Rays #1 Moment of 2009: ” To the Roof People!”
How can you describe it to someone who has never seen it before. It is a awesome moment that steals your breathe away and makes your own heart skip a beat or two. It is the time you can visually imagine seeing the sweat, blood and hard work it took to gain those banners flash instantly before your eyes. It is a time to will never,ever forget for your entire life.
And for me, it is a Tampa Bay Rays moment 12 years in the making. A dozen years of watching teams glide up and down in the standings, mostly in the bottom rungs, but finally thrusting towards the zenith of the division.
Rays Radio Host Rich Hererra was so right when he told all of us during the 2008 season that “It was going to be a Magical Summer.”
This had to be my “Number #1 Rays Moment of 2009”. Not only will this event be played out for years in stories and tales, but because all the rest of the Rays future seasons will be judged from now on against these two banners being raised to the rafters of Tropicana Field. Sure the on-the-field actions that produced these banners might have happened in the 2008 season.
But the realization is visualized here on the Rays Opening Day, April 13th against the multi-ringed New York Yankees. For on that day, the realization of what truly happened during the playoffs is alive and growing within the stadium. the banners seem to have a pulse of their own and an honorable place amongst the rafters now for every fan, team and home viewer to see forever.
And now it seems kind of symbolic passing of the trophy that the Yankees got to witness this spectacular event. From the first moment both banner materialized from the dugouts and the Rays as one seem to glide those banners across the turf on their shoulders and walked high and proud with them both into position right below the leftfield seats.
How a small band of local Armed Forces paratroopers stationed at nearby McDill Air Force Base, which houses the U S armed forces Central Command post, helped hoist the banners into their lofty posts in the rafters of the stadium. With the cheers and the applause almost deafening, it was a moment that brought chills, thrills and a few drops of wetness to the Rays uniform I was wearing that great night.
Because not only did the players do amazing things on the field in their run towards the World Series, but the fans came out in droves and supported this team by filling every nook and cranny of the Trop. when we needed them most. And even if this day was set forward to celebrate with pomp and circumstances set before us, the event will live on forever, not only with the ticket stubs and the programs, but in the hearts and minds of the Rays Republic. It was the first day the home fans got a chance to relish the team trying to regain their spot again in 2009, at the top, and as winners.
Some people might remember, I almost ruined this special night’s banner positioning when during a taping of the “Maddon’s Maniacs” during the “Ground Rules” video I snapped a few photos of the banners already in place. I posted it on Twitter and Facebook and then got a nice subtle note to ‘please take them down”, not from the team or a Rays rep., but from a friend within the organization.
I did not know that that was the final positioning spot picked for the ceremony, or even that those two banners were going to be the actual two used for the event. I was ashamed for a moment that I might have abused a bit of courtesy shown to me by the Rays.
But I also knew I got to see an early glimpse at a historic event that I will cherish forever. But on April 13th, you saw the pride and the emotions flowing from every member of the Rays roster and staff out on the turf before the raising of the two banners. Everyone within the Rays game day staff from the clubhouse guys to the medical staff was out there celebrating the moment with the team.
But some people were missing. Jonny Gomes, Eric Hinske and Cliff Floyd did not get to be present with their former Rays team mates as they were with their current clubs somewhere else amongst the MLB schedule. But you know they were there in spirit, and in the minds of the guys on the field that played along side of them during the playoff run. For even if certain people stood out amongst all the moments of the playoff run, the team was the centerpiece of this championship, and it might be the best team the Rays ever put on the field.
It was a emotional night that you knew even the most stubborn and nasty visiting fans would rejoice and understand the commitment and the sacrifice this team went through for those two titles. No matter if they were wearing Yankee jerseys and shirts, the visiting crowd clapped and celebrated along with us. And in an ironic twist, at the end of the 2009 season, it is that night’s visiting team that night will hold their own duo banner ceremonies in 2010 now.
So here is a small salute hoping that the New York Yankee fans can relish in the same emotions and pride when their banners are also shown for the first time in 2010. The World Series has not concluded yet, and maybe there will be a nice third banner to be raised before it is all said and done in 2009.
It is a ceremony you will not ever forget if you get the chance to attend one in your lifetime. It really does break down into your heart and tears any hardness or scars away for that moment. It is a time to remember and rejoice the true spirit of why they play the game, and we watch as fans. It is a time to remember why you follow the team, and that both your commitments have resulted in rewards way beyond your wildest dreams.
It was a truly “Magical Season”, and one that I will probably bore people with in the next 20 years. But you always remember your first one with more vigor and vitality. Because your first quest, your first venture into the playoffs is magical enough, but it symbolized so many “firsts” in 2008 for the Rays that it would make you head spin. But the end result was celebrated on April 13th, and hopefully you were either there or watching at home. It is the first of many, and certainly not the last moment to celebrate as Rays fans.