Rays back at Al Lang - as visitors
Update 4:09 p.m. The Rays hold on to beat the Netherlands 4-3 in front of an announced 3,003 at Al Lang Field.
Update 3:39 p.m. The Netherlands score twice in the bottom of the eighth to pull within 4-3, but RHP Brian Baker picked up a strikeout to strand the tying run at third.
Update 3:10 p.m INF Cole Figueroa, one of the players acquired in the offseason SS Jason Bartlett trade to the Padres, came through with a two-out, two-run single with the bases loaded in the seventh to give the Rays a 3-1 lead. They now lead 4-1.
OF Chris Carter started the rally with his second double of the game, and INF Daniel Mayora singled in a pinch-runner to tie the game at 1-1 earlier.
Update 1:45 p.m RHP Chris Bootcheck, one of many trying to compete for the final bullpen spots, gives up the game's first run in the second inning, allowing two hits, with a run scoring on a fielder's choice.
Netherlands 1, Rays 0
Update 1:37 p.m OF Chris Carter gets the first hit of the game, a double in the second inning, but he's stranded. Still no score.
Update 1:20 p.m. Mayor Bill Foster was awarded a Netherlands jersey and hat, along with the traditional Dutch wooden shoes. Foster even wore the shoes when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch, which floated to the right of the plate.
The Rays got a nice applause from the crowd when they were introduced, with the largest ovation going to special assistant Rocco Baldelli, who is the first base coach.
Update 12:38 p.m. The crowd is starting to fill in - slowly - at Al Lang, with plenty of Rays colors starting to pop up. When the team bus arrived, several fans were waiting by the visitor's dugout for autographs.
Special assistant Rocco Baldelli, who spent several springs playing the outfield here with the Rays, will serve as first-base coach. He said while it was a little different going into the visitor's clubhouse, he said the stadium looks "pretty much the same," other than the fact there are no advertisements on the outfield wall.
"It was fun," Baldelli said of playing at Al Lang. "I lived right down the street, I could wake up and roll over to the field. It doesn't get much more convenient than that. Not too many guys got to live at home and go to spring training. It was cool."
Mayor Bill Foster, who has been warming up to throw the ceremonial first pitch, said the International Baseball schedule at Al Lang has been a success so far, with the international teams, South Korea, Canada and the Netherlands saying they want to come back next year; Foster said they're also reaching out to the Italians and Jamaicans to grow the field next year.
Developing: The Rays are returning to their former spring training home, Al Lang Field, in downtown St. Petersburg, but will be on the visitor's side today as they face the Netherlands.
It's the first time Tampa Bay has played here since Mar. 28, 2008.
With all Tampa Bay's top players in the other split-squad game in Port Charlotte, the group set to play here will consist of non-roster hopefuls like OF Justin Ruggiano, 1B Casey Kotchman, as well as former top pick SS Tim Beckham.
The Netherlands is taking this exhibition pretty seriously, with 15 players from their World Baseball Classic team set to play, including all four pitchers. They have a radio play-by-play man here from Holland, Elvin, who will do a live broadcast for fans back home.
There have been around 2,500 tickets sold by this morning, not counting all the walk-ups expected today, so it could be the largest crowd of the inaugural St. Petersburg International Baseball schedule. The opener of the 13-game slate, with Penn State and South Korea, was over 2,000, as was the Blue Jays matchup with team Canada.
St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster is also expected to be on hand.