Evan Longoria pitches his idea for a "Senior Prom for Senior Citizens" to Johnny Damon in this still image from a TV ad for the Pepsi "Refresh Project."
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - What began as a joke and evolved into a crazy promotion is finally becoming a reality for the Tampa Bay Rays and their legions of fans eligible for AARP benefits.
The team's "Senior Prom for Senior Citizens" took place Wednesday afternoon at the Rays' 1:10 p.m. game against the Texas Rangers. Although seniors got to dance in the outfield after the game, festivities surprised them throughout the game.
The concept came from a Pepsi commercial where Rays third baseman Evan Longoria suggests to Tigers outfielder Johnny Damon that the team hold the event. And even though Wednesday's promotion wasn't connected to Pepsi's campaign, team officials say fans practically demanded the event after seeing the commercial.
Dick Crippen, a Rays senior advisor and former 10 News sports director, was the emcee of the event. The music and scoreboard graphics also took fans back to an older era. Boutonnieres and corsages were be provided as well.
Ushers dressed in tuxes and prom dresses while Elvis and Frank Sinatra impersonators entertained.
"Most other day games that we have (in the summer)," said Rays Group Sales executive Dan Newhart, "(are) summer camp days for park and recreational kids. And the way this (event) is looked at now is a summer camp day for seniors."
When told about the promotion during the Tigers' last visit to town, Damon told 10 News that, "if we remember what senior prom was...umm, there could be a lot of 'hanky panky' going around."
One fan told 10 News, "only seniors know how to 'hanky panky.' These kids know nothing!"
Follow 10 Connects reporter Noah Pransky on Twitter at www.twitter.com/noahpransky, Facebook at www.facebook.com/noahpransky, or on his Sports Business blog, Shadow of the Stadium.