The American Legion's Department of Florida will hold its fourth annual Day With The Rays event at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on July 15. As part of the festivities, Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays will welcome 500 Legion family members at its home-field venue and donate a portion of the proceeds from the day's game with the Boston Red Sox to the Department of Florida's Heroes to Hometowns (H2H) program.
The event has a history of resounding success. It generated nearly $3,000 for the state H2H program last year and gave much-needed publicity to the wounded warrior cause.
Additionally, wounded warriors from local hospices and VA facilities are invited to the field to sit in the stands with Legionnaires. The experience is often therapeutic for the wounded warriors, giving them a chance to leave the confines of their treatment centers and experience a day at the ballpark.
Last year, Marine veteran and Purple Heart recipient Todd Jenkins threw out the first pitch to begin the rubber match with the Red Sox. This year, 90-year-old World War II veteran William "Bill" Reichle will throw the ceremonial pitch. Reichle is a Legionnaire and Army veteran who spent 15 months in a German POW camp after his plane was shot down in unfriendly skies. Department Commander Al "Gunner" Dudley and Florida H2H Coordinator Chris McCabe will escort Reichle to the mound.
The Rays again this year take on the Red Sox. Sitting in third place in the American League East and three games out of the league's wild-card spot, the game could potentially have post-season implications. Local Legionnaires who are interested in giving their support are encouraged to attend, buy a ticket and visit the Department of Florida's booth located in the concourse of Tropicana Field.