Remembering the Rays and Gameworks Events

 
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Over the past couple of Tampa Bay Rays seasons that Rays Season Ticket holders have seen some of their past ” advantages” going by the wayside. We used to get one of every promotional item, plus had an end-of-the-season Team Photo Day with the Rays players to get memorable photos to put on our face book pages or computer screensavers. We were a bit spoiled at times and got used to getting the “star” treatment from the Season Ticket Sales Department at every turn.

 
But in the last several years the goodies have gotten pushed into bag “A” or Bag “B”, with limited promotional items, plus the omission of most of the kid’s items tend to make a few of my nephews and distant cousins sad that they could not get special Rays toys for their Christmas stockings. But with the recent closure of a Centro Ybor institution, another Rays budding tradition is left by the wayside…never to happen again.

 
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When the Gameworks family-friendly arcade closed their doors after spending 10 years upon the landscape of the small cultural center of Ybor City. So I want to take today’s blog posting to remember some of the events and times I remember at the Centro Ybor landmark that I will miss more for the faint echoes of young Rays fans and their familes taking a night out with Rays teammates and celebrating as a true Rays Republic.

I can still remember attending a long ago Rays Christmas party for local youth from the Boys and Girls Club at Gameworks where ex-Rays Toby Hall and Seth McClung spent most of the afternoon playing carnival type games and race simulation events with the kids laughing, smiling and giggling at the big players trying to keep up with them both on the screen and running around the arcade area. With presents and food and games galore, I do not think anyone, including the Rays players went home without an ear-to-ear smile on their faces.
 
The Gameworks arcade became a Rays Season Ticket holder staple during the Rays “magical” 2008 season when the Rays Sales department tried out the distant East Tampa arcade as a way to have both fans and players celebrate the Rays season by attending an invitation-only party. I still remember during the August 2008 get-together when Rays outfielder Justin Ruggiano came out to the special event even though an hour earlier he was informed by Rays Manager Joe Maddon that he was being shipped out to Triple-A Durham in the next morning. But Ruggiano and Rays pitcher Edwin Jackson both played pool with me in the back pool room and fan and players both meshed together for one night through fun, laughter and a little bit of slick pool stick work
 

 
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But the scene that still stays deep within my mind is not the photo of me helping myself to the yellow chocolate sauce fountain, but of Rays outfielder Jonny Gomes holding court at the end of the bar just to the left as you entered the arcade. Gomes was in hid element that night, shaking hands and hugging friends, plus raising a toast or two to the Rays success. And hidden just a few feet behind Gomes was Maddon who was sitting there with several fans discussing all kinds of things besides baseball and seeming to really enjoy himself. But the best part was seeing Rays players like Scott Kazmir playing an NBA video game with a younger Rays fans and getting his booty kicked, but loving every minute of it.

 

And the 2009 event was a standing room only affair with almost double the crowd, and double the fun as most of the Rays players from that day came out including every member of the Rays rotation. From Matt Garza trying to be slick and getting beaten time after time on the Dance, Dance Revolution machine, to Grant Balfour’s fiancee’ kicking all comers’ brains-in on the Dance, Dance Revolution machine, including reliever Randy Choate. It was a great time where fans and players got to mingle and bring some of that special chemistry that Rays have with their fans.
 

And maybe it is true that all good things come to an end sometimes, and that you got to truly treasure your moments within the game of baseball for the future telling of great tales and adventures. And you can bet Gomes, Kazmir and Jackson have taken these memories of Gameworks with them as they left for other Major League Baseball venues, and hoped that their new teams would also embark on these same types of great inter-mingling player/fan activities.

 
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It is a time I that is near and dear to my heart, because as an ex-football player, I always cherished these special times with the team’s fans to not only take photos and talk about other things outside of baseball, but to show the “human” side of ourselves to those same fans.

Sometimes the lines get muddled between the green outer wall of the Trop and fans and player develop misconceptions on themselves and their interaction with the fans.

But this Rays team is certainly one of the most open and fan-friendly teams I have ever seen around baseball. They respect the way the fans support and try and use noise either by cowbells or their voices to show audible support for the team. And the many home-made or professionally-made signs by Rays fans show they have their players back.

 
Some say that the Gameworks staff could not update and bring new technologies and gaming machines into the establishment fast enough with the recent gaming explosion brought on my X-Box, PS-3 and Wii systems. That the gaming community could play just as sophisticated games at home and did not need to venture out into the video arcades anymore for their gaming fix. But with the locked doors at the Gameworks location came the end of another Rays era.
 

Who can forget the Rays mascot Raymond sitting in a race car simulator racing against younger fans, or seeing Rays outfielder Gabe Kapler with his two boys enjoying the multiple games and interacting with young Rays fans . Something you wish could stay the same forever. Something you just do not want to see change, but that is life. And you can bet the Rays Sales staff is eagerly trying to piece together another great event in the not-to-distant future where the Rays and their fans can also cheer, laugh and enjoy each other away from the field of play.
 
 
 
BTW, This is my 750th MLBlogs.com posting. Can you tell I really do love writing (lol).

 
 
 

6 Comments

Congratulations on your 750th post. I can always count great stuff about the Rays when I come by here.

I’ve seen Arcade, after Arcade close down in my hometown. A shame because I sometimes have the urge to share my great video game ability with others. Awesome chocolate fountain, btw!

http://homerfoodandhistory.mlblogs.com/

Homer,
Thanks for that.
Been a long time writing on here, and glad someone actually reads to the end of the post (lol).
Video arcades like we had when I was a kid are a dying breed. They are replaced now by the home unit anyone can purchase, with a set of game for around $ 300.
No more hunting for quarters, saving up for a movie and an hour in the aracde on a Saturday afternoon.
I will miss Gameworks because it is a part of my youth that is disappearing fast.
Now I understand my grandfather’s woes when the soda fountain was replaced at the Rexall Drug store near out house.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Wow! Your 750th post! Pretty impressive. Just wanted to let you know I put the pic of us on my blog for a contest I’m running!

- http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Jane,
I am not sure if it is impressive or just a lot of writing about nothing, Seinfeld-style.
Seriously it has been an eye-opening experience at times, but has never been dull or routine to me.
I try and write what I might like to see or know about, and try and do an angle the rest of the world either doesn’t have the time to write, or do not think their editors will approve for print.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

congrats on 750! if there was ever a MLBlogs HOF, you will be in the first induction class!

i’m so pumped for tonight. even though the Bucs arent in action i will be following the O’s-Rays. my two best buds at WVU are die hards of either squad. im excited to be the moderater
http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com

Matt,
I might have a place in some list, but the Hall of Fame would not be the place for my name.
It is not like a blogger could ever win a Ford Frick Award, unless they are a major media player like Peter Gammons.
It should be a great game, and some of the pre-game stuff is just as exciting as the game action some nights.
I am sorry that West Virginia did not pull it out in the NCAA Tourney. I had them in the Finals in 5 of my 10 entries, and really thought Duke and WVU might be in the fight to the Final Four.
Guess one out of two isn’t bad, but thre wrong one is the Champs.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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