The Tampa Bay Rays is the first team to have spring training in its hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida. They announced it in 1996, and the St. Louis Cardinals, who trained in St. Petersburg at the time, moved their training camp. The St. Louis Cardinals had been holding spring training in St. Petersburg since 1946. Purchase Tampa Bay Rays spring training tickets here.
The team was accepted into the Major League Baseball when the owners welcomed them and the Arizona Diamondbacks as expansion teams on on March 9, 1995. The two teams were accepted by a vote of 28 to 0. On April 17 of that year, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays signed a 30-year lease with the City of St. Petersburg for the ThunderDome.
June 4, 1996 saw the Devil Rays’ first draft pick, outfielder-first baseman Paul Wilder. During that first free agent amateur draft, the Rays picked 97 players, which was the fifth highest total in the June draft’s 32-year history.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ first game was played at Al Lang Stadium on June 19, 1996 against the Yankees. The game drew 7,582 people. Pablo Ortega threw the first pitch for the team. The pitch was a ball. If you want to see the Rays play, purchase Tampa Bay Rays tickets here. On June 20, 1996, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays won their first game with a 4-3 win over the GCL Astros.
On October 3, 1996, Tropicana Dole Beverages North America, located in Bradenton, Florida, and the Devil Rays announce that they entered an agreement to name the ThunderDome “Tropicana Field.” The name change netted the city of St. Petersburg over $13 million.
January 16, 1997 marked another milestone for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Major League Baseball owners voted the team into the American League with a vote of 28-2. The team was the 15th franchise in the American League.
In the team’s first ever minor league spring training game, the Devil Rays shut out the Phillies, 6-0. On November 7, 1997, the Devil Rays named Florida Marlin’s pitch coach Larry Rothschild as their first manages. On November 18 of that year, the team picked 35 players Phoenix, Arizona’s Major League Expansion Draft. The team had the first pick in the draft.
Tickets for the 1998 season went on sale December 6, 1997. The opening day game sold out in 17 minutes. Fifty-one players took the field on February 15, 1998 for the team’s first Major League Spring Training camp. The Rays won their first Major League Spring Training game over Kansas City (6-2). Purchase Tampa Bay Rays season tickets here.
The Rays have a tank full of manta rays at the back of their ballpark. They kept the mascots even after dropping the word "Devil" from their name in 2008. In 2010 and 2011, the Rays went on to the post-season games. If you want to see what the Rays can do this year, purchase Tampa Bay Devil Rays tickets here. In 2010 and 2011, the Rays went on to the post-season games. Good teams often sell out fast. Be sure to purchase your Tampa Bay Devil Rays tickets before they sell out.