ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are glad to be home and happy that Hurricane Irma did not cause too much damage to the Tampa Bay area.
"It's good [to be home]," Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Friday's series opener against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field. "Nice to have an off-day [Thursday] and get things situated back at the house. Like I said in New York, I feel like most of the guys, from what I heard, we were all pretty fortunate. Hopefully the Bay area was just as fortunate. I know most of the power is back on, but still there's some homes without it. Hopefully that gets turned on pretty quick."
The Rays returned to St. Petersburg following Wednesday afternoon's game against the Yankees. That capped the Rays' trip that included a three-game series at Boston against the Red Sox and a three-game set against the Yankees at Citi Field, the home of the Mets. The Yankees series had been scheduled for Tropicana Field, but got relocated due to the storm.
While returning home brought relief, reliever Brad Boxberger allowed that the trip had been stressful.
"You don't know what you're coming back to and you don't know how long the road trip is going to be, it went from a three-day road trip to a six-day, or super long road trip," Boxberger said. "It's definitely different when you don't know what you're coming back to."
Alex Cobb said the Rays' "thoughts and concerns" were directed toward how the storm was impacting the area and people's lives.
"Once we found out that the damage wasn't too overwhelming, it was nice to find out that we were able to come back," Cobb said. "You last thought is probably playing a baseball game."
Cobb was pleased that the Rays returned home to pick up their homestand after the detour to Citi Field.
"Hopefully we continue the season with the schedule in place," Cobb said. "Looks like the whole area, really, all things considered, dodged a bullet. We're very fortunate."
Evan Longoria felt as though the players had handled the trip well, even if their 2-4 record might have suggested otherwise.
"As a group, I think we handled it as best we could," Longoria said. "Everybody was displaced, out of their rhythm, routine, there was some unexpected movement. But I think as professional athletes and baseball players, that's part of the gig, is kind of being able to adjust and doing what you need to do no matter what the situation is.
"So my message from the beginning has been that this is more about the community, about our families, and our Rays family back here. All the people we left behind. And to have them and everybody safe and no damage, really significant damage back home, I think is something that we're all thankful for and lucky to have not really sustained much damage."
Longoria smiled when asked if Tropicana Field had ever looked better.
"Oh yeah, got a wash," Longoria said. "Looks great."
On Thursday evening, Feeding Tampa Bay delivered and distributed a truckload of Meals Read to Eat (MRE), bananas and water at Tropicana Field to those in need due to Irma. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Police Chief Anthony Holloway attended, aloong with officers from the St. Petersburg Police Department and front office staff from the Rays and Feeding Tampa Bay.
On Friday, Corey Dickerson and his wife, Beth Anne, delivered Papa John's pizza to the first responders at the St. Petersburg Fire Department and St. Petersburg Police Department.
Boxberger and his wife, along with Steven Souza Jr. and his wife are involved with the Florida Dream Center, which has been putting together packages for families that are without power.
"They have a lot of stuff come in that helps," said Souza, noting they needed rice, beans, canned fruit and canned vegetables. "[We're] just asking guys to bring in whatever they can and try and help families who are struggling a little bit. ... We just asked how we could serve with the hurricane and this is what they said they needed most."
Cash liked how the the players and the organization has pitched in to help.
"I know our players understood the magnitude of what took place here while we were gone," Cash said. "And anything we feel we can do as an organization. Shaking hands, delivering food, whatever it is. I think those are nice gestures that we should be proud to do."
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.