ST. PETERSBURG — As much as opening day is about the start of something, the Rays first paused to look back and honor Don Zimmer by retiring his No. 66 in a poignant pregame ceremony that included a video tribute.
Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said the decision to honor Zimmer was "a no-brainer," and his absence "is one of the great holes in the organization."
Zimmer's son Tom unveiled the number painted high above the left-centerfield wall, and his wife, Soot, watched with other family members from near the Rays dugout, teary-eyed and appreciative.
"Everything was streaking down my face; I didn't think it would get that way, but it doesn't take much," Soot said.
"I can just hear him, 'What are they doing retiring a number for a .235 hitter?' But he would be very proud. And to me he was more than a .235 hitter. He batted 1.000 to me."
• Vince Naimoli, who led the original Devil Rays ownership group, said it was a "great" honor to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, a nod to the 20th anniversary of the franchise award. "I'm very proud of the 20 years," said Naimoli, 77. "It's the blink of an eye. It's gone by fast." Sternberg said Naimoli is "very much responsible for having this team here today."
• Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier was excited to report that he wasn't too excited to sleep the night before his first opening day in the majors. To settle down, he rode his bike around his Tampa apartment complex, cleaned up things "that didn't need to be cleaned up" around the pad, did some pushups, popped a sleep aid "and by 10:30 I was actually tired. And I slept great." His next issue was killing time until it was time to go to the Trop, holding off until 9:30.
• Announced attendance for Monday's sellout was 31,042, the same as last year after renovations and the tarping of more seats. The 1998 inaugural game in the same building drew 45,369. It was the 10th straight home opener the Rays have sold out.
• The youngest of the 25 players on the Rays' opening day roster was right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, at 24 years, 339 days. … Right-hander Grant Balfour was the oldest at 37 years, 97 days (24 days younger than manager Kevin Cash). … Outfielder/DH David DeJesus has the most service time at 10 years, 146 days and was in his 11th opener. … Bench coach Tom Foley wore a Rays uniform for his 14th opener. … Right-hander Matt Andriese made his major-league debut; eight other Rays had their first opening day in the majors — infielder Tim Beckham, left-hander Jeff Beliveau, right-hander Brad Boxberger, right-hander Steve Geltz, right-hander Nathan Karns, Kiermaier, outfielder Steven Souza Jr. and right-hander Kirby Yates.