My family recently had a fantastic opportunity to see our favorite baseball team, the Tampa Bay Rays, play the Blue Jays in a game at Tropicana Field Sept. 23, all thanks to my two daughters who read books over the summer.
My girls, ages 5 and 7, took part in the Read Your Way to the Ballpark game. They had to read for at least 24 hours over the summer and then were given a ticket to a selected Tampa Bay Ray’s game.
The Read Your Way to the Ballpark game included reading around the bases. For every few hours they read, they would get on a base, and we would go to the library and have the librarian sign off on the card and give them a Rays prize. First base was a Rays temporary tattoo. Second base was a Rays poster. Third base was a Rays slap bracelet and then home plate, the ticket to the Rays game.
By the end of the summer, both girls completed the reading. We sent in the game card to get their free tickets. As part of the program, you could buy two additional tickets for $2 off each. So my husband and I ordered two tickets. With taxes, they ended up being $10 each. When we got to the stadium, we discovered there was free parking that night (usually it’s $20 to park). So, we got in the stadium with four people for $20. Pretty cheap for a major league baseball game!
Going to the game was a wonderful family night. We decided to go out to dinner at one of our girl’s favorite places to eat, the Angry Pepper on Madeira Beach and head down to the game early. When we got there, we were all handed collectible T-shirts featuring DJ Kitty, the Rays’ turntable-scratching mascot. We were also all given a music card for free songs (though I still haven’t figured out that yet).
My girls wanted to head to the stingray tank to pet the live stingrays. If you haven’t done this, you should. It is really neat and it’s a favorite thing for kids to do at the stadium besides running the bases after a game. In general, the stadium is really family-friendly. There is a kid’s corner on the first level with so much for children to do. They can learn how to swing a bat, pitch a baseball and make a poster for the team.
Our seats were up in Section 318, down the first baseline. Not too bad for the price. The girls had ice cream and were content to watch their team play.
My kids have loved the Rays since they could talk. Their favorite player is Evan Longoria. They even named our puppy after him! In fact, Longoria is the Ray’s player that endorses the Read Your Way to the Ballpark program. When we got the tickets in the mail, a letter addressed to my girls was signed by Longoria. They were thrilled! My oldest daughter ran around the house, saying, “Evan Longoria sent us a letter!” She even told her little friends she got a letter from Longoria.
What a wonderful way for the Rays to be a part of the education community by helping make reading fun for kids. This program also gives parents an opportunity to take their kids to a major league game at a price most can afford.
The Rays have done the Reading with the Rays program for the past few years and will continue next year, according to a ballclub spokesman. You can pick up entry forms next summer at your local library. I would suggest you get your kids involved in this wonderful program. It doesn’t cost anything, and it’s a fantastic way to get your kids motivated to read.