"We're really proud," said manager Joe Maddon when asked about how well the team has done since the team changed names. "This is something that we envisioned when we first began in 2006. It was a lot more difficult to imagine at that time. ... Now it's up to us to sustain it and build upon it. Establish a tradition."
Maddon and the present ownership took over prior to the 2006 season, a time when the organization's culture had to be changed. That change did not come to fruition until '08, and it coincided with the name change.
The Rays would go on to win their first American League East crown with a 97-65 record, beat the White Sox in the AL Division Series and win an epic seven-game AL Championship Series vs. the Red Sox before losing to the Phillies in the World Series.
"We had to really confront the Yankees and the Red Sox in order to ascend in our division -- and actually, the confrontation was physical during that 2008 year," Maddon said. "It became physical. Nobody's going to give you anything, ever. You have to earn your respect, you have to earn your stripes, all of that.
"That's the part about this. If you're proud of one thing it's that you earned your right to be considered this right now. And it started that year. We played better, we had different personnel. But we fought for our turf, and I think when we did that there was a different perspective coming from [opposing dugouts]."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.