12/04/09 5:59 PM EST
Rays build playground in a day
Players, coaches, owner, volunteers roll up sleeves at YMCA
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
The initiative by the Rays, Tampa Metropolitan YMCA and organizers of KaBoom saw the new playground built before their eyes at the Riverview location.
"It's another investment we're making in our region," team president Matt Silverman said. "It's great to be able to provide a safe place for kids to play and an asset for the community. We hope it's the first of many of these ventures. This one is the product of our employees to actually put something in the ground."
About 160 Tampa Bay personnel, along with local volunteers, started from scratch about 9 a.m. ET and worked throughout the day -- despite weather that did not cooperate. About 2 p.m., Rays manager Joe Maddon drove in the ceremonial final piece to complete the playground assembly.
Pitching coach Jim Hickey could be seen wearing rubber boots while mixing concrete in a wheelbarrow before rolling the load to its destination. Principal owner Stu Sternberg, who flew in from New York for the day just to participate, had mulch duty. And Raymond can now be referred to as "the waterlogged team mascot." But the esprit de corps was outstanding after accomplishing the task.
Joining Silverman, Maddon, Sternberg and Hickey were Andrew Friedman, executive vice president of baseball operations; players B.J. Upton and Dan Wheeler; and coaches Tom Foley, and Derek Shelton.
"It's win-win all around," Sternberg said from underneath a yellow slicker. "The only issue is we had the baseball brain trust in here working, and they have a lot going, getting ready for the Winter Meetings."
KaBoom is a national nonprofit organization that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. Since 1995, KaBoom has used its community-build model to bring together business and community interests to construct more than 1,700 playgrounds, skate parks, sports fields and ice rinks across North America.
Rays employees get a paid day off once a month to do community service. Friday they used their days for December to help build the playground along with YMCA volunteers, under the supervision of KaBoom.
"The business I came from, 5 percent of what we made went to charity," Sternberg said. "One of the main reasons is to be able to do things like this and make a difference. ... This playground is going to be here a long time. And we're going to build another one and another field. And we'll make a lasting mark in the area. We do everything we can to promote people giving and working for noble causes."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.