Could that really be true? Can they really be ready to start their 50th Anniversary Tour in 2011? And can I really be this darn old, but feel so young the minute they begin to play their harmony-induced So Cal classics? It is actually a bit funny that I always seem to go through a time machine and transform into my 20′s every time I hear one of the bands that blared from my old 1969 Camaro’s AM/FM radio in my youth.
The thought of the band again coming into Tampa Bay and making me remember countless weekend strolls and drives up and down Mandalay Avenue and Gulfview Blvd. on Clearwater Beach, Florida with the rag top down and my trusty side kick Hansel, my black German Sheperd in the passenger seat checking out the girls and loving the summer nights. During those cruises, one of my favorite cassette tapes was the Beach Boys 1980 album”Keeping the Summer Alive”
And with the forever young voice of Mike Love and the Beach Boys, the trip down memory lane was going to be perfect for me last Saturday night. Not withstanding, the Rays loss for only the second time in 32 concerts did put a bit of a bummer on the night, but the minute the band began to play those surfer classics, all was beginning to become right in the world again.
The concert was a night of reliving some of my old beach cruising magic, and remembering those lazy days of summer in my 20′s. Now I know a majority of the people reading my blogs were not even alive when the Beach Boy first formed in 1961 out in Hawthorne, California, but the music is so borderless that even Rolling Stone magazine has proclaimed the Beach Boys “America’s Band.” They told yarns of the surreal world of the surfers and car jockeys that was the culture in South California in the 1960′s.
And everyone, no matter what you age can remember and even sing some of the lyrics of many of their tunes. Considering the band ended up with 36 US Top 40 hits along with 56 Top 100 hits, they are the best selling American band in history. And who has not heard many of their songs in classic movies or even television as a backdrop to the beach scenes. They might not be the same members that originally hit the stage back in 1961, but they still have the same energy and envoke the same thrill they did years ago when i saw them in concert.
Even if the band doesn’t hit the same high notes as in their earlier years, this band still brings back a great flood of emotions and memories when they begin to sing their songs. And the awesome sight of seeing three and sometimes four generations of family dancing and singing their songs speaks volumes to their longevity. Seriously, I saw grandparents holding small infants and dancing with them in their arms in the aisle of the Trop that night, and seeing young and old dancing closely to their slow dance classics just reminded you of those wild dances and proms of our youth.
I know the pictures do not do justice to the sights and sounds going on all over the Trop that night, but the music bouncing off the back walls and cascading down to our ears was a sweet ambrosia that all of us hungered to taste again. The music took all of us to a place some of us had not been in a long time, but left everyone with a smile.
Classic was the moment near the end of the concert when Love thanked the crowd for the experience, then his original band mate Bruce Johnston told him they had to have at least two more songs in them. They then erupted into “Barbara Ann” and “FUn, Fun, Fun”. Even as I was heading for the exits of the stadium, some fans were still singing the songs and dancing in the breezeways under the stadium.
Funny, I even went searching on my FM radio on the way home hoping to catch a Beach Boys classic song on the radio before I hit my driveway. I was amazed when less than five minutes later the song ” Sloop John B”, which was recorded back in 1965 began to play over the speakers. I was quickly transcended to a time when I used to sail on a small catamaran on the Gulf of Mexico with my small tape recorder strapped to the mast.
But that is the gift that band like the Beach Boys give us every time we hear them. They take us back to times and memories that sit close to us, and remind us of easier time, or less stressful moments in our lives. Bands like this provide a great example of just how great some of that music in the earlier years of rock and roll can become iconic.
Even the classic “Kokomo” can be heard at any cruise ship or travel agency on the Musik now, but always bring us back to a sandy white beach, and a loud shirt or shorts. But that is the gift, the ultimate compliment to the band and our culture if we hum a few bars, or even think of the beach culture for a moment while the song is playing.
I could almost fee the sand between my toes that night even though I was sitting in the box seats at a baseball stadium. I could imagine those hot, but breeze-filled nights cruising the beaches with my dog and some of those Beach Boys tunes strumming in my ears. All I was missing was an exotic drink with a umbrella in it.
( I do have more photos of all of the Rays Sat. Night Concerts this season I stayed for on my Myspace Photo area. If you wanted to check out other pictures, just go to http://www.myspace.com/www.raysrenegade.com ).
I have to admit something here to all of you Rays fans. I am getting sick and tired of carrying all of this guilt and singular pressure of knowing this unknown secret to all of you, and the pure fact of not telling everyone or anyone is eating me up raw and twisting me up like a large salty pretzel. This burning secret is churning inside to a point of internal implosion and shriveling up my soul to resemble a sun-rotted prune just waiting for the hot sun to take all of my exterior substance away and bare me again to my bones for the world to see me again.
You know someone has to be at fault for all this 2009 Rays pain and anquish, but I still hid it from all of your eyes and left it just inches beyond your fingers, and yet I clutche it internally for so long some can no longer look into my eyes and see that I forgot who I was this season, that something was missing within my spirit and emotions this season. So why don’t all of you Rays fans go ahead and blame me for this subpar season. That is right, you have been leering and jeering seeking and searching for the perfect scapegoat, and yet here I was in plain sight and maybe even standing next to you.
And I am totally willing to take the blunt beating of words and the constant barrage of hateful comments. Bring it on, for I know someone has to be the bold one and take that honorable fall on the blade of the sword. Someone has to think for the people and make a unselfish sacrifice for the forgiveness of the masses, and it might as well be me for my ignoring my own code of superstitions and rites.
I am willing to take this one square on the bottom of my chin for the gross oversight, get kicked merciless again and again in my red and swollen shins by the scores of little kids looking for a solid plausable reason for the Rays to maybe heading home in October then making a few road trips to defend their title. And I am fully aware as I walked the hallowed and busy halls of this stadium on Sunday, I will get physically abused and smacked around like a cotton ragdoll by little old ladies with huge purses full of quarters and nickels.
I deserve all the profane remarks and the steely eyed leers and constant barrage of jeers and trash thrown at me in my seat. So go ahead and just loathe me for it all before 1:40 pm today so we can all just sit down and enjoy the ballgame. And in that 2-3 hour moment of reflection let your bitter and coarse comment fester for after the game will be anothe chance to spite me. Then afterwards as I file out of the backdoors of the Trop., you can again begin the verbal barrage and continue the fire and brimstone massage to my body. I am not worthy right now, because someone has to blame for all of this. Someone has to take the bitter blame, because the Rays is still fighting day in and day out.
And you may ask why I am to blame. What arrogant act or even attempt at normalcy did I forget to deserve such treatment? Well, it is really quite simple. I may have committed the mortal sin of slacking a bit this season, and it might have been my lackluster attitude at times that led the team down the wrong road. When I cracked my large Latin Percussion cowbell in April, I did not go straight out and buy a new one, but settled for a small model given out during the “Championship Week” during the first week of the season. And I have forgotten it on numerous occasions, so my bell did not ring loud and true and might have caused discomfort within the dugout for it distrurbed the vibes going through the Trop.
For in this bitter end, my simple omission might have been a psuedo bad karma accelerator of all of this Rays fans nonsense of extreme playoff misery and worry about hitting a solid piece of ground in the American League postseason. My own decision of staying in the shadows and hiding in the background this season might have been a catalyst for the impending dismal disaster. For my personal trip towards the darkened world of introversion might have tipped the scales to the wrong direction, and I might have done a unknown karma whammy strike towards anything normal right now again for the Rays.
If you are wondering what my mortal sin could entail, it is a simple case of forgetting to again reserve a slot and perfect spot in the 2009 Tampa Bay Rays Team Photo. I got in the 2008 edition last May and the team began a string of walk-off victories and an instant upward spiraling trend towards the postseason. For beyond all the good karma and the energetic chemistry going on last season in that clubhouse, a simple smile fan nestled between Akinora Iwamura and Willy Ayar could have been the push of odd luck they needed.
For I am “Mr. Lucky”, or that is the name the Rays gave me back 5 years ago when they inducted me on their Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame. I want to think I was the unseen good luck charm that pushed them towards that ultimate goal of reaching the World Series. I want to think I had a small bit of primal inspiration to bottled a little bit up for all the fans here and all over the world who follow the team and hide it within the ranks and rows of that photo session. I want to think my luck rubbed off on all of them as a group. I mean on that day I did step on Evan Longoria’s foot as I came out of the second row so they could take the official Team Photo.
And we all know what that did for him………Rookie of the Year baby! So I am opening myself to be the official Rays scapegoat for 2009. Blame me, just do not blame anyone else for all the misery you are feeling right now towards the Tampa Bay Rays. For I might be the twisting metal in between this multi car pile-up that flavors the bitter taste in your mouth with a hints of good and bad that have engulped and turned the day into night for this team in the 2009 season.
So I will take the garbage reeking around my seat, and the odd soda cup floating towards my head because my actions might have angered the almighty Baseball Gods, and they do not take kindly to playing with their superstitions and game rites. And believe me when I tell you I have gone to the Church of Baseball a lot the last few weeks of this season hoping and praying for my own salvation or absolution in this matter. I have asked forgiveness at the alter of the Splendid Splinter inside Tropicana Field.
I have seen the Phillie shroud of the late Tug McGraw hanging in the Major League Baseball Alumni Association office and I have seen a vision of green grass on its shirt tails calling me again. I have stood in the rotunda and looked skyward and said a silent plead for some sign or omen that all will again be great within these Trop walls, and all I got was a ray of sunshine beaming on the people coming into the stadium and nothing near myself. I have even asked the symbol of all that is good and gracious in the Rays, their mascot Raymond D Rays for wisdom and a path of light in these ever-changing hours of playoff darkness.
So do not blame the Rays players, the Rays Coaches or even the Rays front office or ownership. It was my spiteful woes and selfishness that started this boulder down the hill with no one ther to stop it in time. It is in errors and transgressions within my total being that this season should fall upon my shoulders and shall wreck hovoc on my eternal soul. For I am a Rays fan who know the miserable plight and the sheer agony of impending losses all to well for the last 10 years. And I have also tasted the ambrosia and joy mixed with extreme excitement of shared victories. But it also falls upon me forgetting my simple place in this cosmic soup that might eventaully be the first crack in the ice above our feet.
And for that I ask your forgiveness and proclaim to you now that in 2010, I will do everything in my physical and financial being to again smile proudly and confidently standing amongst the Rays who will again fight between the white chalk lines every day for all of us. My shoulders are wide and can take the weight of this challenge. And I am able to stand tall and proud and with no teetering in my balance in this fight until the Rays ship is righted and on course, and all is again serene in the Rays World.
introduced to a wild new character in the annuals of baseball this week
by a couple of my Rays friends. Well, actually by a picture she had
taken while attending the Toronto Blue Jays versus Team Canada game a
few days ago. Christin and Pat Manfredo are also members of the
Rays/Pepsi Fan Wall of Fame and are pretty well known around the Trop.
for their signs and their great relationships with some of the Rays
players. I have heard of such a character existed around the
boundaries of baseball, but through their bond with the player that
originated the myth. legend, or maybe the honest truth that is hidden
by the bigwigs of baseball.
The origin of this mystical character first graced the pages of Baseball America
back in August 2008 and tells of the origin of the Garfoose, the hidden
creature of baseball. There is not a lot known of Garfoose. If you try
and find anything online or in the Wikipedia you get a mumble and a
jumble of words and locations, but nothing shows any type of concrete
answers or even questions about this mythical animal. So is it so
unusual that you would find the answers in a Toronto Blue Jays Bullpen
during the Spring of 2009.
teller of this tale is relief pitcher Dirk Hayhurst, who originally was
drafted in the 2003 Major League Baseball Draft by the San Diego
Padres. Hayhurst made his major league debut 17 days after this story
was told in Baseball America, on August 23, 2008. In that
contest he faced Barry Zito and the San Francisco giants in AT&T
Park. But that season in San Diego did not end well for him as he was
placed on waivers and claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays on October 6,
2008. Recently he was released by the Jays to make room for pitcher
Matt bush on their roster. He was again brought back into the Jays fold
via a minor league deal on February 13, 2008.
The following is the tale of the Garfoose told by Hayhurst in his Prospect Diary inside the pages of Baseball America.
Be warned that small children and farm animals should not read this
passage as it might incite nightmares and even odd sightings of the
creature during both day and night games around the Toronto Blue Jays
home during the Spring, Dunedin Stadium. Do not say I did not warn you
in advance. So without further ado…………The Legend of the
ball rolled all the way to the pen. Struck foul with no one to give
chase, it made it’s way to us, the lazy pack of minute men sitting down
the left field line. Nonchalantly, I stepped on it to catch it.
Immediately cheers erupted. Fans know fouls go into the stands and so they began petitioning for it.
by their urgent, desperate pleas, I leisurely reached down to pluck the
new ball from under foot. It dawned on me, as I turned the ball in my
hand, the balls in the catch bag were not as nice as this freshly foul
pearl. I decided I would switch it out with a tarnished ball so we
could extend the life of this good one. I started to walk away from
ball suitors to make the exchange. The crowd let me have it. I expected
as much, they assumed I wasn’t going to sacrifice to them, but they
were wrong. I made my way back with a downgraded ball and tossed it
into the maw of hungry hands. Before I could return to my seat a
teenage boy in extra baggy clothes with choppy hair shooting out under
a hat turned at that annoying half-cocked angle, bellowed at me with
voice of rude expectation indicative of little punk, “hey, why choo
didn’t gib-me-dat ball? Gib-me da other one, the good one. I saw you
switch it! You gotta whole bag dawg!”
“Are you really asking me why I switched it or why I didn’t give it to you?” I asked, in a slow, tired draw.
“Both, man. I come to like every game and stuff, like all the time. I deserve a ball.”
“Your a big fan then huh?”
“Yeah bro, I love da Beavers. I’m like the number one fan yo, you should give me a ball.”
“Ok, well, what’s my name then?” It was on my jersey, but my back was turned.
“Right. Biggest fan.”
“Still, I seen you had a bag full a dem, hook me up man?”
“I can’t do that. Sorry.”
“Yo, you suck then man, why you can’t? I mean, seriously, yall be millionaires and stuff.”
“Oh, If only that were the truth…”
“I had a buddy tell me you get those balls for free.”
“That’s not true at all. These balls are expensive. More expensive then you’ll ever know.”
“Well, it’s a long story, but since your such a big fan, I’ll tell you…”
year, in the spring time, hopeful monks wishing to enter the sacred
order of the Stitched Moon make a pilgrimage to a land deep in the
Tibetan mountains. They take very few supplies with them, barely enough
to make the journey, resting upon faith they will accomplish the task
They travel night and day, rarely stopping to eat
or rest. Some are over come with fatigue, others by starvation. Some
are carried of by predators. Still, a select few fulfill the journey
and find themselves in a paradise untouched by the poison of the modern
You see my friend, legend speaks of a valley in those
mountains, a second Eden if you will, where beauty blossoms with out
limit. It is a land of magic and fantasy.
They sky of this
paradise is arrayed with exotic birds. The ground littered with
precious gems. There is a sapphire blue lake where mermaids live, the
water as sweet as ambrosia. There are fields of flowers, each bud more
magnificent then the next, where unicorns frolic. Sometimes, when not
singing to the sounds of their lutes and harps, the native elves ride
the unicorns, though that may just be an old wives tale.
journey is full of temptation, yet there is none greater then call of
this paradise. “Stay,” it bades, “forget about the order of the
Stitched Moon.” Many monks are seduced, and in their careless self
indulgence, they fall victim to the lands only guardian, the dreaded
Garfoose, a fire breathing half giraffe, half moose, whose only known
prey is man.
Stealthily, so as not to alert the Garfoose, the
monks travel into the heart of the paradise to an enchanted grove. It
is within in this grove they find the treasure they so desperately
seek. For the trees of this grove are baseball trees with limbs
bursting with perfectly formed baseballs. The monks collect these
baseballs and carry as many as they can back to their villages.
return, the monks are met with celebration. Weeks of feasting are held
in their honor before they are warmly excepted into the order of the
Stitched Moon. The baseballs are proof of their commitment but they
also serve another purpose. The collected baseball are sold to Major
League baseball for a healthy profit to the monks. The money is then
used to buy new initiates their robs and Sacred Moon text books.
League Baseball then takes the baseballs and sorts them. The best balls
going to the major leagues, the next best to triple A, and so on. Over
the years science has tried to replicate the the perfect harmony of a
naturally created baseball from the enchanted, Garfoose guarded, groves
of the legendary mountain paradise. But a real baseball player knows
the difference. Don’t ask me how, but there is just something special
that you can feel when you hold it…”
I finished the tale looking out into the distance, my hand extended as if pointing to some heavenly paradise.
“That, my friend, is why these balls are so special, and why I can’t give them out to just anyone.”
“Man shut up, quit playing.” Said the boy.
all real man, I’m not playing.” I was stark serious, staring at him
like it was all true, like he was a crazy person for doubting me.
He paused, looked left and right then leaned toward me and with a small, timid voice whispered, “You being for real about that?”
course not, what kind of idiot would believe that story? The balls all
say made in China on right on them! I’m not giving you a ball because
your a lying little punk in need of a grammar lesson. Now get a hair
cut and fix your freaking hat, you look like a two year old trying to
wear his dads clothes.”
He made that tongue-tisk sound, and
threw his chest out at me, “Man, you suck! Dat’s why you be in da
minors, you ain’t never gonna make it, looser!”
“Thats alright, at least I’m not going to have nightmares about the Garfoose coming to get me.”
Thank you again to Christin and Pat Manfredo for letting me know about this awesome baseball story.
Lately I have been focusing a huge amount of my attention on the aspect of getting the Tampa Bay area convinced and enticed by the possibilities of this Rays team thrusting onward and upwards towards a possible American League Playoff spot. As the noose gets a bit tighter, and the ice begins to melt faster beneath all of our feet, I think it is time to back it down a notch and maybe have some fun today. Yeah, it is definitely a time to take a step back and chill for a moment and just have fun with today’s blog.
Heck, I even began toying a bit with what if I had some sort of theme music, or a walk-up introduction music that would play if I walked into the stadium. And my personal choice of music would be Bon Jovi’s hit “Have A Nice Day”. I mean we all have thought about it for a few minutes, and we all have a few songs rolling around in our minds that might play out our hidden personalities and our music styles. Wouldn’t it be too cool to have that music playing even if it is on our own personal Ipods every time we stepped down into the bowl of the stadium.
We all know that a player’s walk-up music is a signature of their inner personalities that we might not see outside of the lines of the baseball field, and some them have some unusual and odd choice for their music. Some base it on childhood memories or a friendly reminding beat that gives them a sense of calm and clear mind just before they step into the batter box, or on the pitching rubber. But one of the wildest music I have heard is the music that accompanies J P Howell as he comes to the mound.
I have never asked Howell why he picks a song by Huey “Piano” Smith who was an important part of the great New Orleans piano tradition, following in the footsteps of Professor Longhair and Fats Domino to take his place among the Crescent City’s R&B elite. He was also one of R&B’s great comedians, his best singles matching the Coasters for genial, good-time humor, although his taste often ran more towards nonsense lyrics. So why would a guy who was born in Modesto, California in 1983 come in contact with a song written and recorded in the late 1950′s? That has got to be one of the great stories that underline some of the Rays players song selections.
But then you have a guy like Rays starter James Shields who uses a well known song from a German band Rammstein that came into all of our subconscious when the band performed it live during a scene in the movie “XXX” with Vin Diesel. ”Du Hast”( Do Have) is a great techno song that does get your mind and physical being up and ready. The pumping of the bass and the hard guitar licks do get you wanting to start a mosh pit right in the Rays Bullpen area each time you hear it. It was actually a undercover favorite of mine and I can truly see how it could be a favorite of Shields. Seriously I want to bang my head and pump my fist every time it plays in the stadium.
You might be wondering why I am focusing so much on the Rays pitcher’s music instead of the Rays hitters? Well, really the answer is quite simple, the batters get their music heard sometimes 4 times a night, while the starters and the reliever might not get their music heard but once a series. So I decided to focus more on the pitching staffs music then the hitters right now. But that could be a possible future blog entry.
One of the newest members of the Tampa Bay Rays relieving corp is veteran Russ Springer. And in his mound music he reflects on his home town roots and his affection for the music that had influenced him for so long. Being a native of Pollack, Louisiana he is truly what you would expect of a country boy. The guy is low key, but passionate about the sport and remarked in a recent article in the St Petersburg Times that in his hometown, people ask “How your coondog is doing?” as mush as they ask about you.
But Springer has been able to keep that low key personality under the MLB radar until 2006 when in May of that year his name was spread out all over the media when he was a member of the Houston Astros and threw at San Francisco Giant several times in a series, finally plucking him once. He ended up with a 5-game suspension and a reputation that you do not mess with him.
Another guy who can changed and tossed his music around a lot during his Rays career has been Rays reliever Grant Balfour. He has gone as far as using fellow Aussies’ Midnight Oil and their hit “King of the Mountain” to the wild and mysterious pick of Men at Work and their classic “Land Down Under.” I have to tell you, the Men at Work song tends to freak me out a bit. I really hate to admit I liked that song so long ago when it first came out.
But seriously here, he has done a bit of mixing those two up with a few wild off the cuff picks like The Doors in the recent Red Sox/Rays series. I could not place the song title, but know it was not “Back Door Man”, or even “The End”, which could be a interesting twist to his use as a 7th, 8th inning set-up man for the team. Got to admit, the Midnight Oil song is an old classic I had not even thought about for years, but is a nice classic tune for a mound mood.
But then you have the left-side of the brain music of two of the Rays southpaws that really sets the tone for a reliever coming into the game late in a contest and gets the bass and the hard back beats going in your mind and body. It is the band AC/DC and their hard core rock and roll themes like “Thunderstruck” and “ You Shook Me All Night Long”, and “Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)” as their mound music.
I know that Brian Shouse and Randy Choate did not intentionally pick those tunes just for their times here with the Rays, but it is actually really funny, that they pick that music since resident Brian Johnson, who did the lead vocals for the group actually lives in the Sarasota area and attends some Rays games during the season. Hopefully the lead singer can get to a game before the end of the season and get a chance to chat with the guys who enjoy his band’s music so much. Heck, I think he would be a fantastic National Anthem singer if the former Aussie would not mind belting out the tune.
As you can see some of the Rays pitching staff has a wide variety of musical tastes that can range from the wild and unusual to the down at home music from their regions. But most of all, it can be a audio cure to them personally to get into that mode of operation that will result in total concentration and effort on their parts. The job of a Major League pitcher is difficult enough knowing that the guy at the plate is trying to knock every pitch out of the ballpark, and it is your job to keep that from happening.
Music, song lyrics and also beat can get them into a frame of mind to mask that objective by the batter and get their job done so they can all go home with a win. Some days it works, some days it fails, but it is their own personal stamp on the game and it is their badge of recognition for the fans. Music can be the great inspirational point in a game. That is why we have certain songs that play during the game to key emotions and get not just the players, but us the crowd into the heat of the battle.
I was sitting there at Tropicana Field last night right after the Tampa Bay Rays victory over the Boston Red Sox and a friend of mine, who is an ex-corpsman in the military and a current St. Pete Fire Department EMT told me I looked like liquid garbage. Always nice to hear such sweet nothings like that from a cute brunette. But she was right. I was suffering from something that has been growing and growing for the last few weeks. It really has been overtaking a huge chunk of my life inside and outside of this same building.
So she sat there a minute hearing me chatter about the weird things that have been happening to my body in the last several weeks. Of the wild bouts of insomnia that have me watching replays of the game until almost 5 am in the morning every day, or the night sweats after a bad loss, or even a close ballgame that could have gone either way at any time. I told her how my reaction time to foul balls was getting uncommonly sloth-like, and if it was not hit To Me anymore, I just watch it sail even a foot over my head.
And she just sat there and nodded her head. I went on about the slowness of thoughts that did not revolve around baseball, and the difficulty I was having prioritizing even simple events like laundry and lunch at the same time. That I turned my cellphone to silent to keep my little world secure from friends in Boston and New York from ruining my little Utopia right now. And I complained that for some reason only three things seemed to matter to me right now, because my basic system of doing even routine task seems to be centered around what time the gates open at the Trop.
And still she just sat there listening like a $200/hour shrink with a spoiled rich kid on the leather couch. I even went on to tell her about my new found preoccupation with minimal issues like my special free parking place near the stadium, or my routine of walking to and from the stadium a certain way, and not deviating from that path a single step, even if there was a taxi or car in the way.
And that I was battling a huge bout of indecision on simple decisions like if I was going to have the Cuban sandwich, or got “hog-wild” and stack the loaded nachos with a bevy of jalapenos and hot sauce. That that my basic decision making process was being bogged down by a fatigue that made me not even consider anything out of the ordinary or new right now in my routines or my patterns. And that in the bitter end, even after a huge win lately, I was battling a huge mountain of fatigue and restlessness that had never entered my life before.
Well, through all of this she just sat there listening and mentally jotting down the symptoms and the causes and doing that quick analogy that people who work at Emergency Medical Techs do on their daily jobs. You could almost see the wheels turning as she was eliminating mental illnesses and adding psychological responses and cause and effects that could be the source of this ailment that was bogging down my physical being right now. Then she cleared her throat and made the announcement of what I needed to do now.
“First thing “ she stated boldly, “You have to understand that this aliment has been around for a very long, long time. That the cause of your problem is not physical in nature, but can be processed through your body at a rate that will boggle its usual senses and abilities. That your internal clock right now is being sped up to an alarming rate by your visual stimulation brought on by your emotional pull towards the subject matter at hand.”
She then began to laugh and smack me in the noggin a few times. But she still had not revealed what the prognosis was about all of this. But was she just teasing with me, knowing that I might not be able to handle the truth, or was she waiting for the nerves and the mind games I was already playing in my own head to swirl a bit longer and throw me into a mental bowl of mush right now. No, she was sitting there trying to see if my orbiting electrodes could pick out the aliment by itself before revealing the cosmic truth.
“Dude, You really can not figure this out by yourself?” She said while still chuckling and devouring the last sips of her cold, icy beverage. I nodded a very confirming negative and she again began to even chuckle louder. “Darling, you my dear friend are suffering from a odd-cultural ailment that has plagued man every since the cavemen picked up two sticks and began fighting and a crowd began to watch them. You are suffering a urbanite based type of battle fatigue that effects people who follow a particular sports team and live and breath on their outcomes. You are beginning to show extreme signs of Post-Part um Playoff Disorder”
And the news shocked me. Here I was a strong-willed guy who had never fallen into that trap for years and years following my sports teams, but for some reason this season I fell face-first into the abyss. She saw my face go blood-less and white for a moment until I had the look of a man saved by the grace of god, or maybe by a errant throw by the shortstop to first. I finally got it. I finally understood what was going on., and it all made sense to me now.
But still there was the method of prognosis that was missing there. There was a final sense of aliment conclusion that was mildly empty here. what was the cure, or was there a cure? Could this be treated with kindness, or did I have to go through a rapid decompression of emotions and thought to again function like a normal human being? Or did I just have a fever for some Cowbell? She sat there with a sly smile and a simple look on her face that told me I already knew the answer.
“Think about it this way. Last season the tide and the final result of a playoff push was decided early on in the season. The stress and the emotional attachment could be stretched out over the course of the season with no sudden pushes and floods of emotional attachment until October, but in a month’s time the symptoms could be masked with ease. What you need to do now is get up out of your seat, turn around three times and do the “Chicken Dance” for me.” I sat there for a moment before rising from my seat and slowly remembering the moves of that classic dance did it for a few moments.
And you want to know something, it felt better. “For the last few months you have been sitting more in your seat, not celebrating like the rest of the people in the stadium. You have internalize the stress, struggle and the fight for some reason. You have taken your outer fandom and turned it within yourself forgetting your love for celebrating outwards and showing your pride with this team. But last, but not least, you have got to again not hinge every emotion and thought on the outcome of these next few home games. Like goes on without the Rays sweetie, and so do you!”
And with that we both began to have one of those belly-busting laughs that you can have with great friends. She saw that the color was coming back into my skin and the flush look on my face was draining back into the normal peach-color that formed by face. Maybe I needed to hear it from someone else. Maybe I needed a reassurance that others were going through this same mode of illness that was effecting them to, maybe I did just need more cowbell in a sense.
I then asked he what we should call this odd aliment that had taken over my life and my entire thought process for so long. I wanted to attach some kind of name or even an effect to this illness that was causing so much sleep-less nights and sloth-like days. I needed to somehow throw a verbiage up in my mind to finally get a label on it all and move forward. The words out of her mouth seemed to come out in slow motion and my eyes and ear hung on every syllable and vowel until it finally wrestled in my eardrums. “It’s very simple what you got………..You got Playoff Fever and you will not be the first to show these symptoms…or the last.“
It is so dang sad. I thought the day was over that I would see a spectacle like that again within the walls of this dome. It is so gut-wrenching to see the the current Rays crowd revert basically back to 2001 when the Rays squads sometimes could not buy a win with a certified check. To see both Rays fans get up out of the lower bowl and move towards the exits in the top of the eight inning is just……..not right.
I remember something that has stood in my mind since those early days of ray-dom. It was a small homemade sign constructed by a lady who was a Season Ticket holder and used to sit around the 130-132 Section. Every time, late in the game when people used to file out of the Trop just after the 7th Inning Stretch, she used to put up that a hand-made sign that basically said ” Real fans stay until the end of the Game!” Well, last night, I again saw that ancient custom rear its ugly head during our first game against the Boston Red Sox.
I am not going to sit here and whine or callout fans for not attending the game. I have done just that twice this week, and it seems that deaf ears are the current craze within this Tampa Bay community. And besides, there are enough people throwing the fans under the bus today that maybe I should be the one to actually help them back up and show them 10 reasons to attend a Rays game this week. Hopefully starting with tonight’s great pitching match-up and “Must Win” mentality.
So instead of showing the dark side of last night’s abysmal attendance figure, let’s try and accent the positive and show the community that this can and will be the “E”-ticket ride of the week and weekend. Hey, I know from personal experience over the last few years that if you enjoy watching people and also sports, coming to these games are a total “Win, Win” situation.
10 reasons to attend a Rays game this home stand:
1) Share a fistbump with a NEW friend
This Rays team is putting it all on the line right now to survive the cut-throat world of pennant race baseball. If you missed out on the chance to see it live in 2008, here is your chance to again get swept up in the momentum and the thrill of cheering on a winning Rays team this late in the season. And it is great to meet and enjoy something a bonding as a baseball game. It is also a great way to find people who share the same interest as you (baseball) and could spark into more than a post-game beverage at Ferg’s or the Brewhouse listening to the Rays Post Game Show.
2) So Affordable, even a Caveman can attend
ESPN recently names the Rays the “Most Affordable Sports Option”. JUst think about that people. In an era where everything is going up daily, the Rays have kept their ticket prices and their concessions within acceptable levels to increase to promote the fan’s wanting to come out and partake in a game. Also in the cards here is numerous great ticket options and plans that can heighten the Rays fans experience. Even if this is considered “Prime” ticket prices, you can get a ticket in the Right Field Outfield in Section 148 row T (front Row) for $24 . And if that is too high, how about a ticket in the TBT Party Deck, which has an Ybor City feel to it for $ 16
3) Great Things to Do before a Rays game
Contrary to public opinion there are a huge amount of things to do before a Rays game. From walking through the pretigious and historic Ted Williams Hitter’s Museum located right within the confines of Tropicana Field, you can stroll through the many exhibits and see classic uniforms, autographs and also photos of historic events both from the past, and the recent Rays run to the World Series. Maybe you want a personal baseball card or a wooden Louisville Slugger for your office or den. Or maybe you are a closet Sports announcer and will give the “You Make the Call” booth a try to see if you are the next Curt Gowdy.
4) For the Food Loving fans……..A MEGA Treat!
For you lovers of the show “Man vs. Food” on the Travel Channel, the Rays Budweiser Brewhouse has a challenge for you. It is a monster burger filled with a zillion calories and just as much cheese and bacon smothered oin the side with a pound of fries that should make any carnavior happy and gald to be alive. Even if the only prize is a T-shirt, the photo recognition on the wall would be instand bragging right to friends and family to also come on in and partake in the glutanous challenge.
5) “Good Seats are Still Available”
This same phrase has been blasted in radio ads and also television spots even before this past weekend, and it is a Rays ticket bonanza right now within the stadium. Uusually if you walk-up to the Rays Ticket Office this late in a series you can only find the odd single seat in the lower bowl or the outfield and you have to resort to the Upper Deck or the TBO Party Deck to take in a game. Right now seats are open in some of the prime locations of the stadium, and you can be the proud owner of a ticket in these sections. And with that ticket, you can now voice any of your opinions to John Romano of the St. Petersburg Times ( www.tbo.com) If you read his column today, it will all make sense).
6) Stiff the Rays for $20
If you get a group of friend (at least 4) to come with you to a game, you can drive right up to the main parking lot at the Trop and after a short view by the parking attendant you and your friends can drive right on into the main parking area and put that $ 20 back into your wallet for later use. That is right, if 4 or more of you and your friends are situated in one car, the parking in the main lot is FREE that night. That “saved” $20 can then be spent on the many food and beverage options. Where else in the MLB will the team reward you for bringing people to the game with you. It doesn’t even matter if you like each other, a minimum of 4 people gets you a free parking pass.
7) Friendly players and Field staff
If you get here early enough, you can get something most fans in parks around this countr can not get before a baseball game. No, I am not talking about a Batting Practice ball, but you are close. This is one of the stadiums in this league where the players actually like to sign for the fans. Seriously, these guys will come right up to the sidelines and sign balls, bats and baseball cards for the fans. Some teams do not even have players who will do that outside of the team’s events, but this team truly knows it is the fans that matter also in this building. And the players will tell you they look forward to this time to mingle with the fans. Some even hold conversations with you while they are signing your items….imagine that!
8) Real Live animals, and not just in the stands!
When is the last time you went to a Petting Zoo? For most of us it was in our childhood years, or a recent visit to Lowery Park in Tampa. But here at the Trop you can get your small dose of nature and also take in a great baseball game, all for one ticket price. The Rays Tank, a unique live animal attraction that opened in 2006 actually features a 10,000 gallon tank that houses 20 cownose rays that you can feed and touch right up until the 6th inning of any Rays game. Got to admit, it is a really wild feeling to feed one of these gulf dwellers for the first time, and should be on your life “to do” list if you are a Rays fan.
9) People watching is FREE, just like on that park bench
If you are one of those people who get a kick out of watching other people, then this place will be a new mecca for you. I am not talking about stalking a cute girl in the stands, but watching some of the wild antics of people like the Cowbell Kid, who is stationed right under the Jumbotron in Rightfield. And then there are the multiples of people who have specially made signs supporting the Rays and thrust them up at different times during the game. I have to be honest with you, I am a people watcher. I always get a few belly chuckles out of some of the antics of fans during a game.
10) Community Pride is always in attendance
And last, but not least, this is your time to show your civic pride. And this is the most important reason to me to attend a game. This is OUR team. They are not just here during Spring Training like in surrounding communiteis within the Tampa Bay area. This is a professional baseball team that is fighting for a dream. And we should all be there for this historic moment. With the tide turning quickly on the Rays, this is the time to show them that this community has their backs.
Sure, there are going to be people who will tell me that I kind of streamlined all the good things that are around this stadium. And there will be people who will think a diluted the total things possible here before game time, but the true fact is that if you have not been here in awhile, you really need to see this NEW Rays product on the field for yourself. The overall excitement within the confines of this dome are incredible at game time.
And even when teams like Boston and New York do come into the building, for the most part both sets of fans have a mutual respect for each other and there are minumum flare-ups and problems during a game. But this time of the year is the time to truly vome out and show your Rays Republic colors. No Reds, No White, just some sort of shade of blue is totally acceptable and encouraged to drown out the Red and white that the Red Sox Nations bring into Tropicana Field.
Hopefully I have given you a reason to want to attend a game in the Trop before the end of the season. And if you are not a local resident, hopefully I have gotten you to think about a trip to sunny Florida and take in a Rays game, or even a Spring Training game some time in the future. But for the Rays faithful, the time is now. You can not wait until the weekend, you can not wait until the end of the month. This team needs to have fannies in the seats to show the baseball community that this town understands what pennant fever is, and that we have all caught it. Sniff, Sniff, I do seem to be getting a fever, where is my cowbell?
You knew it was only going to be a matter of time before the bashing began. You knew it was going to take just one commercial like this one, or even one sentence from someone like me to get this rivalry kicked off again right. I have always been labeled an instigator, but in this series, I am but a fly on the wall. This series doesn’t need to be hyped up, it doesn’t need my help, it is a monster among itself ready to pounce and destroy. But this series seems to be starting on a timid mark, and right now it surely doesn’t need a fire lit under that keg of dynamite under either teams fan base.
Why try and put any exclamation points on this series? Why even try and promote it as a “Must Win” time of the year? If the Rays fan base has not already circled these dates on the calendar back in April with red ink would it still be important to people? So as we venture into Tropicana Field tonight hopefully the 14,000 unsold seats will be overtaken by local fans wanting to show support or fight for the home team. Armed with loud voices and other pesky cowbells, we shall overtake the senses of the Boston Red Sox and gain a small, but vital advantage at least on their minds.
My only answer to that is the fact that there are “Still good seat available” according to the Rays commercials both on the television and the radio concerning this series. And that pisses me off big time! That this region can not even fathom something of this major sports importance this late in a season and correspond with ticket sales is beyond me. I know we are new at this postseason rally stuff, and the excitement might not be as consistent as we all would like it to be, but even if it is a Tuesday night, and the worst night of the week for Rays ticket sales this season, it is beyond me that people are not behind this quest for the playoffs.
Hey, DVR Rescue Me and come on out to the Trop. and support this team like there is no tomorrow. Because if this series starts to go south in any way, it will could change our role from hopeful to spoiler in a matter of innings. For this team to get back into the playoff race they will have to start the longest winning streak of the season. And that is possible, but only if everyone, including the Rays community are on the same page. Because in stark reality, if the Rays fall short in this series, the playoff bubble will burst and the Rays will be fighting to mess up the seedlings for the playoffs instead of playing in them.
For years people around the Tampa Bay are asked for a competitive team and then they will decide to show up at games. Well it is “put up or shut up time” to the Tampa Bay community. This is your moment to make the fans back in Boston know who owns this town. This is our time to show the baseball world and those collective talking heads in Bristol that this town does have baseball fire in its belly. To show indifference or even spot vacant seats in the lower bowl is to give the Red Sox some ammunition to count out the Rays fans. It also gives credo to the MLB that maybe this region, or at least where the stadium is now is a deterrent to attendance.
This is time for everyone to “Feel the Heat!” All season long people have been pushing back Rays losses saying it is “not important at that moment” to consider that one loss important. well, that thinking has gotten us to this fragile point in the season where every loss is so critical it hurts deep to the team’s post season plans. How important is the Rays fans coming out to this series? Why should they venture out into the dark night and support this team right now? Because this team needs you!. Plain and simple, black and white. People have asked for this kind of atmosphere and now that we have it, the Trop is still half empty at the start of the game.
This team needs to show the Red Sox Nation and the collective baseball world that the road to the playoffs still have to come through Tropicana Field. But also has the plain white reality that the Rays are against the invisible brick wall right now and that should be double motivation for people to want to get on board and come out and support this team.
Sure the Red Sox will still have their legions of fans here even if we sold out the Trop. because some Boston fans were smart and bought their tickets back early in the season knowing that the Rays last home series between these teams could be a the deciding factor for either of them to rise into the playoff race. But now it comes down to the basics that even a single loss in this series is going to damper more than the possible playoff picture. A simple loss in this series puts all the pressure straight on top of the Rays to keep winning, or the Red Sox to begin winning.
And it doesn’t matter if the Red Sox are currently on a 3-game winning streak, this is a whole different set of parameters, and a different set of rules when you play the Rays. Nothing is taken for granted, and nothing is guaranteed to you. So let’s consider this for a moment. Just what does this series really mean to Tampa Bay?
***If they sweep the series with the Red Sox, they get within striking range of the Wild Card lead, but are still two games out of the lead.
***If they lose this series, it is the essential nail in the coffin because at 7-games back, the Red Sox would have to go into a huge tailspin for the Rays to consider a spot again this season.
***Even taking 1 out of 3 is not an attractive option right now since that would pop us back another 2 games with just over 30-ish to go in 2009.
So as you can tell, the optimal goal is to sweep the series and gain some control in this Wild Card race. Straight, to the point, all cards on the table. The Rays have not been under the gun like this in 2009. This is the time to see what they are truly made of, and if they have the fortitude and the mustard to sprint back into this playoff picture, or fall behind the leaders and be bystanders for the rest of the season.
And if you think the Red Sox have any plans of letting this team get close again to them, you got another thing coming to you. They will do anything and everything to crush this Rays opposition right here and right now in front of their home fans. And that would be a crushing blow to this Rays team, who praise and thank the fan base all the time for their efforts. The Red Sox have fashioned their rotation to basically resemble a 3-game playoff format and have stacked it in a way to secure as many wins as they can before leaving town.
And believe me, the guys in that Rays and Red Sox clubhouses both know what is at stake tonight. Each player on either team knows the importance of a win. And if you remember what has happened here at Tropicana Field between these two teams in 2009, you see a wide variety of conclusions. You can go onto both ends of the spectrum and see a 1-hitter thrown by Matt Garza that dazed and confused the Red Sox, to a extra inning affair highlighted by a errant catcher’s equipment bag making a firm voice in the game.
Expect the unexpected in this series. I am really thinking that a few well-called well-planned trick moves will be the difference in this series. It could be a double steal, it could be a hit and run that ends up in one of the outfield corners. It could even be a steal of home plate by someone. My expectations of this series is easy. I want to see each team sweat, get dirty and play until the last out….period. The outcome of each game I am hoping will come down to one moment that will define that game. I am not asking for a grand slam or even a complete game shutout, but one singular moment should define each game.
And that above everything else will define this series. Who do I think will take the prize? Well, if you have to ask, you have not been reading between the lines here. I would not be surprised if there are brooms here on Thursday night, but I also would not be surprised if there are not any here. This is a critical series in a critical month with results that will echo all the way to next February. One team has to want this more than the other. One team wants to defend their title and regain some respect from the National League. And the other is in attack mode. Knowing that a single defeat can dent their armor and maybe produce a crack that can not be fixed in time.
But the great thing about baseball, besides no time limit is the fact on any given day, anyone can come home with the victory. Both teams are hungry. Both teams have something to prove, but if we also do not come out here and produce noise, cheers and support this team, they could fold like a house of cards. So get those cowbells ready, get those vocal chords wet and ready for some screams and cheers, but mostly get out here for some September pennant action.
This is the last chance in 2009 to make your feelings known to the Red Sox faithful here and at home in Boston. Believe me, Red Sox fans hate those cowbells almost as much as I hate Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. But now is the call to arms, legs and fingers to those that claim to support this team. This is your teams silent request for you to show up and be loud and proud the next three days.
For if we are not loud and proud and showing our passion and excitement for playoff fever, then we might as well pack away the bells for another season, sit on our hands and watch this season slip away from us and the Rays players. But that is not an option here. So your presence is requested within the confines of Tropicana Field for one of the next three game against the Red Sox. And be sure to either wear your favorite Rays gear, or dress in anything not including the color red. Let’s see if we can make the Trop a sea of white and blue and only view a small patch here and there of Red tide.