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  1. Rays

Ex-slugger Carlos Peña signs contract to retire as a Ray

ST. PETERSBURG — Carlos Peña has made it very clear how much he enjoyed his five seasons in Tampa Bay, saying again Wednesday, "the most fun I ever had playing baseball was wearing a Rays uniform."

But he was even more touched by the reciprocity when team officials, from principal owner Stuart Sternberg down, agreed to a suggestion by Peña's agent that he re-sign then retire with the Rays.

"As much as the Rays have meant to me, for me to even believe that I meant the same to the Rays as well, I couldn't be more grateful," Peña said. "This is a dream come true to end my career in such a way, and I wouldn't have it any other way."

The deal will be official Friday afternoon when Peña, with about 50 friends and relatives along, will sign his last contract then throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Peña, 37, was one of the most popular Rays and a key part of their transformation into contenders, hitting a team-record 46 home runs after signing a minor-league deal in 2007, playing a key role as the slugging and slick-fielding first baseman on the 2008-10 teams that won two division titles and returning in 2012. He last played in the majors in July 2014 with Texas.

"Words cannot really express how grateful I am," said Peña, who works now for MLB Network. "I will forever be in gratitude and indebted to this organization, to the people of Tampa Bay, to the fans."