The baseball season is a quarter of the way through, and this much is apparent around here. The Rays are a more likeable, hopeful, also-ran team. When healthy, its eight position players are collectively better than many other teams’ starters. But the Rays can’t pitch Scott Kazmir every day.
After an impressive debut by new management – featuring free parking, tail-gating and bring-your-own treats, they have – well, kept at it. Up next, the promised, 10,000-gallon, sting ray tank. Installation behind the right centerfield wall is now underway.
But much less noticeable has been the Stuart Sternberg regime’s involvement in the community – away from Tropicana Field. Latest outside-the-lines contribution was the refurbishing of Oliver Field, an inner-city baseball facility near the Trop that had fallen on harder times than the Rays’ bullpen. Under the aegis of the Rays Field Renovation Program, the team – along with Bank of America – overhauled the field, its flawed drainage system and its shabby grandstand. The cost was in excess of $100,000.
Sure, the Rays got a PR boost from the Oliver Field renovation and rededication that featured Jackie Robinson’s daughter. But after the ribbons were cut, the speeches delivered and the cameo performers had departed, there remained a legacy no less important than satisfied fans. Teams with Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities League (the RBI League), a Major League Baseball initiative, will play there. This season.
Next up for the Rays: a similar inner-city field of dreams in Tampa.