ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays were out in full force promoting the importance of reading books before Thursday's game against the Red Sox.
The day started at the Boys & Girls Club of Suncoast in Pinellas Park, where a luncheon was held to raise money for the local Boys & Girls Clubs Summer Reading Camp. Infielders Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac, outfielder Sam Fuld and pitcher Cesar Ramos made an appearance to represent the Rays.
"We're very fortunate to play the game of baseball, and it's kind of a way to give back to the kids and basically interact with them," Rodriguez said.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Suncoast partnered with the Rays to hold the fundraiser. A spokesperson for the event said about $12,500 was raised through proceeds from tickets to the luncheon.
About seven miles down the road, third baseman Evan Longoria surprised a group of about 100 kids to kick off the "Reading with the Rays" program at the main St. Petersburg Public Library.
The three-time All Star read "My Lucky Hat" and "Just Like Josh Gibson" to the children and emphasized the importance of picking up a book.
"[Reading] is the groundwork for your life," Longoria said. "You can learn so much from reading books, and you can learn a lot on your own. Obviously, school and teachers can teach you a lot of things, but you can go out and find a book about anything at the library."
The program encourages children to read and rewards them for doing so. If they put in 24 hours of reading during the summer, the Rays, in turn, give them one free ticket to a game at Tropicana Field.
"I think we underestimate the impact we have on the people within the community," Longoria said.