TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays will be playing at Tropicana Field this season, but cownose rays won’t be.
“Normally we have 14-16 cownose rays at Tropicana Field,” senior biologist Jeff Smith said.
Due to COVID-19, the rays won’t be in the line-up.
Instead, they will be making a summer home at the Manatee Viewing Center at Apollo Beach.
“Which makes it easier for us to get to the rays, maintain them, do the husbandry, feeding and any veterinary procedures we need to do,” Smith said.
Smith is one of the Florida Aquarium biologists who cares for the Rays’ rays. The fever of rays would normally swim in the 10,000 gallon touch tank beyond the center-field wall.
“It is the highlight, let me tell you,” Smith said. “Fans are wrapped around half the building sometimes.”
The rays are like sea puppies, as Smith describes them. They crave attention and with no fans at The Trop this season, they’ll have to get that human touch elsewhere.
“One of the reasons we don’t have them at Tropicana Field is no one is there,” Smith said. “They may get a little depressed when there is no human contact. they are super-social animals.”
“When we show up to feed and do husbandry, they are like a pack of dogs waiting to say ‘hi.’”
The plan is for the rays to return next season, unless they join the fans as cardboard cutouts.
“Yeah, sure. I’m all for a cardboard cutout of the rays!”