St. Petersburg, Florida - It was a magical, history-making moment that no could have predicted.
It's never been done before by a Rays player. So, when the ball hit the bat at the end of Game 3 in the ALDS with a crack heard 'round the Bay, this was a postseason play no one will ever forget.
Jose Lobaton came off the Tampa Bay bench and made his move, hitting a long home run off Koji Uehara in a nail-biter of a game Monday night. There were two outs in the ninth inning.
And, then it happened.
The ball sailed across the park and plunged into the "touch-tank" of rays
beyond the fence to the right of center field. Lobaton rounded the bases, his hands in the air, right into the arms of his awaiting teammates, mobbing him with high-fives and hugs.
That's when the touch-tank made it's postseason mark and became national news.
"It's funny, we never expected this. I was in bed and woke up to the news," said Margo McKnight from the Florida Aquarium. "It's exciting."
While the quirky, nearly impossible maneuver had never been done before by a Rays player, home runs have soared into the touch tank by Miguel Cabrera from the Detroit Tigers and Luis Gonzalez from the Los Angeles Dodgers. When those memorable plays were made, PETA requested that the tank be removed.
McKnight assures fans that the gentle creatures inside have not been hurt. "We would never allow this or put this here if we thought something bad was going to happen to them or if they were harmed in any way," she told 10 News. "This is about educating people. It's amazing, you can see these wild creatures right here in the dome. They actually do quite well in captivity."
Turns out, this home run was a win-win for both fans and charity.
The Rays have a longstanding promise - each time a home run sails into the tank, a $5,000 donation is made to the Florida Aquarium. And, in this case, the Rays gave an additional $5,000 to the charity of Lobaton's choice, The Tampa Children's Home.
The Rays players, and the rays in the touch-tank, clearly make magic on and off the field.
As for the ball itself? The Rays staff says a fan got it. Now, that's one catch for the history books!
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