Some interesting facts and figures about the Rays and Opening Day, courtesy of the Rays PR staff …
The Rays open their 15th season at 3:10 p.m. today against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay is 7-7 in season openers. It is the third time the Rays have opened the season vs. the Yankees. The Rays are 1-1 winning in 2004 in Tokyo and losing at Yankee Stadium in 2007. It is the 8th time the Rays will open the season at home…they are 4-3 in those games. It is the third time the Rays have hosted the Yankees in their home opener. The Rays won the two previous games: 2004 (9-4) and 2009 (15-5).
Rays lost their season-opening game last year, 4-1, at home to the Baltimore Orioles.
Rays are 2-4 in season openers under manager Joe Maddon.
Raise the banner
Before the game the Rays will raise the 2011 AL Wild Card banner to the left field catwalk where it will reside along with the Rays 2008 AL East and AL Championship flags and the 2010 AL East Championship banner.
In the past four years, the Rays have been to the postseason 3 times. Only the Phillies (4) and Yankees (3) have been to the postseason as often during that span.
Rays training staff Ron Porterfield, Paul Harker, Mark Vinson and Kevin Barr will participate in the banner raising. The group will represent the organization when they hook the banner onto the ropes before it gets raised.
The National Anthem
Tampa Bay area saxophonist B.K. Jackson will perform the national anthem. A third-year Jazz/Music Industry major at Florida A&M University, 20-year-old Jackson has performed the anthem at the Rays home openers in 2009 and 2011, at Game 1 of the 2008 American League Division Series, all four games of the 2008 American League Championship Series and before Game 3 of the 2011 American League Division Series.
The First Pitch
Jim Dundee, son of the late boxing legend Angelo Dundee, will deliver the ceremonial first pitch for the season opener. An avid Rays fan and Clearwater resident, Angelo Dundee passed away on Feb 1 at the age of 90. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992 after a career that spanned six decades, training 15 world champions, including Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman and his first, Carmen Basilio who was crowned in 1955. His son, Jim, is an optician with a practice in Clearwater.
The White Seat
Fans at Tropicana Field will notice one white seat in the right field stands. Seat 10 located in row T of Section 140 is the location where Dan Johnson hit a two-out, two-strike, game tying solo home run in the 9th inning of Game 162 off Yankees' Cory Wade, Sept. 28. It is the 3rd marked seat at Tropicana Field. The others are for two balls hit by Hall of Famer Wade Boggs: the first home run in Rays history on March 31, 1998 in section 148 and Wade's 3,000 hit, a home run on Aug 7, 1999 that landed in section 144.
The end of the streak
The Rays have used a starting pitcher under the age of 30 for the past 764 games, a major league record. That streak will come to an end on Opening Day when James Shields takes the mound. Shields turned 30 on Dec. 20. The streak started May 25, 2007 when Shields started at Chicago and received a no decision in the Rays 5-4 loss. The previous day, Jae Seo started on his 30th birthday and got the win, a 13-12 win at home over Seattle.
The last time the Rays started a pitcher over the age of 30 was June 25, 2006 when 32-year-old Mark Hendrickson lost to Atlanta, 4-1, in Joe Maddon's 76th game as manager of the Rays. That streak stands at 896 games. Hendrickson is the only Rays pitcher to start a game over the age of 30 since Maddon became manager in 2006.
Shields has a 6-game home win streak over his last 7 starts while the Rays have won all 7. Included are two wins over the Yankees. He hasn't lost at home since last July 16 vs. Boston.
The 2012 season opener will kick off Rays Senior Advisor Don Zimmer's 64th year in professional baseball. This will be his 53rd major league opening day. During his playing career, Zim hit two Opening Day home runs, both coming off future Hall of Famers: 1957 for the Dodgers off Philadelphia's Robin Roberts and 1960 for the Cubs off Don Drysdale of the Dodgers.