Fun can have radically different definitions depending on who you ask. Some people might say watching baseball. Others would tell you playing baseball. A third group of people might even tell you putting on padding and goggles and going to play paintball with their buddies. And after what transpired during the Rays’ first off-day in spring training, we can say for a fact that certain members of the Rays would tell you all three.
At Rays Fanfest, several Rays players got to meet up with the Tampa Bay Damage, a local professional tournament paintball team that participates in paintball competitions around the country, and the Damage invited the Rays for a paintball outing at a later date. Several Rays obliged, including David Price, Matt Moore, Jeff Niemann, Sean Rodriguez, and Kyle Farnsworth. The Damage players helped the Rays suit up and readied their paintball guns and were excited to see how the day would go but had no idea what to expect. They wound up being pleasantly surprised.
“I figured they weren’t going to run around too hard and risk getting hurt but you could tell when the game started and their adrenaline was rushing they were running as fast as they could and diving to the ground. Their reactions were priceless. After shooting a player, they’d go nuts and after the first game was over and they all lifted their masks every one of them had a smile on their face, a sure indicator they were having a great time.” – Damage team member Dan Holliday
Several Rays hadn’t done anything like paintball before and the Damage crew let the Rays play a few games among each other to get acclimated. But before long, the Damage guys joined in and everyone was having a blast. The Rays’ competitive streak was in full swing as they went all out trying to mow down the opposing team with their paint guns and laughing even about getting shot at. Here’s some video from the event.
They could have been any group of guys in America just heading onto the paintball field and having a great time shooting each other down with some paint. The Damage players got a completely different perspective on some of the players they had watched at the Trop but never really interacted with in person.
Although I go to games every now and then I’ve only known a couple of them, and for the others this was my first time meeting them and I was surprised how cool and laid back they all were. I don’t know- I guess there is stigma that a pro athlete is cocky and not such a nice guy but talking and joking around with these guys all day proved everything wrong.
We watch these players on a daily basis and do unbelievable things on the baseball diamond and we forget that deep down they’re just the same as all of us, regular people looking to have a good time. It has been incredible the way players like Price interact with fans on Twitter, and meeting them in person makes it even clearer that so many of them are nice guys and people we would want to be around off the field. Can’t say paintball is the way you would expect to get a window into your favorite professional athletes, but this whole experience with paintball did just that for the members of the Damage. Always fun to see a group of professional athletes simply showing that get them away from the field and they’re just normal people too.