ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays Baseball Foundation, the team's official charity, awarded $125,000 to 28 Tampa Bay-area non-profit organizations at Wednesday's luncheon at the Batter's Eye restaurant inside Tropicana Field.
The awards were made available through the foundation's Community Grant Fund, which focuses primarily on youth and education programs that make a measurable difference in the Tampa Bay community.
All Rays players currently signed to multiyear contracts contribute to the Rays Baseball Foundation and its programs, a list that includes Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, Akinori Iwamura, Troy Percival, Carlos Pena, James Shields and Dan Wheeler.
Shields was on hand to help distribute the awards, and was encouraged by the positive effects of the foundation.
"It means a lot when you give back to the community," Shields said. "I mean, this is the team that drafted me out of high school and to be able to do that now is a pretty big deal. I know a lot of other players who join me feel the same way, so I'm just representing all of them right now."
Each player who signed an extended contract under principal owner Stuart Sternberg, have chosen to donate a portion to the foundation. These Rays players will have collectively contributed over $1 million to the community programs over the length of their contracts.
"When we have a whole list of guys who are participating in this, what it tells you is the attitude, the commitment to community impact is on the field, it's in the clubhouse, [and] it's in the front office," senior vice president Mark Fernandez said.
"It's one thing for [Sternberg] to stand up and say 'OK, we're going to do this,' but it means so much more and becomes so much more powerful when, not only are we giving these grants, [but] the players are supporting them as well.
That's when you really make an attachment with your fans and your community. I couldn't be more proud of our guys."
The recipients will be recognized at a pregame ceremony on Friday, April 25, when the Rays host the Red Sox at Tropicana Field.
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.