By: Darcy Calhoun, Tampa Bay Rays
The morning began with us crossing over the bridge to the Tampa Bay Rays — and what a start to the day! While there, not only were we able to pick the brains of the likes of President Brian Auld and Senior Vice President Mark Fernandez, but we were also presently surprised with guest appearances by the Rays’ new manager, Kevin Cash, and Chaim Bloom, vice president of baseball operations. Their transparency and excitement for the new things going on with sports in the region were palpable. We all learned some fun facts about team manager Kevin Cash; he was on two World Series teams with the Rays’ fellow American League East rivals, the Yankees and the Red Sox. Even more interesting, we learned that Cash considers one of his biggest mentors in the game to be baseball legend Terry Francona.
Rob Higgins of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission graced us with his presence and showed us the great things he and his team are doing in order to get sports events from all over the country to have a presence in Tampa Bay. The success that they are having is extremely impressive!
Then off we were onto the bus and back across the bridge to enjoy lunch at the beautiful Amalie Arena where we learned from Steve Griggs what the Lightning has successfully done to transform their brand over the years, as well as what the future holds for them in the Tampa Bay community. Talk about innovative…what a great team they have working there! Following our lunch we were given a special peek at the Lightning practice on the ice for their game the following night (something I would recommend to anyone if given the chance to take part in). What a cool insight into the team on the ice!
Last but not least, we arrived for our final stop of the day at the Buccaneers facility. We got to toss the football around on their practice field and were given tours of their facility where we learned several things such as the very specific logic behind why their field goal posts are facing a certain way. Who would have thought that kind of thinking goes into practice fields! To top that off, we were able to learn more about the Buccaneers brand from some of their brightest, including newly-appointed Chief Marketing Officer, Brian Killingsworth (as we simultaneously tried to get them to answer our questions of ‘Winston or Mariota?’).
The day was exciting and thrilling to say the least and I think we all took away from it the same thing – we are very lucky to live in a place where our professional sports teams put such value on giving back to the community and the future has never been brighter for sports in Tampa Bay!