ST. PETERSBURG — Foreheads and bottles of ranch dressing — those are just a couple of the things Rays outfielder Brett Phillips has signed before home games this season.
Every game, fans line up about 40 minutes before first pitch between sections 112 and 114 at Tropicana Field, just past the Rays’ dugout, for a chance to meet their hometown hero.
Phillips, a Seminole native, appears to be just as anxious to meet them.
“I feel like as a baseball player, an athlete, you have a responsibility to extend your thanks to the people who come out and support you,” said Phillips. “And for me, that’s taking 10 or 15 minutes out of my day to sign autographs.”
The opportunity to meet an MLB player didn’t come along often when Phillips was attending baseball games as a kid. His goal is to provide that experience for today’s fans, especially the young ones.
“As a kid coming to these games, I wish that baseball players were a little more accessible,” Phillips said. “Kids see us and they have their favorite players, but for the most part, they come and watch us play, and then never really get that interaction.”
Typically, Phillips takes the time for dozens of fans to have their picture taken or an autograph signed.
“Oh my gosh it was thrilling, it was the best ever,” said Marilyn Gensinger of Eureka. “He does make baseball fun. I’ve been a Rays fan since Day One, but having a hometown boy, it just makes it special. We feel like he’s part of our family.”
The appreciation goes both ways. Phillips says he enjoys hanging out with fans and being able to get to know the people who watch the team from the stands every night.
“I love it. It’s been awesome seeing everyone over there. Coming out to support the Tampa Bay Rays is huge to us.”
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