ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays won 90 games last season and have tied a franchise-best start to a season after improving to 4-1 with their victory over the Rockies on Monday.
For the Rays, however, the fun doesn’t stop the moment they record the final out. After the team wraps up their traditional handshake line on the field, they run back into the clubhouse for the real celebration.
Inside the clubhouse, Rays players and coaches are welcomed by a new surround sound blasting music, strobe lights and a disco ball.
“We just blast music really loud. We get the line going, we dap everybody up. We’re all screaming profanities and what not, the whole nine yards,” said Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow. “Everyone is just super hyped up.”
Celebrating each win is not a new concept for the Rays. It’s a tradition that has been around in Tampa Bay for a while, and one that outfielder Kevin Kiermaier decided was important to keep around once he became one of the veteran leaders on the team.
“[Evan] Longoria would always say positive stuff to everyone and I kind of chimed in one day because I was just so excited,” Kiermaier said. “It’s just one of those things that it’s a lot of fun.”
After the initial celebration, which includes players dancing all over the room, Kiermaier takes a few moments to acknowledge some of the important plays that were made during the win.
“Just have some time to reflect on it really quick, enjoy it really quick, and then move on,” said Rays pitcher Charlie Morton. “It’s kind of a way to exploit more benefit from the win than what you just got.”
Morton, who won a World Series with the Astros in 2017, says that every team is different with the way they celebrate, but said he has been impressed with how much the Rays make an effort to celebrate as a group. It’s a quality that Morton believes could help the Rays whenever the team goes on an inevitable losing streak in the 162-game season.
“Some teams will go on a 10-game losing streak and all of a sudden, guys are standing up and now they feel like they have to say something,” Morton said. “[With the Rays] it’s kind of proactively engaging with your teammates and the group after a win.
“It’s like, the only time we’re going to talk about what’s going on is if something bad happens? No, I don’t think that’s right.”
Ji-Man Choi, who had stints with the Yankees, Angels and Brewers before being traded to the Rays last season, said that the vibe around this team is “a lot different” than what he has experienced in the big leagues.
“For this year, all the players are coming together as a family and as a group,” Choi said through Rays Korean translator Ha Ram (Sam) Jeong. “Compared to other teams, with this team, when we win a game everyone just cheers for each other. Everyone celebrates what each one of us did to contribute for that win.”
The Rays came into this season with high outside expectations due to the way the team finished the regular season last year. For the first time in a couple of years, the Rays were a popular pick to make it back to the postseason. With high expectations, there’s always a chance that a team, especially a young team, could end up feeling some added pressure to perform.
But if the Rays are feeling any pressure, they sure aren’t showing it to begin the season.
“I just keep telling them that this is a small taste of what this season could be like for us,” Kiermaier said. “We can have a lot of celebrations in this clubhouse, but it’s just our job to go out there and keep performing the way we are and everything else will take care of itself.”
The Rays know they still have a lot more to accomplish this season, but they hope they have a lot more disco balls, Kiermaier speeches and dances in their future.
“I think it’s pretty cool they do that,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “I hope they do it 115 times.”