ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays on Saturday afternoon unveiled slightly larger-than-life-sized bronze statues of Akinori Iwamura and Evan Longoria to commemorate two of the greatest moments — to this point — in franchise history.
Iwamura, fielding a bad hop grounder, stepped on second base for the final out of the 2008 American League Championship Series against Boston, sending the Rays to their first World Series. Longoria swatted a walkoff homer in the 12th inning of Game 162 in 2011 to send the Rays into the playoffs as a wild-card team.
Iwamura came over from Japan for the unveiling and was touched by the gesture, posing for photos by the statue, and he later threw out the first pitch.
“I’m very grateful to have a statue there, and I’m glad I’m a part of the history that happened,” said Iwamura, with team scout Tateki Uchibori interpreting. “I love the Rays, I love the region.”
Plus, Iwamura noted with a smile, he now ranks above some other Japanese players. “Ichiro (Suzuk) or (Hideki) Matsui, they don’t have any statues around,” he said. “(Shohei) Ohtani is probably to going to have his.”
The statues are located outside Gate 4 on the 16th Street side of Tropicana Field.
• • •
Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.