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BATBOYS, BATBOYS

This spring baseball players weren't the only ones trying to secure a spot on the roster of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for their inaugural season. More than 50 teenagers were interviewed and had tryouts with the Rays - to become one of nine batboys.

The batboys work in teams of two, alternating each time a new visiting team comes to St. Petersburg. On game days, the batboys are responsible for setting up the dugouts. They load carts with bats, balls, batting helmets and coolers and head through the tunnel toward the dugouts.

In their Devil Rays uniforms, the batboys take to the field during batting practice. Not to hit, but to shag balls.

After the game, the batboys still aren't done working. Everything gets cleaned and put back from where it came. All the players' shoes are polished. Each batting helmet is shined. If a road trip is scheduled the next day, there might be some last-minute packing to be done.

They know all the coaches and players by name and face. And hopefully the coaches and players know them by name and face. For $30 a game, the batboys do more than get a great seat to watch the ballgame.

A new box of baseballs, above, is prepared for use during infield practice. Batboys later sort through the used balls and send blemished ones to the minor leagues.

Michael Ryckman, 18, a student at St. Petersburg Junior College, cleans a player's spikes after Tuesday's game. Batboys polish the spikes after batting practice and after every game.

Doug Hensel, 17, a senior at Northeast High, takes a moment to wake up in the clubhouse early Tuesday before donning his uniform. Hensel and the other batboys were at Tropicana Field until after midnight for Monday's game, then returned to the dome about 8 a.m. Tuesday for the afternoon game.

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