Rays giving fans glimpse of new image

Rays showing fans new image

ST. PETERSBURG -- Big things have been brewing behind the scenes for several months now. On Thursday, the Rays finally will raise the curtain on their project, and fans will be privy to a whole new look.

New uniforms. New colors. New logo. New name. Everything is new and Tampa Bay has an All-Star weekend planned to unveil their changes to the public.

The festivities kick off on Thursday afternoon in downtown St. Petersburg's Straub Park, in a free night of excitement for fans of all ages. At 4 p.m. ET the interactive activities kick off the evening.

At 5:30 p.m., manager Joe Maddon, Hall of Famer Wade Boggs and former Ray Fred McGriff will hit the catwalk to model the Rays' new uniforms, logos and colors.

Next is a special treat for any baseball fan, but especially those of classic baseball movies. At 6:30 p.m., Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West, will take the stage for a rock-and-roll concert.

Costner, an Academy Award-winning actor, has appeared in more than 50 films, including starring roles in timeless baseball flicks "Bull Durham", "For Love of the Game" and "Field of Dreams". Costner may have grown up a Dodgers fan in Compton, Calif., but he was certainly not immune to the excitement that the Rays are creating.

"They've got a pretty good nucleus of players, and their stats are getting better and better every year," he said. "Who's to say what happens out there? I like how the owner is going about things.

"I just think, 'What the heck? Is there a better place to baseball than where there's sunshine?'"

Modern West has played original rock-and-roll songs for the last two years, and it was in the Tampa area where the band had its first paying gig. What better place, then, to return and help the Rays celebrate?

"When I'm on a baseball field, I know where I'm at," Costner said. "And I think playing for the fans that love baseball, and have maybe had a 20-plus year relationship with me going into movies, is kind of a perfect fit."

Costner and his band mates will get into the baseball spirit a day earlier, when they'll don uniforms and take batting practice at Progress Energy Park. In addition to the excitement the movie star/musician attributed to being there "in the beginning" of the Rays' rebirth, for Costner, it's a way to touch his fans in another way.

"A lot of times when I meet people around the country, it just translates into a handshake or an autograph," he said. "I felt like I could have a bigger connection with people that I've actually had some kind of long-distance relationship with. ... Instead of making two movies a year or one movie a year, I'm really able to get out there and be amongst people."

Thursday evening will conclude with an 8 p.m. fireworks show, but that's only Day 1 of the entertainment.

At 11:45 a.m. on Friday, 15 Rays players and Maddon will appear in Tampa's Gaslight Park to sign autographs and provide free hot dogs, sodas, water, peanuts and Cracker Jacks to fans. The Rays radio team of Dave Wills and Andy Freed will emcee the event, which includes free giveaways of T-shirts with the team's new look.

Raymond and the Rays Street Team will also be around to pump up the crowd.

Fans wishing to get a jump on next season's memorabilia can cross the street to 400 North Tampa Street, where merchandise featuring the new logos will be for sale at the team's Tampa Office.

The club will be scattered throughout the community that day as well, visiting MacDill Air Force Base from 10-11 a.m. Maddon and Rays president Matt Silverman will take their caravan to St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker's office at 10:30 a.m., where they'll present Baker with a new jersey. At 1:45 p.m., they'll join left fielder and two-time All-Star Carl Crawford at Tampa mayor Pam Iorio's office and do the same.

Rays pitchers Gary Glover and Jason Hammel will visit the Pediatric Cancer Foundation's Kids Fishing Derby at the Renaissance Vinoy Marina at 12:30 p.m.

Friday evening from 5:30-7:30 p.m., and Saturday afternoon from 1-3 p.m. , more than 20 current Rays players will be at Champ's Sports outlet locations throughout the Tampa Bay area to visit with fans as they purchase Rays memorabilia.

Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.