Try striking out these bats

Try striking out these bats

Published Feb. 12, 2011 6:12 p.m. ET

Feb. 12, 2011

The Tampa Bay Rays recently added some feared bats to the roster with the free agent signings of hard-hitting veterans Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. But now they'd like to get rid of some even scarier bats that have reported early for spring training.

Thousands of the nocturnal mammals � Brazilian free tail bats, to be exact �� have made themselves right at home in the upper reaches of the Charlotte Sports Park, the Grapefruit League base of the Rays.

That's not exactly what the Rays have in mind when it comes to increasing attendance � or beefing up their offense.

It seems the bats have been an ongoing problem at the park the past few years, but the current infestation in various nooks of the stadium has caused a problem with droppings throughout the park and an accompanying unpleasant odor, as well as other potential health issues.

That prompted Charlotte County to step up to the plate with a new bat strategy, constructing a custom-built bat tower several hundred yards away to lure the bleacher creatures away. And officials are letting another team take a swing at the mess, Apex Pest Control.

"They're uniquely adapted to live among humans and our structures, and they're beneficial because they eat insects, such as mosquitoes," explained Conner Keller, Apex' business development manager for Florida's West Coast.

Keller, in this case, is the Bat Man. His job is to get the Brazilian free tails, an endangered species, out of the ballpark without harming them.

The process involves a two-pronged approach: placing a mesh material into the holes the bats have previously lived in, to prevent them from returning; and installing devices that serve as one-way doors where the active colonies are. The doors are installed after the bats are finished roosting during the day.

"They leave at night and when they come back in the morning, they can't get back in," Keller said.

There are three or four bat colonies with one or two thousand bats in each, according to Keller. But he expects the work to be completed well before exhibition games begin, so fans can focus on the bats being swung � and the only thing flying overhead will be baseballs.