Notes: Trop to get spruced up

Notes: Trop to get spruced up

ST. PETERSBURG -- Tropicana Field will benefit from a grant from the Pinellas County Environmental Fund that will fuel a landscaping project.

The Rays Baseball Foundation, the charitable arm of the Devil Rays, has been awarded a grant from the PCEF for a landscaping project that will include the planting of nearly 50 different species of native vegetation along the exterior of Tropicana Field. The project will focus on the area along Booker Creek, a vital tributary to three counties in the Tampa Bay region that winds near the rotunda entrance on the east side of Tropicana Field.

The PCEF awards grants for projects that will implement the on-the-ground habitat conservation recommendations that have been developed through the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and its related partnerships. Phil Graham and Brian Triska of Phil Graham Studio designed the project to educate visitors about natural ecosystems and water conservation through interactive signage and displays.

"We feel very fortunate to have been chosen to receive this grant and want to thank the agencies involved for allowing it to happen," said Rays president Matt Silverman. "Protecting the environment is obviously something that concerns all of us. We are pleased to serve as an instrument to help educate our fellow citizens on these important conservation issues, and we are excited to have what will be a beautiful Florida-friendly entry for our fans as they approach Tropicana Field.

"The project should be a great source of pride for all of us and will be a perfect complement to the changes we are planning for the exterior of the stadium."

"We view this as a home run for the entire community," said Ronnie Duncan, chairman of the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners. "This innovative project has the potential to reach many thousands of baseball fans with important messages about the benefits of Florida-friendly landscaping to the Tampa Bay watershed. We applaud the Devil Rays organization for stepping up to the plate and taking a leadership role in protecting our environment."

Forty-five different kinds of indigenous plants will account for nearly 200 native trees and more than 5,000 shrubs and groundcover.

Work on the project will begin this month and is expected to be completed in time for the Rays' home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 6.

Informational signs educating guests on the various types of vegetation featured in the project will be located throughout the area and the PCEF will have a marketing presence inside Tropicana Field to educate fans on environmental issues such as eliminating pollution and understanding Florida-friendly landscaping.

The PCEF is a partnership between the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. These three groups share the common goals of actively pursuing the protection, restoration and enhancement of fish and wildlife habitat around Tampa Bay. PCEF is funded by the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners, the NOAA, and corporate and individual sponsors. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation administers all grant awards on behalf of PCEF.

Snowy winter for Norton: Count Greg Norton among the everyday players reporting early to camp. And despite the wintry conditions around the Raymond J. Naimoli Complex on Friday, Norton was fine with the weather.

The Rays' designated hitter/first baseman lives with his wife and two young children in Denver, where Norton said they experienced unprecedented snow. Norton hoped to purchase a snow blower to help deal with the snow, but the stores were sold out. Even the snow shovels were back ordered, leaving Norton armed with a flimsy model to combat the onslaught.

Fortunately for Norton, he managed to acquire a quality shovel from a local Home Depot prior to the flurry of 27 inches that hit Denver just before Christmas.

"That was a three-day workout," Norton said. "We couldn't leave home for two days."

Norton and his family arrived in the Tampa Bay area Monday night.

Bullpen slim: Bobby Ramos, the Rays' bullpen/catching coach, is sporting a new svelte 220-pound body after shedding 30 pounds during the offseason.

Ramos credited outfield coach George Hendrick with pointing him in the right direction for his weight loss.

"I thought he was kidding me when he said you've got to eat," Ramos said. "But it worked."

Ramos said he ate small meals throughout the day to get his metabolism going and he did a lot of cardiovascular exercise.

Important spring for Navarro: Dioner Navarro believes in the benefits of Spring Training. And this spring is particularly important to the Rays' catcher, considering it will be his first since arriving from the Dodgers in a midseason trade in 2006.

"This is important for me because I get to work with the pitching staff and get to know them better," Navarro said. "And I know we'll have some new faces, and we'll get to know each other on this pitching staff so we know what we're doing.

"Spring Training is important for everybody. This is the most important part of the season. This is a time when you have time to work on stuff you don't have the time to work on during the season. Hopefully we'll all be clicking and be on the same page so we won't have to deal with those things during the season."

Navarro smiled sheepishly when asked about this particular phase of Spring Training. For catchers, it's the worst time of the year since all they do is catch for most of the workout and only occasionally get to hit.

"It's not good," Navarro said. "But you've got to go through it."

Camper on the 'pen: Shawn Camp is one of the veterans of the bullpen, which caught a lot of criticism after a 2006 season that saw the Rays blow a record number of leads. Camp believes the criticism is fair.

"I think we deserve everything we get," Camp said. "We know as a group down there that we blew some games late. But also we ate up some innings sometimes.

"I think, for the most part, we got another year under our belt. And pretty much some of the guys know what to expect this year, and there's just no excuses for late leads blown."

This and that: Due to the cold temperatures expected, Saturday's morning workout has been changed from 9:30 to 10 ET. ... The Mets claimed reliever Marcos Carvajal on Friday. The right-hander was designated for assignment by the Rays on Tuesday to clear room on the 40-man roster for right-hander Jae Kuk Ryu. ... Hitting coach Steve Henderson and special instructor Fred McGriff are scheduled to attend Friday night's Tampa Sports Club awards banquet. Rays left fielder Carl Crawford was named the club's "Rays Player of the Year" and Henderson will accept the award on his behalf. ... Special instructor Don Zimmer and right-hander Seth McClung will attend Saturday night's Clearwater for Youth dinner at the Sheraton Sand Key. ... The Rays, who were the first professional baseball team to play on FieldTurf, will unveil FieldTurf's latest product, the FieldTurf Duofilament System, at Tropicana Field on Tuesday.

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