Rays welcome 20-foot python as latest clubhouse guest

To the dread of some players, the Rays welcomed a 20-foot python to the clubhouse on Thursday.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Meet the latest guest to visit the Tampa Bay Rays clubhouse: A 20-foot, 115-pound reticulated python named Asia.


The Rays have welcomed untraditional guests throughout the season: A DJ, a magician, a cockatoo, penguins and a merengue band have made cameos. Asia, a guest from the Tampa-based Busch Gardens, slithered in the clubhouse on Thursday afternoon as the latest addition before a game against the Seattle Mariners at Tropicana Field.


Why a python? This is the year of the snake in the Chinese zodiac, and as Rays manager Joe Maddon said, "It's representative of risk-taking and creative thinking," both traits he wants his team to show as it competes for the American League East lead.


"We needed a little bit of motivation within the clubhouse," said Maddon, who saw his team lose six consecutive games before snapping the streak with a 5-4 victory over the Mariners on Wednesday.


"I thought it fit in perfectly with what we're trying to do around here."


Reactions from players varied, as you might expect. Some such as outfielder Desmond Jennings, catcher Jose Lobaton and right-hander Roberto Hernandez kept as much distance as possible. Meanwhile, others such as designated hitter Luke Scott, shortstop Yunel Escobar and relievers Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney were braver, even posing for photos with Maddon holding the humongous snake.


"As soon as I saw it, I was like, ‘That's a big ol' snake,'" Scott said.


"It's solid, solid muscle. … It's good to have distractions to take your mind off the game."


Why a python? With the Rays, the better question is, "Why not?"

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.