Skateboarding culture inspires Rays' City Connect uniforms

April 29th, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG -- On and off the field, the Rays dare to be different. They have become the modern example of small-market success by creatively defying conventional thinking, boldly going against the grain and unapologetically embracing what makes them unique.

That attitude inspired the theme and design of their City Connect uniforms, which the club officially revealed on Monday at Tropicana Field. The Rays will debut their new look on the field this weekend against the Mets at Tropicana Field, starting Friday night. They will wear the uniforms every Saturday home game, plus a pair of games on the road in Atlanta (June 15) and St. Louis (Aug. 7).

MLB’s City Connect program was introduced in 2021 to link teams to their communities, celebrating each area’s history, culture and spirit through creatively designed alternate uniforms. Rather than leaning into a well-known feature of the Tampa Bay area, like the beautiful Florida beaches, the Rays dug for a deeper connection to the region’s culture, aiming to reflect the feeling you might get while walking along Central Avenue in St. Petersburg or the streets of Ybor City in Tampa.

Randy ArozarenaTampa Bay Rays

“When we started thinking about that feeling that you have when you're in some of these really special places around this community, it's fueled by this energy,” Rays chief business officer Bill Walsh said. “A lot of these types of countercultures, creative cultures, they're really at the center of that in terms of creating that vibe.”

That led the Rays to the idea of celebrating an independent, underground attitude that can thrive in the Florida sunshine. Specifically, they drew inspiration from the skateboard culture that has deep roots in the region and lends itself to creative, bold expressions of individuality.

Pete FairbanksTampa Bay Rays

“It's also something we think that we have in common as an organization,” Walsh said. “We have demonstrated that, that you've kind of got to be willing to go against the grain and have some courage and disrupt. So I think it's exciting that there's that overlap, too.”

Having worked on the design for nearly four years, the Rays put a ton of thought into the details of their Nike City Connect threads. They call them the “Grit and Glow” uniforms, combining a daring spirit with the bright colors associated with the area’s art and sunshine.

Some of the highlights:

  • The words “Tampa Bay” are on the front of their jerseys for the first time since 2007, the first and most obvious way to represent the entire area. The stylized flames coming off the top of each letter are an homage to street art and skate media like “Thrasher” magazine.
  • The cap logo features a ray combined with the Sunshine Skyway, the bridge that connects Pinellas County to Manatee County, and waves of water in colors evoking the original Devil Rays look that has regained popularity in recent years.
  • Another logo features three palm trees and a pelican, both of which have several ties to the area. The three palms logo can be seen on a Florida Historical Marker, such as the one located at Perry Harvey Sr. Park in Tampa -- home of the “Bro Bowl,” Florida’s first public skatepark (opened in 1979) and the first to be listed on any national registry of historic sites. The pelican is featured on St. Petersburg’s city flag, and it is a nod to the St. Petersburg Pelicans, who played in the Florida State Negro Baseball League in the 1940s and ‘50s.
  • A third logo is the “skating ray,” which is exactly what it sounds like -- a ray on a skateboard. Several team officials’ favorite detail: The trick the ray is performing in the logo is called a stalefish.
  • The uniforms are designed to look weathered and sun-faded, a familiar feeling on the Gulf Coast, and the Rays used skateboarding grip tape texture on the underside of the cap bill and inside the letters and numbers on each jersey.
  • There are gradient accents on the sleeves and pants, also in the Devil Rays color scheme, but they are intentionally asymmetrical -- on the right sleeve and left pant leg -- to represent the notion of doing things differently.
Yandy DíazTampa Bay Rays

The Rays, one of nine teams debuting their City Connect uniforms this year, are planning several City Connect-themed events throughout the Tampa Bay area this season. They also have three related promotional items scheduled for home games on May 24 (skateboard deck art), July 14 (sneaker keychain) and July 28 (Pete Fairbanks bobblehead).