ST. PETERSBURG -- Although the Rays' season is still a work in progress, pitcher Scott Kazmir was on hand Tuesday afternoon to see the culmination of three months of hard work in nearby Brandon, Fla.
Kazmir was joined by Rays President Matt Silverman and officials from Hillsborough County and South Brandon Little League for a rededication ceremony of a newly revamped Little League field.
"It looks a lot better," Kazmir said, as the southpaw admiringly surveyed the upgrades. "Seems like everything was done just from scratch, and they really did it the right way. It looks great."
The Rays announced plans to renovate the Brandon Little League field three months ago through the Rays Field Renovation Program, which provides new or renovated youth ball fields to various communities throughout the Tampa Bay region. Through municipal and corporate partnerships, the Rays Baseball Foundation works with landscapers and contractors to overhaul individual fields.
In signing a contract extension this season, Kazmir is one of several Rays who have donated portions of their long-term deals to the Rays Baseball Foundation and help the team stay active in the community.
"It's a chance to take these fields and turn them into fields that families and generations can enjoy," Silverman said. "You can just imagine what it's going to be like for the kids to step into the batter's box and be up here on this mound. And have that sense of belonging to the tradition of baseball...that's the kind of thing that the Rays are proud to do in our community."
The improvements in South Brandon included replacing infield sod, adding 200 tons of clay and two tons of clay conditioner, applying fertilizer and weed control, replacing the backstop and improvements to the fence, replacing the bleacher roofs and improving drainage from the dugouts.
Tuesday afternoon, Silverman and Kazmir were joined by Little League officials to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, an event which had a hint of nostalgia for the Rays ace.
"It does bring you back [to your youth]," said Kazmir, who started playing Little League when he was just four years old. "I wish i had a field like this, that was this nice to play on, because this is a great field."
The Rays also refurbished the Azalea Little League field this season, the West Tampa Little League field in 2007 and historic Oliver Field at Campbell Park in St. Petersburg in 2006.
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.