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Rays' Moore, Price provide community outreach

Pitchers work through Rays Dugout Club to promote club's values to local youth

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays pitcher Matt Moore is only in his second full Major League season, but he has faced his fair share of pointed questions from the media.

Not even the most biting columnist, though, could have prepared Moore for Friday morning's question-and-answer session at Childs Park Recreation Center in south St. Petersburg.

One girl, unaware to the fact that Moore's teammate, Alex Cobb, had been hit in the head with a line drive earlier this month, asked if Moore ever gets hit with the ball. Another wondered how fast he could throw, but one child had another thing on his mind.

"What happened to B.J. Upton?" he asked.

Moore -- in his first visit to one of the two recreation centers he will sponsor this season as the newest addition to the Rays Dugout Club -- took the question in stride, comparing Upton's departure to the hardship of a childhood friend moving away.

Recreation centers that were known as "B.J.'s Bunch" a year ago are now "The Moore Corps." The Rays' wins leader was approached with the prospect of joining the Dugout Club initiative during the offseason and didn't hesitate in answering affirmatively.

"This helps me stay involved and the staff here makes it easy to bring us in," Moore said. "It's a win-win. I'm all for coming over there to play a little kickball before I have to go over to the field."

The program was started in 2010 by Rays employees in response to the death of Paris Whitehead, an 8-year-old girl who was shot and killed in south St. Petersburg. Pitcher David Price has sponsored two centers under the name "Price's Pals" since the program's inception while center fielder Desmond Jennings sponsors three centers of "Jennings' Juniors."

The players make periodic visits to the recreation centers and will host their kids for a game at Tropicana Field later this season.

"I grew up in a place like this, on a military base where there were Boys and Girls clubs all over the place," Moore said. "For me to come here and see little kids that are in identical situations to where I was at six or seven years older, it means a lot. Not just to pay it back, but I feel like I can make a difference even if it's just a handful of kids or one kid with that sliver of knowledge that might get through a kid's head and maybe help them out one day."

Closer to the stadium, Dugout Club veteran Price spoke to kids at Campbell Park Recreation Center about the four pillars of the Dugout Club: Stay smart, stay healthy, stay involved and stay positive.

Positivity is something Price has had to lean on since landing on the disabled list in May.

"The kids don't care whether I'm hurt or not," said Price, who also started a youth foundation called Project One Four. "They just want me to come in and show my face and give them a little wisdom. That's what we were able to do today."

Sam Strong is an associate reporter for

Tampa Bay Rays, Matt Moore, David Price