The Tampa Bay Rays want to encourage Hernando County kids to spend part of their summer reading. And the team is offering a reward for those who make it all the way around the bases: a trip to Tropicana Field to see a Rays baseball game.
The program is for schoolchildren of all ages, with a special emphasis on third through fifth grades. It is the first year the program has been brought to Hernando, though it has been offered in other Tampa Bay-area counties. It is a joint venture of the Rays Baseball Foundation, the St. Petersburg Times Newspaper in Education program and the Hernando County Public Library System.
"It's a great chance for free tickets, and it motivates kids to read," said Mary Ganun of the Hernando library system.
To win all of the available prizes, kids must read for a total of 24 hours. Participants may read books of their choice or articles from the Times as they work toward their goals.
The goals are progressive, like bases on a baseball field. Reaching first base (three hours of reading) gets kids a temporary Tampa Bay Rays tattoo. At second base (five additional hours), the prize is an Evan Longoria poster. For reaching third base (seven more hours), kids receive a snap-on bracelet. The grand prize at home plate (nine additional hours) is one free ticket to a Rays game and a discount on two other tickets.
Kids can pick up game cards, where they log their reading material, from any Hernando County library, beginning today.
"Our entire library system is participating, and there is no cost to sign up," said Adam Brooks, the county's library services manager.
Brooks said that about 5,000 kids visit Hernando libraries during the summer.
Ganun emphasized that kids must come back to one of the county's libraries and submit their Rays game cards to receive each reward. Kids must submit their completed cards to a library by Sept. 23, mail them to the Rays at Tropicana Field or take them to the Rays box office to claim their tickets.