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Lightning players a hit during Rays batting practice



With one swing, Lightning goalie Mike Smith ended batting practice with a bang.

Smith was joined by fellow teammates Steven Stamkos, Teddy Purcell and Nate Thompson at Tropicana Field Thursday afternoon to participate in batting practice. They were all in full Rays uniform, and excited, with Smith saying he's never hit a baseball before (he played fast-pitch softball growing up).

It certainly didn't show, as Smith ripped a homer into the leftfield seats on his very last swing, running the bases before getting mobbed by Thompson, Purcell and Stamkos at the plate, the bouncing routine done by Rays players after walkoff homers. Purcell then surprised Smith during his interview session, creeping from behind to smother a whipped-cream towel over his face.

"Dream come true," Smith said. "It felt like butter coming off the bat, I'm not going to lie to you. I've always wanted to try that. Close my eyes and swung, and it went out. I'm pretty proud."

The Rays had wanted to honor the Lightning's memorable playoff run in some way, and the players really enjoyed this experience. They got to chat with Don Zimmer and Evan Longoria (who said he wants to get out on the ice sometime), and each took a bunch of swings in the cage from home clubhouse equipment manager Chris Westmoreland.

Stamkos, who said he played shortstop until he was 12-or-13, also had some good hacks, including hitting a couple to the warning track. He joked as he walked away, "I think the wind is blowing in here."

"It's a sport I grew up loving, and still watch today," he said.

Purcell said he never played baseball before and was pretty nervous in front of all the Rays players.

"I was just swinging away for the fences," Purcell said. "Don't really know what I'm doing, but it's fun."

-- JOE SMITH, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Saturday, July 16, 2011 12:15am]


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