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Rays All-Star launches foundation in St. Pete

Mark Parker

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From left: Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena; Freddie Williams, president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Suncoast; and Rays manager Kevin Cash. Photo: Facebook.

About 125 kids at the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club in St. Petersburg received a special visit this week from Tampa Bay Rays All-Star Randy Arozarena.

The fan-favorite outfielder and his wife, Cenelia, launched their family foundation at the July 3 event.  The local children received backpacks, T-shirts, Randy Arozarena necklaces and tickets to the July 26 Rays game.

Freddy Williams, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast, noted that Arozarena and Rays manager Kevin Cash spent their Monday “off day” with the children after a late Sunday night game in Seattle. He also said the Randy Arozarena International Foundation would “accelerate and broaden” the Club’s partnership with the team and Major League Baseball.

“It is absolutely incredible for the kids to have the opportunity to see somebody they see in the news, somebody they see on TV, that they now have the opportunity to see up close and in person,” Williams said. “So much in life is about providing young people, young kids, opportunities and experiences.”

He explained that the facility at 3800 9th Ave. N. represents a unique partnership with the Salvation Army. Williams said it is one of St. Pete’s newest clubs, and over 160 children attend its summer camp daily.

Of those, 40 live in foster care. Williams said the visit and gifts – Arozarena personally passed out the “gold chains” to all 125 kids – brought them hope and inspiration.

“Unfortunately, not all kids have the opportunity to see a Rays game in person, let alone have an All-Star that comes in and shows that he cares about them and cares about the community,” Williams added. “This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them. It’s certainly a moment that they will never forget, I will never forget and it’s just a wonderful day here in St. Pete.”

Members of the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club in St. Petersburg received backpacks, necklaces and tickets to a Rays game. Photo: Facebook.

Arozarena, who spoke through interpreter Manny Navarro, noted the importance of his foundation making an international impact. He was born in Cuba and defected to Mexico, and his wife is Colombian.

The Arozarenas have kept their home in Mexico since 2016. While Randy helped propel the Rays to the World Series in 2020, his profile reached new heights this March as he starred for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.

MLB.com wrote, “Arozarena took the tournament by storm as only he could.” In addition to clutch hitting, he made several “jaw-dropping” catches in left field, invented his signature celebration – crossed arms and a glare – and donned cowboy boots and a sombrero during batting practice.

When asked about the importance of creating an “international” foundation at the July 3 event, Arozarena said the goal is “to try to help out as many people as we can.” He also thanked the Suncoast Boys & Girls Clubs for always welcoming him into their “house.”

“I like what they’re doing here – they’re really doing a good job of helping the youth,” Arozarena added. “I want to be able to help the youth here with the Boys and Girls Club.”

He noted that one of the foundation’s goals is creating a sports school. Arozarena said it could help aspiring athletes achieve their dreams while bolstering their education.

Arozarena has become so popular with local fans that team officials created, then expanded, “Randy Land” sections behind Tropicana Field’s left field wall. Bill Walsh, chief business officer for the Rays, previously told the Catalyst that the special Friday night seating resulted from natural interactions between the “charismatic” player and the fans.

The $49 tickets include a T-shirt, and fans receive a free beer, soda or water whenever Arozarena hits a home run. The team’s official network, Bally Sports Sun, broadcast the June 23 game live from Randy Land.

“I like to have a lot of fun when I play this game,” Arozarena said at the July 3 event. “You can see the fans give me a lot of love as well, and I like to be able to just reciprocate that feeling back to them – that energy that they give me.”

Randy Arozarena strikes his trademark pose. Tampa Bay Rays officials dedicated Left Field seating to his growing fanbase. Screengrab: Tampa Bay Rays, YouTube.

Arozarena will make his first All-Star appearance when he starts in left field for the American League at the July 11 Mid-Summer Classic. He will also participate in the Home Run Derby, a long-stated goal.

Arozarena credited manager Kevin Cash and their daily talks for helping him become a better baseball player – and human being. Arozarena said he dreamt of making an All-Star team since before he was a kid growing up in Cuba.

Cash noted Arozarena’s community impact will increase through his Foundation and partnership with the Boys & Girls Club. “It’s an honor to have him on our team, but it’s an honor to have him as a friend,” Cash said.

“I cannot say enough about Randy – I’m just so proud of all his accomplishments.”

 

 

 

 

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