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Tampa Bay Rays Opening Day countdown: 24 days to go

Dan Johnson had the #24 on his back when he launched the most important home run in team history

https://twitter.com/OrinDay/status/339526924550426624
Autographed Dan Johnson jersey
@OrinDay - https://twitter.com/OrinDay/status/339526924550426624

There are 24 days until Opening Day.

The number 24 throughout Tampa Bay Rays history has been the most worn throughout franchise history, by these 17 players:

  • Mike Kelly (1998)
  • Ryan Rupe (1999-2002)
  • George Lombard (2003)
  • Tino Martinez (2004)
  • Eric Munson (2005)
  • Sean Burroughs (2006)
  • Kevin Witt (2006)
  • Justin Ruggiano (2008)
  • Kurt Birkins (2008)
  • Dan Johnson (2008-2011)
  • Manny Ramirez (2011)
  • Rich Thompson (2012)
  • Ryan Hanigan (2014)
  • Grazy Sizemore (2015)
  • Alexei Ramirez (2016)
  • Hank Conger (2016)

Some notable Rays related events involving these guys.

Mike Kelly was the first trade acquisition in franchise history as the Rays traded Dmitri Young for him immediately following the Expansion Draft in November of 1997.

Mike Kelly

Ryan Rupe was pegged to be the first homegrown star pitcher in franchise history, after being drafted in 1998, he surged to the majors in 1999. Unfortunately, a rushed development and injuries would significantly shorted his career and he’d be out of majors following the 2003 season.

In 2004, veteran 1B and Tampa native, Tino Martinez joined the Rays and during his first game (Opening Day in Japan) with the club, he would launch the 300th home run of his career.

The number 24 would fall into obscurity, until one fateful night in September, 2008 when Dan Johnson was promoted to the majors, only to have his flight delayed, causing him to be late to the ballpark. Upon his arrival, he was given the #24 jersey, but was left out of the starting lineup, since he arrived just a few minutes before first pitch.

Later on in the game, Johnson would launch a game tying home run against the Boston Red Sox, propelling the Rays to a much needed victory in their chase for the Division title and first playoff appearance in franchise history.

It was dubbed the most important home run in franchise history.

In 2010, Johnson would continue to add to his lore as he just kept hitting the most clutch home runs the franchise had ever seen.

Manny Ramirez brought his controversial style to the Rays for the 2011 season and took the number 24 from Johnson. Ramirez however, would only wear the jersey for 5 games with the Rays as he would soon be suspended and voluntarily retired from Major League Baseball.

Dan Johnson pounced and took his number back. However, it would be September before he would don the jersey for the Rays again. On September 28th, 2011, Dan Johnson would come up once again to provide THE BIGGEST. MOST IMPORTANT. HISTORY MAKING HOME RUN in franchise history (at least for a couple off innings).

Check back tomorrow as the countdown continues.