Several promotions planned for spring initiative

Rays to host Military Appreciation Day in opener, among other events

Several promotions planned for spring initiative

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays will honor Charlotte County school employees, veterans and Little Leaguers on different occasions throughout March at Charlotte Sports Park.

The Rays' Grapefruit League opener on March 5 against the defending American League East-champion Orioles will be Military Appreciation Day at Charlotte Sports Park, a special tribute to the men and women of Charlotte County who have served their country. The first 5,000 fans in attendance will receive a Tampa Bay military-themed T-shirt, and the USSOCOM Parachute Team will deliver an American flag and the first pitch ball as part of a special pregame presentation.

The Rays have donated 500 tickets through Charlotte County Veterans Services for local veterans and their families to attend the game, many of whom will receive special recognition. Tampa Bay will also be assisting veterans in their efforts to construct the Vietnam Wall of Southwest Florida in Charlotte County, a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Any fan donating to the project that day will receive an Alex Cobb military-themed bobblehead.

The week of spring break will be Charlotte County Public Schools Employee Appreciation Week. The Rays will offer the approximately 2,200 teachers and employees of the Charlotte County Public School system free tickets to one of three Spring Training games at Charlotte Sports Park. Charlotte County Public School employees need only present their employee identification badge at the Charlotte Sports Park box office the day of the game to receive a free general admission ticket to one of three games: March 8 vs. the Phillies, March 10 vs. the Pirates or March 12 vs. the Blue Jays.

As part of that initiative, Tampa Bay players will visit various Charlotte County Schools to promote reading, the school system's current primary focus.

On March 15, when the Rays host the Mets, the club will celebrate Little League Day. Little Leaguers and their coaches from Port Charlotte and North Port Area Little Leagues will receive a free general admission ticket at the box office on the day of the game by wearing their Little League jersey.

This season, the Rays have outfitted T-ball teams from more than 50 Little Leagues in seven counties with jerseys and caps, including both Port Charlotte and North Port. Coaches from the leagues also participated in clinics at Tropicana Field as part of the initiative.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.