Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Matt Joyce scores a run in the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at Tropicana Field.
BRANDON, Florida -- Sunday morning in Brandon, some little league kids with big league dreams got to share the field with their baseball heroes.
Rays outfielder Matt Joyce hosted a baseball camp for local kids in an effort to raise money for the little league park he played at as a kid.
"It's a little nostalgic," he said with a smile.
This is the third year that Joyce has hosted a camp at the North Brandon Little League. Last year, it raised $10,000, and this year they topped that amount. The money will help keep the community fields fresh and playable for the next wave of all-stars.
Kids learned how to field, pitch, and hit from Joyce and some of his major league buddies from all over pro baseball. Each kid got a t-shirt with Joyce's name on it and an afternoon of memories that should hold them over until spring training begins in mid-February.
The Rays star also stressed the importance of helping grow the fan base locally. Joyce played high school baseball at Armwood High School and collegiately at Florida Southern. Getting kids to pull for the hometown Rays, instead of teams that transplanted fans cheer for, like the Yankees and Red Sox, will only help Tampa Bay in the long run.
"It's a pride thing. No doubt about it," said Rays infielder Elliot Johnson. "These kids were probably born here, so obviously that pride comes in. That's where, hopefully, we're instilling a whole new generation of Rays fans for years to come."
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