There were plenty of early arrivals in Port Charlotte on Tuesday. Rays position players and fans checked in with pitchers and catchers on this first day for Spring Training. Raysnation is especially anxious to get a leg up on 2013.
"I'm so excited," said Rays fan Karabeth Schleich. "To be on the field and to be near them. It feels so great, because it's been a long, cold winter from baseball."
Some fans came early to beat the crowd for autographs.
"Got a few," said Rays fan John Mitchell. "I've been working on this ball for about three years now. I have about 45 to 50 [names] in that ballpark."
The full team isn't required to report until Sunday, but a majority of the Rays are here to start the bonding process. There are six new faces on the Rays' major league roster including first baseman James Loney, who couldn't wait to put the new uniform on. He's impressed with the Rays organization.
"I like it a lot," said Loney. "I know they have a lot of fun over here. They keep it loose. Their mentality is to just go out there and play."
Joe Maddon is about to start his eighth Spring Training as the Rays' manager. He arrives in Port Charlotte with the largest roster he's ever had, but the Rays skipper is concerned with the big number. He's looking at the smaller number - the core group players they acquired in the offseason to fill some major league holes.
"When you get them out here and start seeing them in action," said Maddon, "that really starts spurring thoughts. I like what we've done. I think all the gaps are kind of plugged up. So I think it's going to be another good season."
The biggest question facing the Rays as the start Spring Training is do they have enough pieces to replace James Shields and B.J. Upton.
"It's going to be very interesting how this all plays out," continued Maddon. "We do appreciate all the things that they guys that have left have done for us in the past."
FOX 13's Kevin O'Donnell is tweeting pictures and thoughts from spring training at @ODonnellFOX13.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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