The Chicago-Tampa Bay rivalry moves from the hockey rinks to the baseball diamond this weekend when the White Sox travel to St. Petersburg to play the Rays for three games at Tropicana Field beginning Friday night.
That game will also be Tampa Bay Rays Pride Night. The Rays are inviting fans who want to help the ball club support the local LGBT community the opportunity to purchase a specially priced seat in the lower box area, with partial proceeds from each ticket donated to LGBT nonprofits in the Bay area.
Nadine Smith, the executive director of Equality Florida, is scheduled to throw out the first pitch before the 7:10 p.m. start.
Such events were a rarity back in the 1990s, but according to The New York Times, at least 18 of the 30 major league teams have hosted gay-themed events over the years. The first took place in Candlestick Park in San Francisco back in 1994. The Detroit Tigers hosted their first Pride event last week.
The Rays have shown themselves to be one of the more progressive organizations in Major League Baseball.
Back in March the club joined more than 350 other businesses in filing a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of striking down laws that ban same-sex marriage.
“When we were asked to sign on to the amicus brief, it was easy to say yes. Quite simply, it’s the right thing to do,” Rays President Brian Auld told reporters at the time.
The U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the issue sometime before the end of the month.
In that conference call with reporters back in March, Auld said that before the state recognized same-sex marriages back in January, it was difficult for the Rays to provide for employees on an equal basis.
“The Rays were forced to take burdensome steps to provide every employee with identical healthcare benefits and adoption support, and we included an anti-discrimination policy in our employee handbook,” he said. “It is our belief that all employees should be treated as equals both by our business and under the law. Support for this brief is wholly consistent with our corporate values.’’