If you love the Tampa Bay Rays, then the Rays Fan Fest is the place to be this Saturday. is is where you need to be. There will be lots of players, coaches and former players signing autographs, clubhouse tours and kids batting, pitching and running activities. And because admission and parking are free, you can be assured of something else: It will be jam packed with folks jockeying to see Rays stars. Before you go, here are a few things to know:
• To get autographs — Rays officials say that most players will be on hand for the event — you must have a wristband. They cost $20 and proceeds will go to the American Red Cross Haiti Relief Fund and Save the Children. The Rays also will accept donations for both charities. Kids ages 14 and younger and season ticket holders do not have to pay for wristbands.
• Now, you'll still have to stand on line to get the autographs so you may want to have a strategy: Maybe one person stands in line to get autographs while another takes the kids to their activities. Or maybe an older teen can stand in one line while parents stand in another to get the most autographs.
• There are two special appearances: Country rap artist Cowboy Troy will perform, meet fans and sign autographs from 10 a.m.-noon. And the "Batting Stance Guy" Gar Ryness will be on hand throughout the day doing what he does best — impersonating the batting stances of players past and present.
• You can buy a special Fan Fest ticket pack, which has tickets for eight home games including Opening Day and a complimentary wristband to get autographs at the fest. The ticket pack starts at $110 and is available online now and all day at the fest. And if you buy season tickets at the fest, you'll have the opportunity to get your photo taken with Rays players.
• Youngsters can go to the Bright House Sports Network Kids Interactive Zone and take a swing in a big league batting cage, test their fastball in the speed pitch booth and hit a home run in the Wiffle Ball Home Run Derby. Kids will also have the chance to run the bases.
• What would a day at the ballpark be without hotdogs, peanuts and Cracker Jack? Food will be sold at the Trop but you can also bring your own food, like items in clear packaging and resealable bags, soft-sided containers, snacks and juice pouches for kids and non-alcoholic beverages. You can't bring in cans, thermoses, ice chests, bottles, glass containers or non-collapsible containers.
Rays Fan Fest is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Tropicana Field, 1 Stadium Drive, St. Petersburg. For information, call toll-free 1-888-326-7297 or log on to www.raysbaseball.com.
Sherry Robinson can be reached at (727) 893-8305 or [email protected]