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By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
Published February 15, 2008
ST. PETERSBURG - The Rays are spending a lot of time (and money) to convince people of the merits of playing in a new stadium on the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront.
But they're also continuing efforts to expand their market elsewhere in the state, making it official Thursday that they'll move an April 22-24 series against Toronto from Tropicana Field to the Disney complex near Orlando.
"The efforts are independent of each other," team president Matt Silverman said. "For us to be as successful as we can be, we have to be a regional team. These games extend our region and help us make Orlando Rays territory.
"We did consult the city (of St. Petersburg) to make sure that there weren't any additional sensitivities given the ballpark plans and once we had that approval, we proceeded just like we did last year."
That process includes compensating season-ticket holders and sponsors for having three fewer games than expected, and working a deal with the city, as the Rays did when playing three games at the Disney complex last year.
Tickets ($18-$125) for the Disney games will be available through an Internet-only presale at Raysbaseball.com today, and via the team's usual outlets, as well as the Champion Stadium box office, starting Saturday.
IN COMPETITION: One measure of the Rays' improvement could be the number of players looking over their shoulder, executive vice president Andrew Friedman said.
"We feel this is the first time we've actually had the requisite depth to really challenge guys and for guys to look around and see faces in here and names in here and watch them play and say, 'Wow, I've really got to work hard. Someone's coming after my job, and these guys are talented."'
DIFFERENT LOOK: Manager Joe Maddon spoke a lot at Thursday's media session about the players "getting it" and responding to his theories and concepts.
And he sounded confident there wouldn't be a repeat of last season's final weekend incident when he pulled since-traded Delmon Young from a game for not hustling, especially given the changes to the roster.
"To be here with a different group of guys, we've had a change, a positive change," Maddon said. "I really anticipate that that's not really going to be a problem. We've going to see this group really respond to our coaching methods this year."
HELPING MORE: The Rays are increasing how they help area programs by expanding the charitable contributions of the Rays Baseball Foundation.
The team announced Thursday that it formed the Community Fund Grant Program, which makes awards averaging $5,000 to community-based non-profit organizations. The team also formed the All-Star Grant Program, which will award $50,000-$100,000 and form a partnership with a regionwide nonprofit group.
The Rays will continue its Field Renovation Program of youth-league facilities. The foundation focuses on youth and education programs but will consider others, Silverman said.
For more information about the programs including application deadlines, go to RaysBaseball.com.
MISCELLANY: No. 1 overall draft pick LHP David Price was among the players who reported Thursday. ... Reliever Juan Salas, detained by problems in the Dominican Republic, is the only one of the 35 pitchers and catchers not expected to make today's opening workout. ... The medical staff will meet Monday to map out a spring playing schedule for OF Rocco Baldelli, who is coming back from hamstring injuries that limited him to 35 games.
[Last modified February 15, 2008, 17:56:13]