Tuesday, October 14, 2008 Updated: October 15, 11:51 AM ET
12-year-old, punished for 'Rayhawk' haircut, gets a big surprise
ESPN.com news services
The Tampa Bay Rays' playoff run turned into a hair-raising experience for a 12-year-old fan who got in trouble for adopting the team's signature playoff hairstyle -- and then wound up on the field with his major-league heroes.
Zachary Sharples of Palmetto, Fla., celebrated the Rays' American League Divisional Series win over the Chicago White Sox by getting himself a "Rayhawk" -- a mohawk haircut -- mirroring the hairdos being sported by the AL East champs and their fans.
But when he took his new 'do to school, the seventh-grader was told the
haircut violated the district dress code, which forbids hair styles that are a distraction. He was sent to in-school suspension.
12-year-old Zachary Sharples' Rayhawk haircut got him in trouble at school. But it also got him on the field before Game 2 of the ALCS with Jonny Gomes, left, and Gabe Gross, right.
But from there, the story turns into a case of hair today, gone tomorrow.
The Sharples family was already planning to move from Manatee County to Pinellas County. And the Pinellas County School District sees the "Rayhawk" a little bit differently.
Andrea Zahn, director of communications with the Pinellas County School District, told the Tampa Tribune that there is nothing in the district's student code of conduct barring the hairstyle.
"With regard to haircuts, as long as they do not cause a classroom or campus disruption, they're OK. It's up to the principal's discretion," Zahn said, according to the report.
And that wasn't all.
Rays outfielder Jonny Gomes saw Zachary's story on the local news and decided to pay the boy back for his trouble. According to MLB.com, Gomes, after learning Zachary and his dad would be at Game 2 of the ALCS, provided two field passes for pregame batting practice and presented Zachary with a bat autographed by members of the Rays.
"The kid got punished for being a Rays fan," Gomes said, according to MLB.com. "What's wrong with that?"
And once Sharples walked out onto the playing surface at Tropicana Field, members of the team stopped by to greet him.
The experience was a memorable one for the lifelong Rays fan.
"I've been going to Rays games since I was 2 years old," Sharples said, according to MLB.com. "I went to the second baseball game [at Tropicana Field] ever."
So will he be shaving his Rayhawk any time soon?
"Not until they win the World Series," he said, according to the report.
The Rays lead the Red Sox 2-1 in the best-of-seven ALCS. Game 4 is Tuesday night in Boston.