Festivities set up feel-good opener in St. Pete

Festivities set up feel-good opener in St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG -- Opening Day brought out a festive atmosphere to Tropicana Field, where the Rays opened the 2012 regular season on Friday afternoon against the Yankees.

The pregame activities began with Jim Dundee, son of late boxing legend Angelo Dundee, delivering the ceremonial first pitch to Evan Longoria. The ball used was the one struck by Longoria for his walk-off home run in the 12th inning of Game 162, on Sept. 28, 2011, sending the Rays to the postseason.

Angelo, an avid Rays fan and Clearwater, Fla., resident, died on Feb. 1 at the age of 90.

After the Yankees' introduction along the third-base line, the Rays were introduced to raucous applause from the sellout crowd. Rays manager Joe Maddon, first baseman Carlos Pena, Opening Day starter James Shields, Longoria, and coach Don Zimmer received particularly loud ovations.

Popular Tampa Bay-area saxophonist B.K. Jackson performed the national anthem, which led up to a showing of a film that captured the drama from Game 162, much to the delight of the crowd.

The pregame ceremony concluded when the Rays hoisted an American League 2011 Wild Card banner, which joined a 2010 AL East champions banner, and 2008 banners for winning the AL East and the AL pennant. All of the banners reside above the left-field stands.