Insider tips for Rays Fan Fest
If only the Rays could draw the crowds during games that they will likely see Saturday at the Rays Fan Fest! We have some insider tips on how you can make the most of this free day at the stadium on Saturday with your kids, meeting players, running bases, touring the club house and maybe even having David Price phone a friend for you. Read on for tips from Fans Fest veterans on how to make the most of a day at the Trop:
• The Reading With the Rays station is just what it sounds like, Rays players and coaches reading with kids. They are also on hand in the high-fiving area when the kids run the bases and on the call-a-friend stage, where a fan gets to have a Rays player, such as, below from left, Sean Rodriguez, David Price or Sam Fuld, call a friend for them. What a way to impress Grandpa! They don't sign autographs there, but it's a good chance to snap a picture and give your favorite players and coaches a high five.
• Radio and TV stations set up broadcast tents down by home plate, which is the best place to catch a player or coach on his way from an interview to an autograph signing. Johnny Damon was shaking hands, chatting with fans and high-fiving folks running around the bases last year.
• If you do decide to brave the autograph lines, you will have two dozen former big-leaguers to seek out who will sign for free, along with the radio and TV reporters you've come to know, not to mention current Rays players and coaches. There also is the option of buying a $50 wristband that grants the opportunity to get autographs from some of the more popular Rays players. All proceeds benefit the ALS Association. For even bigger rollers, the Exclusive Signing Opportunity is new this year. For $200-$400 you can get one of just 15 spots for the most popular players and a wristband for the other autographs. See the team's website for details.
• One of our favorites is the batting cage, where you can hit 'em into the stands and feel the awesomeness of a home-run hitter. Bopping one into the cheap seats (even if it's a Wiffle ball) is so satisfying.
• Be sure to check out the tours of the players' locker room. That line moves pretty fast, and the view inside is pretty cool.
• Go ahead, run the bases. How many chances are you going to get to run the bases of a Major League stadium? This used to be just for the kids, but this year anyone who wants to can round the bases.
• Get photos with Rays mascot Raymond and DJ Kitty (it was an actual kitty in that viral video but our favorite hep cat has now been turned into a mascot suit).
IF YOU GO
Rays Fan Fest Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Tropicana Field, 1 Stadium Drive, St. Petersburg. Free. For more details, see the Fan Fest website.
Spring training games get started around the Tampa Bay area the weekend of March 2. The first Rays home spring training game is March 4 at 1:05 p.m. vs. the Minnesota Twins at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte.
The first home game of the regular season is April 6 vs. the New York Yankees. See here for schedules and tickets .
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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