Rays Wrap Community In Hug With Gesture
A crowd of 40,000 strong descended onto Tropicana Field on Friday night. The home of the Tampa Bay Rays took part in a special moment and brought some cheerful support to a community that is still struggling after the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history.
It was noted all over media outlets and social media that the Trop hadn’t seen a crowd like this since the 2010 ALDS against the Texas Rangers. But this wasn’t the fervent atmosphere of a playoff series, if anything it was a celebration of a region coming together to rally and celebrate the LGBTQ community.
But it wasn’t just a sold out crowd that garnered attention. Team President Brian Auld announced that everything would go directly to a relief fund for the victims of the Pulse shootings. From ticket entry, to concessions and even the 50/50 drawing, all of it would go to those who were affected by the tragedy in Orlando. In the end, the whole thing raised $300,000 to help.
“The story is really the gesture that Mr. Sternberg and Brian Auld made by making the tickets, something that would people would be unable to pass up,” Vice President of Social Responsibility and Inclusion said before the game. “Really to me, each and every person that comes through the turn styles tonight is sending just a wonderful message and gesture of how they feel about their community. I know the LGBTQ community will be moved tremendously when they see images of this place full. You know what happened in Orlando, happened to everybody.”
While the Rays is just one of many in baseball wanting to show support, Beane said that the team was leading the charge. Of course, it takes an army to make something like this happen and some quick planning to boot. The whole point was to bring people together, which is what Beane’s mission is before the Orlando shootings but it’s even more important now.
“The beauty is that this type of support on this level is not about alienating anybody. I hope nobody feels alienated by the gesture,” Beane said. “But it’s just a broader hug of the state. Some day, we won’t have to worry about how we identify ourselves. It could have happened to any community but unfortunately it happened [to the LGBT community.]”
While the Rays didn’t fare so well on the scoreboard, they lost 5-2 against the San Francisco Giants–the importance of the moment wasn’t lost on any of them.
“It’s hard to fathom what they went through, but we’re lucky to be able to play this game tonight to show support.” Corey Dickerson, the Rays DH, said. “The people of Florida, you saw the support on t.v. You saw the support, I mean even in this locker room, people talking about it the day it happened. You can’t fathom what they went through, so it’s hard to put it into words but I think everybody is here to support it and show that they care.”
Some of the players publicly spoke about how proud they were of the Rays for stepping up to do something on such a vast scale to show support.
“It does make me proud and happy that the organization stepped in the way that they have and responded to this tragedy in a moment where things like this matter the most. And togetherness, and uniting people is something that I think can come from tonight,” Rays’ P Matt More said. “We’re all proud to be a part of it and happy that the front office was able to bring attention and awareness to this.”
Both Moore and Beane mentioned how important, and close, Orlando’s baseball ties are so there was another reason as to why it meant so much for baseball to step up and show support for Orlando and its LGBTQ community.
“You don’t realize how close you are to those facilities, to that moment, and for us to be able to respond and be a part of something good moving forward is something we’re all happy to do,” Moore said.
“Hopefully, it doesn’t take something like this to bring us together again.”
Which shows how important it is for people in positions such as Beane and other organizations such as the You Can Play organization started by Patrick Burke and the rest of the Burke family. You Can Play was started back in 2012. It was in honor of Brendan Burke and it’s mission is “dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation and/or gender identity” per it’s website. Since then, You Can Play has worked with teams in the four major league sports as well as numerous athletes all around the world. These organizations help spread the message of inclusion and make the world a more accepting place.
“Every single guy on that team is wearing a t-shirt tonight that is expressing love,” Beane said during the Rays’ batting practice. “I’m very proud of baseball today. It would be easy for owners to say ‘it’s business and it’s not of our business’ but the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t do that.”
Instead, the Rays’ helped send a bigger message.
additional reporting by Rays’ beatwriter Matt Stein.
This article also appeared on Sportstalkflorida.com