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Tampa, St. Petersburg plan celebrations for Rays

From banners to posters to public proclamations, Tampa and St. Petersburg are setting aside their historic rivalries for the good of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The mayors of both cities have announced a series of measures in honor of the team's first playoff appearance.

"For our city, for our region, for our state, it's a dream come true," said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker during a news conference Wednesday. "I've watched Field of Dreams a hundred times. … I believe in happy endings."

Baker will proclaim 2008 the "Year of the Rays" at a future council meeting and the council will begin every meeting by singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame until baseball season ends.

Some other highlights of Baker's celebration plan:

• The Pier will sport the Rays' colors until the postseason ends.

• The city will provide banners and posters that read "St. Pete Loves the Rays" to fans.

• The city is sponsoring a ticket contest. Submit a 100-word statement on why the Rays are your favorite team at stpete.org/stpetelovestherays. The winner gets two playoff tickets and a $100 gift certificate to the Rays' gift shop.

• The city is inviting fans to greet Rays players when they return home from their final regular-season road trip Sunday at 8 p.m. at St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport.

Meanwhile, Tampa will celebrate "Tampa Bay Rays Day" Friday. The city will hold the free party downtown at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park. A giant screen will show the Rays-Detroit Tigers game. Team mascot Raymond will be there at 6:30 p.m., and the game starts at of 7:05 p.m.

Mayor Pam Iorio is also urging residents to wear their Rays baseball apparel all day Friday. The city will dress the municipal building with a banner that says "Go Rays, Tampa Believes."

The Rays will hold their own party Monday at 5 p.m. at Straub Park in St. Petersburg, featuring a performance by rock band Survivor, of Eye of the Tiger fame, and appearances by Rays players. The team will reach out to its Hillsborough County fans with a second party Tuesday at Lykes Gaslight Park in Tampa from 11:30 to 1:30 p.m. There will be free food and games.

Expect more events if the team makes it to the World Series.

Baker jokingly promised that City Council members will all get Mohawk haircuts if the team makes the World Series.

But Baker, who sports a short salt-and-pepper haircut, said he can't commit to shaving his own head. "I'm in discussions with my wife on the issue," Baker said, laughing. He later added, "I might not have enough hair for one."

So will Iorio jump on the RayHawk bandwagon?

"I'm sure not," said Iorio, laughing. "I have enough trouble with my hair without turning it into a Mohawk."

Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or [email protected]

Tampa, St. Petersburg plan celebrations for Rays 09/24/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 9:45am]
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