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 ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are gone.
Trying to reinvent itself, the perennial last-place team officially shortened its nickname to simply ``Rays'' during a celebration that brought a crowd of about 7,000 to a downtown park Thursday night.
New team colors and uniforms also were unveiled during a fashion show featuring current players, as well as manager Joe Maddon, senior advisor Don Zimmer and former Tampa Bay stars Wade Boggs and Fred McGriff as models.
Navy blue and light blue have replaced green and black as the primary colors. The club's new logo, as well as the home and road uniforms for next season, feature the word ``Rays'' in navy blue lettering with a light blue shadow.
Team officials and local fans have routinely referred to the club as ``Rays'' for much of the expansion team's existence, however it wasn't until Stuart Sternberg took over as principal owner two years ago that consideration as given an actual name change.
``I think this gives us as an organization an identity,'' Sternberg said, noting that many of the team's employees have joined the club since he took control from former managing general partner Vince Naimoli.
``We were tied to the past, and the past wasn't necessarily something we wanted to be known for. Nobody's running from it or hiding from it, and we're proud of certain aspects of it, but this is something the organization was able to really put their arms around. I hope and expect the fans who come out will see it as a new beginning.''
Sternberg said the team began with more than 1,000 suggestions for a new name and whittled the list down to about 80.
Rays was the owner's first choice, however the organization considered others like Cannons, Stars, Wave and Dukes before settling on Rays and developing a logo featuring a bright yellow sunburst.
``We strayed a little bit. But after looking at everything, it was pretty clear that this was the one,'' Sternberg said.
Carl Crawford, Scott Kazmir, Rocco Baldelli, B.J. Upton, Delmon Young, Edwin Jackson and Al Reyes were among the players modeling the uniforms. The evening was capped by a concert featuring actor Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West.
Sternberg said he actually had hoped to have the new nickname, team colors and uniforms ready for last season. He's happy he didn't rush and wind up with a final product he didn't like.
``I think it worked out well this way because I feel really confident that the team's performance on the field next year is going to take a very giant step forward,'' the owner said.
The team didn't abandon every aspect of the uniforms worn for the franchise's first 10 seasons.
An updated Devil Rays patch is on the left sleeve of the new jerseys. The club also will continue to operate a popular touch tank filled with cownose rays during games at Tropicana Field.
``I'm still a nostalgic sort of guy,'' Sternberg said. ``And while I don't want to look back to the past, I think the region should be proud of having a major league baseball team and shouldn't forget all that was involved in bringing it here.''
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