ST. PETERSBURG — For right-hander James Shields, helping the Rays raise their first championship banner Monday night was special.
But Shields had a feeling Tuesday's pregame ring ceremony would top it.
"When we get our rings," he said, "we'll really understand what we did last year."
In an emotional event, principal owner Stuart Sternberg handed out the American League championship rings to nearly 50 members of the organization before the 7-2 loss to the Yankees. Everyone from stars Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria to the head groundskeeper and training staff shook hands with Sternberg, executive VP Andrew Friedman and president Matt Silverman before posing for pictures and receiving an ovation from the sellout crowd.
The prize was shiny: 14-karat white gold rings with 48 diamonds.
"Classy; very well done," Scott Kazmir said. "And they left room for improvement, in case we get one step further."
To Kazmir, more striking than the ring's sparkle was what it symbolized. He said he went into the clubhouse between innings to give it another look: "I was just sitting back and thinking about what we accomplished."
Said Longoria: "It's something I'll treasure forever."
The top of the ring features a raised outline of an infield and "Rays" in blue letters with a specialty cut yellow diamond in an 18-karat gold starburst inlay. On one side, in raised polished letters, is "AL East Champs," with the AL logo below it with a wraparound banner containing "1st Pennant." Embedded on the other side are the "TB" logo, the Rays' regular-season record of 97-65 and the recipient's name or nickname.
The Rays declined to give the cost, but they didn't appear over-the-top.
Senior adviser Don Zimmer, who has six World Series rings, said he recently stopped wearing his last one, from the Yankees' 2000 title, because "I knew I'd put this one on." Crawford, the longest-tenured Ray, said he plans to save it for his son, Justin.
"I'm gonna wear it," Shields said. "Until that World Series ring can replace it, it's going to have to do."
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