In 2010, Rays players including B.J. Upton and David Price teamed up to form the Rays Dugout Club for children attending recreation centers in South St. Petersburg.
The Rays Dugout Club has become the signature program of the Rays South St. Petersburg Neighborhood Initiative, an idea conceived by Rays employees who are residents of St. Petersburg, partly in response to violence surrounding Paris Whitehead, an eight-year-old South St. Petersburg girl killed by gunfire in April 2009.
The Rays kicked-off the 2011 Dugout Club in June, just after the summer break began for students in Pinellas County. Rays players B.J. Upton and David Price have once again adopted two recreation centers in South St. Petersburg. The newest Rays Dugout Club host, Matt Joyce, adopted three centers for the summer. Joyce now sponsors "Joyce's Juniors" at Lake Vista Recreation Center, Frank Pierce Recreation Center and James B Sanderlin Family Center. Price sponsors "Price's Pals" at Campbell Park Recreation Center and Gladden Park Recreation Center for the second year in a row. Upton sponsors "B.J.'s Bunch" at Childs Park Recreation Center and Wildwood Recreation Center again this season. All seven recreation centers combined, more than 1,200 local elementary age kids participate in the program.
The program launched the week of June 27th when the three Rays players each visited their recreation centers. The players announced this year's program to the kids, handed out Dugout Club t-shirts featuring each player's club name and presented each recreation center with an "Angel Fund" to be used to meet the needs of the children and families served by each recreation center. This year's program focused on three important lessons: Stay Healthy, Stay Positive and Stay Involved.
During the month of July each center was invited to Tropicana Field to take a private tour of the stadium. They got the opportunity to visit the Ray Tank in centerfield, visit the Rays Dugout and test out the playing field. On August 11th, Joyce, Price and Upton will host the children from the Dugout Club for the Rays-Royals game. Raymond will also visit each recreation center to reinforce the messages set forth in the player's visits: Stay Healthy, Stay Positive and Stay Involved.
Joyce, Price and Upton will return to the recreation centers later in the summer to motivate the children for the start of school. They will present the Dugout Club with their final message of this summer's program, Stay Smart.