, face painters, balloon artists and Rays baseball camp coaches.
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.