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Rays wake up, and it wasn't a dream

B.J. Upton and Shawn Riggans are jubilant after the Rays clinch a playoff spot Saturday at Tropicana Field. Team members celebrated with fans and well-wishers all through the night.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

B.J. Upton and Shawn Riggans are jubilant after the Rays clinch a playoff spot Saturday at Tropicana Field. Team members celebrated with fans and well-wishers all through the night.

ST. PETERSBURG — The empty bottle of G.H. Mumm Brut champagne sitting in each player's locker Sunday morning was the obvious artifact from the wild celebration in the Rays' clubhouse the night before.

Otherwise, it didn't look, or smell, like the wet-and-wild party that several veterans insisted — "for sure," Eric Hinske said — was the best they had ever seen.

And that was just the start of the celebration.

Scott Kazmir, Cliff Floyd, B.J. Upton and some others went to the nearby PUSH Ultra Lounge and got a rousing greeting. "It was kind of hard for us not to be recognized since we all had Mohawks," Kazmir said. "They were playing one of our Rays songs and people were into it. We were taken care of. It used to be that we had to show our players' ID cards to get in."

Executive vice president Andrew Friedman, team president Matt Silverman and 25 others gathered at the Rack in South Tampa. "There were a few toasts," Friedman said.

Manager Joe Maddon stayed at the Trop to celebrate with Mumm and Dom Perignon champagne, Patron tequila and red wine. He had designated his brother, Mark, to drive him and fiancee Jaye Sousoures to his South Tampa home, and apparently enjoyed the ride.

"With the different concoctions I was drinking, I don't know when I went to bed," Maddon said. "I really don't."

He received calls from his mom, Beanie, his sister and his children; text messages from dozens of former colleagues, including Angels manager Mike Scioscia and Padres manager Bud Black; and a "pretty cool" fax from former Yankees and current Dodgers manager Joe Torre, saying, "Congratulations for winning in a tough division."

The Rays got through the celebration relatively unscathed. Reliever Trever Miller said he was sorer than expected from being mobbed after the final out, but the only injury was sustained by, of all people, head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield, who had a bruised lip after a clubhouse collision with Dioner Navarro's elbow.

The bottles were one souvenir. Clubhouse manager Chris Westmoreland has the ball Evan Longoria caught for the final out, and about three dozen others from the game saved for historical and other purposes, including a display case.

The setup for the celebration started around the seventh inning Saturday when West­moreland and his staff placed a precut layer of new carpeting with a plastic (thus waterproof) bottom on top of the standard flooring, and hung vinyl sheeting with team colors and logos over the lockers.

"I wanted everyone to know we were ready to win here, and we were prepared," Westmoreland said. "Everything was perfect."

The cleanup started around 9:30 with two crews of 10 taking down the sheeting, "extracting" the residuals of 25 cases of beer and 212 bottles of champagne and pulling up the temporary carpet, replacing about 150 ceiling tiles and other chores.

They were done by midnight, and when clubhouse staffers Ryan Denlinger and Jose Fernandez were first to arrive around 8:30 Sunday morning, it looked, Fernandez said, "like nothing happened."

Which was anything but the case.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Rays wake up, and it wasn't a dream 09/21/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 23, 2008 5:43pm]
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