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These rays will be missing from Tropicana Field

The cownose rays that are usually in the outfield touch tank will stay at their offseason home in Apollo Beach.

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays will be playing at the Trop this season. The rays won’t be.

The 20-some cownose rays that make for good kids entertainment and cool TV shots in the touch tank beyond right-centerfield are not in the lineup for the abbreviated season set to start next Friday.

Instead, they will stay at their offseason home at the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach, under the usual care of the Florida Aquarium. (The Viewing Center is closed from April through October.)

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The move, like so many others, is a product of the coronavirus-impacted season. It eliminates the need to have staff to care for the rays; teams are trying to reduce overall numbers.

And there won’t be anyone to touch the rays anyway. Fans won’t be allowed, at least at the start of the season, and even if they are eventually, the touch tank will be closed due to social distancing issues.

The Rays are planning — tentatively, as with most things — to bring the rays back for next season. The 10,000-gallon touch tank opened in 2006.