ST. PETERSBURG -- There's no doubt that Nelly's allegiance is to the Cardinals, but the Grammy Award-winner is bringing his show to Tropicana Field as part of the 2010 Rays Summer Concert Series.
The St. Louis-raised recording artist, sports fan, actor and entrepreneur will perform on "Hip Hop Night" after the Rays take on the Mariners at 4:10 p.m. ET on Saturday.
"Everybody knows I'm a diehard Cardinals fan, but that's not a problem," Nelly said in a phone interview. "I love baseball. I love everything about baseball. I love when cities rep their teams, I think that's a definite must, and I love to see hometown pride. I love the support when I'm in that city."
Nelly tried out for the Braves and the Pirates when the teams held camps in his hometown, and he participated in one such camp alongside fellow St. Louis native Ryan Howard, the Phillies' first baseman.
The hip-hop star's involvement in the sports world didn't end there, though. Nelly is one of the owners of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats and starred in the remake of the football movie "The Longest Yard."
And though his loyalty lies squarely with his St. Louis teams, he's been aware of the success the Rays have enjoyed the past few seasons, including their run to the World Series in 2008, and hopes he can watch some of the game before going on stage on Saturday.
"You've got a pretty good team down there, and I actually rooted for you guys to win the World Series," he said, jokingly adding that he waited for the thumbs-up from Cardinals' superstar Albert Pujols before accepting the invitation to play at Tropicana Field.
Nelly's performance comes on the heels of the show by ZZ Top, who played an 18-song set following Tampa Bay's 4-2 loss to Kansas City on May 1. Nelly's hour-long set will include one or two songs from his upcoming album, "Nelly 5.0," and plenty of fan favorites.
The Rays are 17-3 in games that serve as "opening acts" for the concerts, going 1-1 so far this season, and have drawn more than 30,000 fans for those games. Nelly expects a similar crowd on Saturday.
"I don't think that just because they're baseball fans, they'll be any different than regular fans that come and see me," Nelly said. "If they're going to stay after, they pretty much want to see the show. If they don't, then I take it they'll leave.
"If they're there, then I think they want to rock and they want to have a good time. I'm going to thank them, and I'm going to put on the best possible show that I can put on. Tampa's always shown Nelly a lot of love, so I don't think this time should be any different."
Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.