Fly little Rays, Fly
This entire year the Tampa Bay Rays have been thought of as a small fish in a big pond. Well, with less than 14 days until the end of the season, it seems the food chain has been reversed this season in the A L East. The Rays were considered at one time a marine animal that coasted and glided in the shallows and deeps of the gulf of Mexico just off our beautiful beaches.
But the renewed logo is trying to push the swimming rays to the wayside and come upon a new meaning to the word “Rays”. Be it the “Rays of Light”, or maybe the “Rays of Hope”, Tampa Bay has seen a multitude of Rays references for most of their games. How could this team that had never won more than 71 games a season be flirting with 90 wins in their 11th season in the league. And how dare those Rays push the $ 200 million dollar souls of baseball long gone to the wayside come playoff time.
You know there has to be a few dozen Fox Television executives anxious with the fact that the Rays might make it past the first round of the playoffs. And if they do make it past that round, would a Brewers versus Rays match up just make the suicidal. But let’s not get to far ahead of ourselves. We have a huge week ahead of ourselves here at home at the Trop. We have the mighty Boston Red Sox, defending Worlds Series Champs looking up at us from below, but not far from the surface. This series will be a huge playoff decider for either team. The Rays could come out with another sweep and put themselves up 4 games when the Red Sox leave town. Or, the Red Sox could win a game or two and make it still a closer race with a game or less margin for error by either team going into their last 11 days of the season.
We have the upstarts of the wild card, the Minnesota Twins coming in for 4 games near the end of the week to stage either a playoff dance for the Rays, or a sense of urgency for both teams if they split that series. Of course during that Twins weekend we have the Troy Percival figurine night, which come complete with a steel back to promote better stability, and sturdy internal construction to keep the hamstrings and back fully straightened throughout the weekend.
But seriously folks, I for one thought we might see this kind of upward mobility by the team in 2009, when the high draft pick pitchers had a year or two at the Triple-A level. Now am I upset that Evan Longoria did not start up here instead of come back a mere 11 games later……..Of course it was an issue. Am I upset that David Price did not get to hold that MLB ball before Sunday? Actually I was not upset about this one at all. He had a chance to feel the championship atmosphere and attitude down in Durham last week. He will know the expectations and the committment needed to secure that covoted prize and yearn to have one for himself and his team. He got to watch as another team another team celebrate a title on his Durham Bulls home turf, and hopefully it lit a fire in him to not see that again this season up in St. Petersburg, Florida.
We have a unique opportunity to shock the world by getting into the party, much less crash the prom. This team has been one with the motto, “We are One Team,” from the ticket sales, to marketing to commercial that seemed a bit corny in April, but now seem like a fortune teller knew something us fans could not even fathom after Spring Training. Life is special here right now. This is the last local franchise that has not won a league championship.
The Buccaneers got their Lombardi in San Diego, California after years of struggling like the Rays. They fought for respect with a number of coaches before 1 guy stood above the crowd and you believed he was the man to lead them to the promised land. The Tampa Bay Lightning began their career in Tropicana Field, back then called the Thunderdome, eons ago, and even set the old NHL Playoff attendance record in the building. There were a huge crowd of shivering Florida hockey fans loving the fact we could watch a hockey game when it was 90 degrees outside. The Lightning moved to their new home in Tampa, and in a few years got to play a Calgary Flames team that had a dominating offense, but the Lightning was a team of destiny that year and brought the Stanley Cup to the sands of Tampa Bay.
Now it is time for the Rays to try and make it a threesome by gaining that experience and that motivation to secure our own piece of the World Series Trophy and have a ticker tape parade 1st Avenue South from the site of Al Lang Field/Progress Energy Park, the site of the Spring revival, to the sloped roofed Trop., the site of the best team in Florida. Such things have happened here in Florida before, we have had winners here before this season. And with the way this squad has been assembled, you will be hearing the name, Tampa Bay Rays for a long, long time in the major leagues.