Rays Banner Ceremony Photo Blog
Prior to the beginning of tonight’s game against the New York Yankees, the Tampa Bay Rays had a bit of business to resolve with their decor in their domed stadium. It seems that a few articles that were needed to spruce up the joint were not in place yet, and they wanted to get this business finished before the game began. So about 6:45 pm tonight, the Rays began a much needed and truly memorable ceremony where the team was to finally going to place those two fine banners in their respective place over left field just under the “D” ring.
The ceremony began with the Raysvision crew showing a tribute video to the team from their humble beginnings in April 2008, until the final out in the World Series in Philadelphia . It was a long, long road, and it was great to see the pride and the attention each players and coach gave to this short video before the ceremony on the field officially began. There were flame throwers that doused the air inside the Trop with a heat unknown to us before today. the video and the players reaction made even the wily vets seem to tear up a bit in remembering how we got there in 2008. But when Fernando Perez first poked his head out of the Rays dugout with the rolled up American League East Championship banner on his shoulders emotions ran high throughout the stadium.
As every player and coach on the Rays walked from the dugout around the clay infield of the Trop., upon the Field Turf II that was the site of the American League Championship clinching game, Every fan in the entire stadium, even some of the Yankees faithful stood and cheered for the accomplishment of 2008. For us to be able to hoist these banners in the presence of the team that has multitudes of World Championships, Divisional and A L Pennants to their credits might have seemed a bit pointed to some, but the evolution of the Rays turned the corner in 2008, and the Yankees had a front row seat at their upward climb.
Upon reaching the 370 sign on the left-center field wall, the team gathered and help roll out the first banner to be hoisted into the air tonight. After the banner was attached to eye clips, the paratroopers representing the Central Command at McDill Air Force Base in Tampa, began their down ward fall, which also keyed the hoisting of the American League East Championship banner to the rafters of Tropicana Field. Players just stood in awe of the massive banner going upward and onward and several were huddled towards the wall getting a view of the raising from a complete underneath angle. After this first banner took its rightful place in the rafters of the Trop., the team made their way to the second banner and began to repeat the same procedures.
Next to be lifted for eternity into the rafters among the “D” ring at Tropicana Field was the American League Championship banner. Most of the players by then were huddled together under this banner also and were talking amongst themselves probably trying to remember moments and situation that took place only a few months ago. You could see emotion on some of their faces as to the effort and the struggle they under took to get this championship for the Rays. The fans remained standing the entire time clapping and screaming and whistling during the entire time the banner was slowly lifted into place again by the Special Forces members from McDill AFB. Upon the completion of the two banners being immortalized among the heavens in Tropicana Field, hundreds of flash bulbs and a huge rush of emotions and pride surfaced in the entire stadium as the roars and cheers got louder and louder . It was a tremendous sight, and a blessing to witness tonight. As the first picture stated, ” The Magic continues Tonight.”
As much as the Yankees and Boston Red Sox fans want to take this moment from us, we stand proud tonight in the triumphs and the sweat produced by our 2008 ban of players and staff. From the Team Owner on down to the Clubhouse Attendants, this is a ceremony for everyone on the field, and in the stands. Hundreds of people in the offices and the cubbyholes of the Trop tonight are celebrating this crowning achievement. We are on the path to try and duplicate our journey, but we also know that the path will be riddled with more holes and traps than in 2008. But hopefully, we can make the journey again, and be proud in what ever course the season takes us in 2009.
But for tonight, we are the reigning American League Pennant winners, and the current divisional winners of one of the toughest divisions in baseball. It is going to be a long and hard season, but with an event like this that was witnessed by a sellout crowd, the pressure to win and to repeat is growing stronger every day. It was fun the first time we did it, think of the deja vu of even attempting it again. I would be willing to go through it all again, how about you?
All Photos are from RRCollections tonight.