Rays clubhouse welcomes Latin band into mix

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A DJ and a magician, a cockatoo and penguins … now a Latin band plus plantains.
Yes, the Tampa Bay Rays keep surprising. Stop by Tropicana Field’s home clubhouse on any given day, and you never know what you’ll find. The DJ, magician and feathered friends from the animal kingdom appeared during a six-game homestand in late April.

Turns out those were just the start.
On Tuesday, before the Rays began a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox, a four-member Latin dance band entertained players with merengue music, a genre with roots in the Dominican Republic. In addition, nine groups of three plantains each — inspired by closer Fernando Rodney — were strung together and hung above a number of Latin players’ stalls.
“You don’t see it every day,” Rodney said, “but it’s nice.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon devised the idea after Tampa Bay completed a three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres on Sunday, a victory that extended the Rays’ winning streak to a season-high five games. Tampa Bay enjoyed an off day Monday, so Maddon wanted something to spice up the Rays’ return.
At first, he sought a single Dominican trumpet player — “Nothing can be hotter than a Dominican trumpet player on the right evening,” he said — but the Rays ended up with four members from the Tampa-based Sol Caribe band. In this case, bigger was better.

Aramis Gutierrez, the group’s bassist and founder, said he was contacted at about 4 p.m. ET Monday about the gig.
“I thought (about) giving equal time to all the members of our clubhouse,” Maddon said. “It came to mind the other day, after the last game against San Diego. I thought, ‘Let’s do something to liven up Tuesday.’”

It worked. Reliever Joel Peralta cut the carpet, dancing with a female member of the band. Outfielder Matt Joyce clapped and bobbed his head to the beats. The night’s starter, left-hander Matt Moore, entered the clubhouse shaking his backside.
“It’s just one of those things we do here in Tampa (Bay),” Rays left-hander David Price said. “You probably don’t see it in a whole lot of other places, especially not at a time like right now, not during a season. We’ve had this type of thing happen a couple times, so we all enjoy it.

“It lightens the mood, and we all appreciate it.”

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