ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays and Ripken Baseball announced on Wednesday that together they have purchased the team that plays in Vero Beach, Fla. The team -- which will serve as the Rays' Class A affiliate in the Florida State League -- will play in Port Charlotte starting in 2009.
"Florida is a baseball hotbed and we have been anxious to have a base of operations here for some time," Cal Ripken, president and CEO of Ripken Baseball, said. "When the opportunity to partner with the Rays presented itself, we jumped at it."
Although Ripken acknowledged that Minor League Baseball is about selling a family product, the former Major Leaguer was equally optimistic in creating a successful team.
"It's awfully great when you have good players, good prospects you can sell," Ripken said. "We're not in for the short term. We're in it for the long term, so we're looking forward to that."
Ripken said he serve an active and visible part in the new team and Ripken Baseball has hired Joe Hart as the team's general manager. Hart formerly was GM of the Nashville Sounds, the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers in the Pacific Coast League.
Full-season seat packages (70 games) start at $285 and the team is taking deposits for seating now. Those interested should call (866) 272-9789. Single-game pricing as well as smaller ticket plans will be announced at a later time.
"We are thrilled to be partnering with Cal Ripken and Ripken Baseball on this unique venture," Rays president Matt Silverman said. "Ripken Baseball is an established and proven Minor League operator and the Ripken name is synonymous with success."
Prior to Wednesday's Rays game, Ripken was equally impressed with the success of the Major League club.
"I think it's marvelous," Ripken, who threw out a ceremonial first pitch, said of the Rays' success. "There's a lot of energy. They're the talk of the nation."