Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Rays future is in Clearwater

Tampa Bay closer Troy Percival sat in the dugout an hour before Thursday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Clearwater’s Bright House Field and took in the scene when team president Matt Silverman walked by and said, “Welcome to our future.”

The Rays new spring training site in Port Charlotte, scheduled to debut in 2009, will look similar to Bright House, the Phillies’ 7,000-seat spring training park.

There’s two decks, luxury suites, a path that goes around the outfield, berms in right and left field and a tiki bar in left field.

“We looked at all aspects of this park thoroughly,” Rays vice president of public relations Rick Vaughn said Thursday. “We’ll have something similar to this.”

The park in Port Charlotte will hold 6,000, counting the berms.

Except a beautiful park in Port Charlotte, because Bright House is one of the nicest parks in Florida, and certainly one of the best built in recent years.

The Yankees’ Legends Field in Tampa is too much of a stadium, not a quaint spring training ballpark.

The stadium in Disney, where the Braves train and seems to change names every year, is too Disney.

They got it right when they built the new park in Clearwater. It’s spacious, comfortable and easy to get to, located just a long fly ball from U.S. 19.

“I like the whole atmosphere of the ballpark,” Vaughn said. “You’re down on the field and you forget (U.S.) 19 is 200 feet away.

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