Rays' Fan Fest a big hit with everyone at Tropicana Field - FOX 13 News

Rays' Fan Fest a big hit with everyone at Tropicana Field

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Rays pitcher Jeff Niemann signs an autorgraph for a fan at Fan Fest on Saturday. Rays pitcher Jeff Niemann signs an autorgraph for a fan at Fan Fest on Saturday.
ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

On most days it's Tampa Bay Rays players and coaches on the diamond at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

Saturday however was no ordinary day. Fan Fest is all about the team's enthusiastic supporters.

For nine-year-old Kenny Applegate it was all about meeting his local heroes.

"I'm hoping Evan Longoria and the Rays make it to the World Series," the little boy said.

Players signed baseballs, bats and jerseys as they mingled with their fans.

"I think it is great," said Rays' booster and Bay area resident Katy Richter. "Everyone looks like they're having a good time."

Even though the 2013 Major League Baseball season is just around the corner Rays' fans are also keeping an eye on the controversy that is the Trop.

The team is looking for a facility upgrade but a deal they have with St. Petersburg calls for them to play their home games at the Trop for at least the next decade.

It appears the two sides are at an impasse.

On Friday Rays' owner Stu Sternberg and St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster had a private meeting to discuss the current stalemate.  Sternberg wants to explore stadium opportunities outside the city, but the mayor has taken a hardline stance against it. 

After their meeting Sternberg and Foster issued a vague, joint statement: "The conversation was a productive one, and we anticipate continuing it in the coming weeks."

Those who attended Fan Fest some sort of agreement is reached in order to keep the team in the Bay area.

"I think the mayor of St. Pete should allow the team to see all the options out there," said Rays' fan Mike Mann.

Kathi Norstein is a season-ticket holder who enjoys games at the Trop.

"I'd rather they stay in St. Pete because it is easier for Tampa people to come here than us to go to down town Tampa," Norstein explained.

At the end of the 2012 regular season Tampa Bay ranked dead-last in attendance. The controversy surrounding the team and its stadium may not be helping matters but the Rays' players say they will give fans plenty to cheer for in 2013.

"They should expect another competitive team in a great division and some fun exciting baseball," said Rays' outfielder Rich Thompson. "It would be nice to have a new stadium even if they agreed it would be a few years so we're worried about playing here and now and doing the best we can."

The teams' pitchers, catchers and a few other positional players showed up in Port Charlotte last week for spring workouts. Everyone else will report this week and the Rays will play their first Spring Training games on February 23rd.

Play Ball!

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