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Ten hot dates
By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 2, 2006
Maybe more so than any time recently, there are reasons to get into the Devil Rays season. The team is under new management, the stadium has been cleaned up and there appears to be a new fan-friendly attitude.
All that said, here are 10 dates worth considering:
APRIL 10 VS. BALTIMORE: The home opener is the first chance to check out just what all the offseason buzz has been about. Welcome new principal owner Stuart Sternberg and his management team, see the changes around the stadium and be part of what the Rays say will be better days.
APRIL 11 VS. BALTIMORE: New manager Joe Maddon has a unique way of looking at things, and fans (or at least the first 15,000) can experience it for themselves on Joe Maddon Retro Glasses night.
APRIL 28-30 VS. BOSTON: One major upgrade to the schedule this season is the increased number of weekend dates with popular opponents, starting with this three-game series against the Red Sox.
MAY 3-4 VS. NEW YORK: Until the Rays prove otherwise, the Yankees always will be the team against which they are measured. And one way is to count the number of Yankees fans who, somehow, can find their way over the bridges to the Trop nine or 10 times a year.
JUNE 5 VS. LOS ANGELES: After spending the past 10 years as a coach on the Angels bench, Joe Maddon should know pretty much everything about them. In this first meeting against his old team, we'll see just how much he learned.
JUNE 23-25 VS. ATLANTA: For folks who grew up in the South, baseball for a long time was the Braves. See Chipper and Andruw Jones hit, see John Smoltz pitch, see Jorge Sosa thank the Rays for trading him to Atlanta. And on the 23rd get a figurine of former Braves and Rays slugger Fred McGriff.
JULY 3-9 VS. BOSTON AND NEW YORK: It could be one of the biggest weeks the Rays have, and one of the longest, with four games against the Red Sox and three against the Yankees going into the All-Star break.
AUG. 20 VS. CLEVELAND : Besides enjoying the return of popular ex-Ray Eduardo Perez, the first 10,000 kids will get Rays gloves. If any of them can pitch, they may be asked to stick around.
SEPT. 2 VS. SEATTLE : It could be the most talked-about giveaway of the season, and that's because the dolls will be doing the talking on Dewayne Staats and Joe Magrane Dual Talking Bobblehead night. And you never know what might happen when you press the button.
SEPT. 22-25 VS. NEW YORK: The Rays conclude their home season with a four-game series against their pinstriped rivals from New York. There's a chance that one of the teams could be clinching the division that weekend.