Big League Stew

Meet the MLB team whose players greeted fans at the gates on opening day

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Baseball fans arrive before the start of the Tampa Bay Rays' opening day game at Tropicana Field. (Getty Image …

The divide between baseball players and baseball fans grows more and more each year. It used to be fans could catch players leaving the stadium and try to get an autograph. Nowadays players have private exits.

It used to be fans didn't have to spend about a week's salary to take their kids to a game, sit in decent seats, get something to eat and take home a souvenir. Nowadays, players are signing contracts worth upward of $200 million, and that money isn't being grown in the bullpen.

In this new era of baseball, it's nice to see the Tampa Bay Rays holding onto a wonderful opening day tradition: When the gates open for the first game, players are there to greet fans, scan tickets and even get hugs.

It's something the Rays have done since their first season and it's something they did Monday before Game No. 1 of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays. A game, by the way, the Rays won 9-2.

This Rays tradition dates back to 1998, which is when the expansion Devil Rays (remember them?) played their first game at Tropicana Field. A Rays official says it was the idea of Rick Vaughn, who was the original head of public relations for the team and is now the vice president of communications.

And what a fantastic idea it is. A great number of things need to be in place to start a baseball season, this certainly isn't the most important of them, but it's a really nice one to include.

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Mike Oz is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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