ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Rays turn 20 years old on Saturday. The franchise – then known as the Devil Rays, of course – took the field for their first regular season game back on March 31, 1998.
Wilson Alvarez took the mound for the Devil Rays, cheered on by a sellout crowd of 45,369 – many of whom had waited years for the chance to see regular-season baseball in the Tampa Bay area.
“I made it! This is the greatest day of my life!” one fan exclaimed on his way through the gates.
Marching bands and even the players themselves greeted fans at the doors, while fireworks and streamers erupted from the top of the dome as Belinda Womack wrapped up the national anthem.
The Rays’ starting lineup that day featured:
- Quinton McCracken (CF)
- Miguel Cairo (2B)
- Wade Boggs (3B)
- Fred McGriff (1B)
- Mike Kelly (LF)
- Paul Sorrento (DH)
- John Flaherty (C)
- Dave Martinez (RF)
- Kevin Stocker (SS)
Though the day ended with an 11-6 loss, that hardly put a damper on the celebrations.
“It’s a history-making event. We’ll never forget it,” one fan told FOX 13. “Look around; everybody’s having a good time.”
The Devil Rays made it into the win column the next day with an 11-8 win over the Tigers.
Information from the Baseball Almanac was referenced in this report.