We Better wise up Tampa Bay
I am besides myself right now. I do not know what to do. I mean I have seen a sea of blue seats in the Trop. before and it has not even bothered me in the least. But for some reason I am hearing the theme from “Jaws” in the back of my mind during this personally anticipated World Series rematch with the Philadelphia Phillies. I wanted to folks here in the Tampa Bay area to show the Phillies if we got back here for game 6 or 7, it was going to be a different story, just like the American League Championship series.
I wanted to see and hear the Rays Republic loud and proud and show the civic pride and reason we have a MLB team here in the first place. I really thought we could send a personal message to the Baseball Gods and show them that 12 years ago when we first threw that ball on March 31, 1998, they made a great decision to expand to Tampa Bay. But the crowds that last two nights combined do not even meet the old attendance figures for a World Series rematch. But I guess the added bonus of Rays Bingo and Rays Fantasy Baseball do not have the power of Dora the Explorer.
Yes, I went there. I mentioned the big-headed one, and only because she helped our Triple-A partner the Durham Bulls recently set both single game and 3-game series attendance records during their series against the Pawtucket Red Sox. It beckons me to a comment made by a member of the Rays Experience staff after the first concert series in 2009 when he joked that we should have 81 concerts a year to get a better home record.
But in reality, without seeming a bit cynical and tainted, if the team playing us do not have accents, we tend to not come here without eye candy on stage. The Rays have been undefeated during their concert series games. And to even throw another firecracker into the fire, they have gotten at least 30,000+ for everyone of those events. Besides the Red Sox and Yankees series, it seems that only during the last home stand of the year (Fandemonium) and the Opening Day do we ever have a chance at filling the Upper Deck and the TBT Deck with regularity.
And that is a pity. People, you told the team via numerous polls that if they put a winning product on the field you would support the Rays. Well single game attendance ( announced) has been increased this season, but only on the special events days or days that scores of local Little League teams are dragging their parents to the Trop have wee seen the noise and the crowds in 2009. It is not like we play in the American League West and do not have local supporters here of the Phillies.
They do their Spring Training not even 3 miles from my house and their local class-A team seems to get more people for their after the game fireworks demonstrations than we do for an Oakland Athletics game. People we have to again remember that this baseball game is a business. We would love to know we have an owner that is supporting the team as a hobby like owning his own set of “live” Topps baseball cards, but he is a businessman who has a passion for baseball.
And to even give any indication of indifference is to send the wrong message to the ownership group. I know we live in Florida where there is a huge gambit of entertainment choices during the weekends, but this is during the week and at night. I can understand if a family of four wants to head out on the boat to Fort De Soto and spend the day cruising and swimming and might miss a game or two. But the true fact is that on that day where you could do that, they Rays have their biggest attendance numbers.
After the first game of this important series the Rays upper management gurus sent out a feeler to see if Tampa Bay would respond, and they did. The Rays were curious on how only 19,608 people could be there for a classic World Series rematch at home. You know if this game was held at Citizen’s Bank Park, it would have scalpers outside with dollar bills falling out of their pockets for even Upper Deck or Standing Room Only spots.
But alas, the Tampa Bay Rays community responded to the Rays management outcries and woes with a signal by even a lower attendance at 18,862 at the game on Wednesday night with a premier pitching match-up. The Rays had an anticipated mark of 24,000 for the game. Which is still way below the previous low mark for a World Series match up set by the Houston Astros when 37,700 fans showed up for a rematch game against the Chicago White Sox game in Chi-town. But the overall attendance average for the series was 46,868 for the three games.
Those comments should scare a few of us long time Rays Season Ticket holders. I is coming down to the point where the Rays officials up on the third floor are going to have to reevaluate things not just on the marketing and sales end of the equation, but on the essence of support in this community.
It was a Tuesday and Wednesday night people. We were outdrawn by game in cities that have a bevy of support problems last night. PNC Park in Pittsburgh, which is fighting for fans this season has 20,162 people enter the stadium. That puts them at 52.6 percent of their capacity with their game against the Cleveland Indians. Combined these two teams have won 62 games this season and the outdrew a World Series match-up. Pathetic.
Sorry, I have sat in my seat for 12 years and seen worse attendances in the Trop., but this one is really getting under my skin. In comparison let’s look at the Red Sox at Washington actual attendance numbers. Hmm, for a non-regional match-up they had a paltry 41.530 people in the seats. Wow, I wondering if Red Sox Nation is questioning their own road ambitions that they only helped fill 99.1 percent of Nationals Park on Wednesday night. I really do want to rant and rave here. Throw a pity party and explain the relocation rules set by MLB to the area, but I will digress.
I should not take it so personal, but this is my home team people. This is the reason I stay here and have not gone to other pastures to live and work. I have supported this team through failures, the attack of the blue-seat people and been subjected to one too many ESPN based attendance jokes and prat lines. It is almost put up or shut up time already in 2009. I truly expect that there will be more people in the stand for Friday night’s game against the Florida Marlins than in any of the three here against the Phillies and that is churning my stomach.
I was truly pissed when I learned that South Florida got a team before we did in the Expansion process, but maybe MLB did know something we did not about the area’s demographics. Maybe they did see potential, but not the end payout of placing a good team in a apathetic community. I am ashamed of you Tampa Bay. Truly ashamed of you. This was our time to show pride and community unity to other parts of the country and we dropped the ball. We truly dropped the ball and even if we got 30,000 tonight, which I doubt would happen unless we have a concert afterwards, it would still be a disaster series.
We may gone on to win a spot in the Playoff again in 2009, but I am not letting you on the Rays bandwagon without a 2007 ticket stub this time. Continued support and a renewed sense of pride is what is needed before announcements are made about stadiums and relocation options. And do not think for one second that Las Vegas, Charlotte, or even Portland is not eager and willing to mortgage their futures for a shot at the big time.
And we all know that already. Teams have been wined and dined by prospective cities for years, with none of them even setting the table for a move. Years ago when contraction rumors ran among the cord at the Trop. I was basically viewed as a non brainer we were safe and secure. But right now the only security I truly feel right now is that for the next 41 games I will have my nameplate on my seat. I know things do not move that fast in the MLB, but with money and potential, things can get greased and rolling faster than you think.
So think Tampa Bay real hard for the next 41 games. Think what you want to do with your sumer night and weekends without a professional team in town. And do not think they will move it to Tampa or even Brandon if they can not get attendance here. The region is being tested not just the Pinellas county and St. Petersburg region. If the 5-county area can not show support, why would they even consider an alternative site in the same region.
They say a fool and his money are soon parted. Well, people the guys in the suits in the front office did not make their money being fools, and they are masters at risk management. There is a fine line between profits and community ties. Both have merits that equal each other, and both have pitfalls that can make each a unsound business investment. Right now the Rays are showing a break-even or loss potential based on the atendance, but we can change the demographics and the charts will again show an upward trend.
I know I have rambled on and on here today, but it is for a good reason. My heart and soul is invested in this team. I have been here from even the first $ 20 dollar deposit for Season Tickets to the 7-1 victory last night. I have seen a comedy of errors on the field that resembled more Ringling Brothers than baseball.
But then again I got to hug and share a taste of that sweet playoff champagne with players and fans last September too. Highs and lows, ins and outs. This is not the Hokey Pokey people, but attendance and support for this team is what it is all about ( throw your hands up).