A Green Devils & Rays Crossover


Paloma Welch

The Green Devil athletes are thrilled to share a field with the Rays.

Our St. Petersburg High School baseball team practices and plays all its home games on the Huggins-Stengel field at Crescent Lake Park, given that our school campus lacks one of its own. Where there were previously dirty dugouts, missing or worn-out equipment, diminished clay, dying grass, an infield polluted with rocks, and no batting cages, now lies a field fit for Florida’s pride and joy: The Rays Baseball team. After the annihilation of their spring training facility in Port Charlotte by Hurricane Ian, they were driven to St. Pete. Therefore leaving the team– whose record currently stands at nine wins and no losses in their 2023 season– with no other choice but to beautify Huggins-Stengel Field for both themselves, our Green Devils, and the citizens of St. Petersburg. 

These renovations took between one and two months to complete, which was well worth it for each player on the Green Devils’ team. New additions to the field included a new pitching mound, dirt, grass, bases, bullpens, and batting cages. Everyone seems to agree that the batting cages are “a great addition” to the field– a well-put statement by a junior on the team, Jayden Daniels. Fellow teammate, sophomore Jaxson Desalvo, confirms that before installing the new batting cages, St. Pete’s team would go to ‘DevX Player Development’ when in need of batting practice because “those were the closest… about 20 minutes away”. Another junior on the team, Tommy Grew, notices that “the field plays a lot better” and “would have to agree” that the batting cages are “hands down” the best improvement made by the Rays.

Last year, before these renovations, I could catch just about every home game played by our Green Devils. The most shocking part of the field was the scoreboard, which had to be changed manually, and the dugouts, which appeared quite dirty. Following up on these observations more than a year later, I asked if there were any improvements to these two parts of the field, and I was surprised to hear from Tommy that “there were no changes to the dugouts, but they’re a lot cleaner.” Jayden revealed that both the City of St. Petersburg and the Rays “want to keep the field [as a] historical monument.” This is why the field did not receive a real scoreboard because they are “balancing between the new age and maintaining the old tasteful historical presence of [the] field.”

For most residents of St. Petersburg, it is common knowledge that some of celebrities have set foot on the Huggins-Stengel field. Babe Ruth, the greatest baseball legend of all time, played on this field. Even celebrities who did not play baseball, such as Marilyn Monroe, came to Huggins-Stengel and marveled at the skill of the players gifted enough to set foot here. This field dates back to the early 1900s. It was built in 1925 specifically for Babe Ruth and was used for the New York Yankees’ spring training at one point. The field was used for this purpose until 1961, according to Janelle Taylor, a writer for FloridaPolitics.com. The New York Mets used the field until 1987 as well. Then, from 1992 until 1995, the Baltimore Orioles took charge of the field. The first name given to this historic site was “Crescent Park Field,” but it was changed in 1962 to honor the Yankees team managers and is still known by its second name: Huggins-Stengel Field. The field has been closed for spring training since 1995. Yet, in 2023, the field is being put back to its original use for spring training, but this time for a team it has never hosted before– the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Green Devil athletes are thrilled to share a field with the Rays. Jayden Daniels says he takes comfort in the idea that “people like us, everyday St. Pete ‘Burgians,’ are the same people on the field with major leaguers.” While it is not just the superstars he is excited to share the field with, he also enjoys the thought of playing alongside “people chasing their dreams and following the game.” Also, Tommy Grew considers it “pretty great to be sharing a field with people we’ve grown up watching.” From Jaxson Desalvo’s perspective, he finds that “it’s pretty good [getting] to play with these major league players” not because of where they rank right now but because they “went through high school to college, all the way to the majors” with their love for baseball. Jaxson also appreciates that the “field has had a lot of history with former baseball players.” With the history and renovations to the field, it is assured that our Green Devils cannot wait to finish their season on Huggins-Stengel Field and make the Rays proud to call it their home.