Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

June 17, 2014

Meeting the Rays

Baseball the topic as fans meet P-Rays

PRINCETON — In town for just over 48 hours, the 2014 Princeton Rays took to the field... to meet fans, Tuesday evening at Hunnicutt Field.

For more than a half hour players were greeted, signed autographs, took pictures with fans young and old and talked to media at the annual “Meet the Rays.”

Following the meet and greet the players had an exclusive picnic with the Rays Kids Club.

Jamie Workman and daughter Sydney Estep are fixtures at Hunnicutt Field each season. Workman talked about the event.

“This is my girl’s seventh year coming and Christian (Workman’s son) was the bat boy for four years,” Workman said. “They love meeting the players, it’s a great time for them, to meet them when they are out here all at once.

“They just love seeing the players, getting to meet them. It’s a great time to talk. We find out where they’re from, what position they play, a lot of stuff.”

Bobby Choate had his granddaughter Katelyn in tow. Katelyn, who will turn 5-years-old later this week, sang the National Anthem at a game last season at age 4 and is slated to do so during the Rays’ second home series of the season.

“It’s real fun, enjoyable,” Choate said. “I’ve done this every year since we’ve had baseball and I can’t wait until the season starts, especially after a long winter. It’s a joy to have my granddaughter here with me, she’s special to me.”

Minor league baseball began in Princeton in 1988. Princeton Mayor Pat Wilson commented on having professional baseball teams in Mercer County.

“I think the Rays and Blue Jays in Bluefield, I just think they are great for our communities and it’s a great inexpensive way for families to come out and enjoy the season,” Wilson said. “It brings civic pride, it’s economic development and those guys come here, they are here all summer and it brings in their families from wherever they live, and relatives, and it’s such a great boost for Princeton.”

Danny Sheaffer is at the helm of the Rays again this season, his second in Princeton. He reminisced of his days playing at this level of professional baseball.

“This is where it starts for a lot of guys and this is going to be a good experience for them,” Sheaffer said. “It brings back a lot of memories, this level, for me, and I think as I get older I have learned a little bit more about how to handle young men than I used to 10, 15 years ago.”

Rays General Manager Jim Holland and staff were putting the finishing touches on preseason preparations even as fans were meeting the players.

“I think it (Meet the Rays) is a good kickoff to the season. I think it starts to cement the fan-player relationship, that they feel like they’ve got somebody they can root for, that they are not just showing up the first game and it’s a bunch of strangers,” Holland said.

“This is possibly the best group of players we’ve had. They’re jumping in, you don’t have to prod them and they are promoting our team. Hopefully that will turn into a few more fans in the stands.”

As far as those preparations, Holland said, “Knock on wood, we think we are ready to go. We still have a few odds and ends, but right now I would put where we are ahead of some other years. All of our staff feels good about it. We’ve done each of our individual responsibilities we are supposed to do and we’ll just get ready for Thursday.”

The Rays open the season Thursday as the Bristol Pirates visit Hunnicutt Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline.com, Twitter @bdtredd

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