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Jane Castor says Tampa is a baseball town as she raises Rays flag

The mayor says Tampa’s long tradition of baseball has the city excited about the Rays first playoff appearance since 2013.

TAMPA — As a Tampa Bay Rays flag was raised atop Old City Hall in downtown Tampa on Wednesday, Mayor Jane Castor said the sport’s long tradition in the state’s third-largest city made tonight’s appearance in the American League wild-card game something special.

“We are a baseball town,” said Castor of a city whose dreams of a Rays ballpark in Ybor City were dashed — at least temporarily — in December, six months before she took office. “We’re very excited.”

In brief remarks from the roof of the Municipal Office Building, Castor, wearing a pink blazer over a Rays T-shirt, said the city’s large Latino community and its long tradition of producing major league talent made baseball a special part of the city’s character. She noted that the city was currently celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.

A Tampa Bay Rays flag along with the American flag wave above Tampa City Hall Wednesday.
A Tampa Bay Rays flag along with the American flag wave above Tampa City Hall Wednesday. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]

Across the bay, in the city the team currently calls home, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman won’t be raising a Rays flag due to ongoing construction at City Hall, said his spokesman Ben Kirby.

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“We have told the Rays we stand ready to partner on postseason events. Anticipate that will be case following this one-game playoff,” Kirby said.

Kriseman tweeted that he’ll be bartending at a downtown bar to help celebrate the game and will be popping into other bars to cheer on the Sunshine City’s only major professional sports team.

Castor won’t be guest bartending, but she (jokingly?) invited the city over to take in the ballgame with her.

“C’mon over to the Castor house, we’ll be watching,” she said.

The team is currently in negotiations with Kriseman over its announced plans to play half its future seasons in Montreal. Officials in a Montreal group hoping to bring baseball to that city will be in attendance at the game in Oakland tonight, their tickets were facilitated by Rays owner Stu Sternberg.

RELATED STORY: Montreal group to attend playoff game