Rays autograph collection builds father-daughter bond

A local family has baseballs with signatures from every player in the team's history.

Their collection has been 19 years in the making.

“As far as I’m concerned it can go right into the earth with us when we’re gone,” said Jennifer McKenney with a smile. “We’ll take it with us.”

Joking or not, it’s a collection of Tampa Bay Rays history that is unmatched.

“We’ve been collecting since 1998,” said Jennifer’s father, Jeff. “It means we have passion for our home team I’d like to think.”

The family has an autographed baseball from every player or coach to ever put on a Tampa Bay jersey. Even, a Devil Rays jersey.

“Rolando Arrojo,” Jeff chimed, looking at a case of balls from the team’s inaugural 1998 season. “He was our first all-star.”

There are well-known names who wore Devil Rays purple like Wade Boggs and Fred McGriff. There are not-so-well known names like Harvey Dorfman, a sports psychologist on the 1998 staff.

“We spend more time as father and daughter chasing around these guys,” said Jennifer. “The fact that we have the Rays and keep in contact … it gives us an opportunity to do something together.”

The team has 479 signed baseballs. Some players, like Carl Crawford, spent years with the team. Others spent just days with the Rays.

Regardless, the McKenneys have their name on a ball.

“My father and I used to joke we were raised there,” said Jennifer. “You went from school to the Trop and did your homework at the stadium.

“That’s about how our childhood went.”                                

Jennifer once raced a hurricane to Durham, N.C., to get autographs from recent signees Jay Buente and Alex Torres.

The family was featured in a new Ripley’s Believe It Or Not book titled Unlock The Weird


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