Second Time was Just as Sweet!

 
 

 

You could feel the moment beginning to pulsate within the Teflon roof of Tropicana Field. It was the top of the ninth inning with Tampa Bay Rays closer Rafael Soriano heading to the hill. With the sound of the sledgehammer hitting pure steel, your heartbeat synched solely with that one loud clang for several moments before someone shook you and you were forced back into this realm of reality.


 

 

Rays starter David Price had done his job for eight solid innings, and now the Rays All Time saves leader was not out there to collect another save, but to be one with a moment that will be in Rays fan’s minds for a long, long time. Soriano did not have to be inserted into the game with a 5-0 score and no chance of a save opportunity, but somehow, it just seemed right that the guy who anchored the backend of the Rays success this year should get a front row seat to the celebration carnage.


 

 

And even before Home Plate Umpire Joe West got a chance to throw a vocal note to the final pitch thrown by Soriano past Baltimore Orioles hitter Adam Jones, the Rays dugout and Bullpen were half way to the pitcher’s mound. Celebration was in full force in St. Petersburg that night with veterans like Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford taking special moments to collect all the sights and sounds of this cherished event.


 

 

With a scheduled Team meeting at the pitcher’s mound, the entire team collected and embraced, high-fives all around brought the evening to its ultimate climax, but there was a second act yet to be played out upon the turf of Tropicana Field. As the Rays employees were herded into their own special corral just to the west of Home Plate to be a part of the celebration, the first bottle of champagne was open by Rays First Base Coach George Hendricks who then made sure Rays Manager Joe Maddon, who was being interviewed in full view of the entire stadium at the time, got the first taste of the bubbly.


 

 

Sweet nectar of the God’s streamed down Maddon’s fresh new Rays playoff cap and upon his Carolina Blue plaid lettered T-shirt to commemorate the moment. Just as quickly, players began to filter out of the Rays clubhouse holding their own bottles of Domaine ste Michelle champagne looking to celebrate and salute a moment 161 games in the making. B J Upton and Crawford were the first to rise to the top of the Rays dugout and spray the home crowd while others looked for family members or friends to celebrate this historic Rays moment.


 

 

 

Then slowly, but surely, the team made its triumphant march down the First Base sidelines with bottles in hand spraying the crowd and offering a few swigs to those special fans and friends assembled to bring a final end to the first primary goal of this Rays team. I took my usual photo space down by the Rays Bullpen secondary clubhouse entrance and began to shoot the impending celebration stampede heading my way. I had to put down my camera as player after player came by and let me have a small slice of that moment with them.


 

 

Willy Aybar immediately doused me with champagne right after I congratulated Upton and Grant Balfour and then I saw the biggest smile on the faces of both Evan Longoria and David Price who earlier that day were going through some personal damage control after some unusual comments by the pair.

 

 

I yelled at Longoria that “this was the first of five celebrations” and he looked at me and said” I truly believe that.” Price then shook my hand and I told him I was proud of his actions today and every day he has been here.


 

 

Suddenly, the players sea seemed to part for a moment and one of my oldest baseball friends on the team presented me with a ¾ full bottle of champagne and quickly he disappeared in the exuberant posse. I quickly took a long and deep swig of that nectar and immediately passed it to a friend who took her own dose of delightful bubbly and I thrust the bottle to the air. A few players saw this and also cheered and pointed to me as I took in this second celebration, and immediately remembered just how far this team had come in 2010.


 

 

How only one National Media guru had predicted the Rays to be in the post season at all, and a shot at getting the divine prize of another American League East title was still sitting on the mantle waiting for the Rays to claim it for themselves. That celebration will have to wait until Kansas City, but tonight we were toasting to the success and the finalization of putting the Red Sox out of our rearview mirrors knowing that the New York Yankees were the only foe in our sights of another A L East crown.


 

 

And there was something soothing about this second time. Something that did not have me nervous or pacing like in 2008. Maybe it is the pure fact we have been here before. That we have scaled the mountain in recent times and could again hike it with the ultimate result this time…winning it all. Tonight was the symbolic starting point to that journey. A celebratory exclamation point to the 2010 season, but the Rays still have some walking to do along this dark path.


 

 

Tomorrow might be the last home game, but the team still has one more goal in mind, one giant moment yet to savor and enjoy…One more celebration before the season ends. But that is for us to ponder tomorrow, tonight is the time to celebrate, enjoy and totally let the pressures of the last few weeks pour down your body like the droplets of champagne.

 

 

Now is the time to show the emotions and the feelings that have been bottled up waiting for this glorious moment. I think it is time for me to finish this bottle of champagne and then look to the heavens knowing this is the first of five celebrations.

14 Comments

I love that you got doused by Aybar! Congrats to you and the Rays for a job well done. You’ve been formidable foes for the entire season so the prize is well deserved. As you say, the race continues. But for now, enjoy this day. You’ve earned it!

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Man I love pictures like those.

Unfortunately, I was not there at the end. :( I had to leave in the Sixth inning due to an emergency back home. Price was dealing when I left though.

Anyways, I’m glad to see the boys back in the post season and celebrating. None of the other teams’ celebrations are quite like theirs.

Jane,
Been a whirlwind since the last out last night.
All I know is that a few percious minutes of celebrating doesn’t seem like enough. Can’t wait for 4 more opportunities to celebrate again.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Charm,
What was great about last night’s celebration is the mixture of guys who were here in 2008, and the youngbloods like Reid Brignac who had the place rolling with his new dance moves.
Hope all is well and the emergency did not dampen the evening for you.
Tonight is the night to be at the Trop with the new DJ KItty videos, plus a few of our favorite (hungover) friends on the diamond.
Second time really is the best.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I heard the other day
that a Devil Ray
expressed dismay
that fans home did stay!
So I thought, “Nay”
Looked at it this way…
Working people pay
while millionaires play.
So should I cry for Tampa Bay?
You know what I say?
No way, Jose!

Hey Renengade,
I took a trip over here after reading your comment on the she-fan blog. What a great party and what a great night for you to remember!
You guys have a fabulous team: young and talented.
Congrats on both of our teams getting a playoff berth on the same night. Looking forward to some great baseball.
Melissa

Congrats! It will be interesting to see who wins the race, but either way, it’s probably nice to have some pressure off for the time being. Looked like a fun day!

CCFand DDF,
Have not seen a DevilRays since November 2007, so it is an extinct animal, mineral or vegtable now.
But I do like the prose.
Still was great to have lines almost 100-150 yeards around the corner of the Trop.
Maybe we can make this a year end yearly event…or maybe not.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Melissa,
It is always great to see the Red Sox fans putting their caps and jerseys away before the first chill of Fall.
But this was a lucky year for both our teams. Lucky in the fact we did not have any major injuries that would cripple either of our line-up to a great degree.
We had small glitches in the whole system, but nothing that derailed either of our teams like the injuries that hit the Red Sox in bunches.
It is going to be a fun post season.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Kaiser,
The division will come down to who can get to two wins first. With that being said, the Rays have a game in hand that could be the difference, if they win on Thursday night.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Congratulations on winning your second American League East Title!
If it couldn’t be the Red Sox we were cheering your team on!
Now just keep the fight going and beat those Yankees.

Thank you for the nice comment on my blog.
Noni

mirror, mirror on the wall… what we do the yankees do…

talk about tense excitement on who will win the division and who will have the best record in the AL

this is a great year for baseball

-peter

Phillies Outside

Noni,
I do not want to get ahead of ourselves, but we still have some work to do before we have another American League East title in our pockets.
But that could happen this weekend if the stars and heavens align a bit.
The Twins and Rangers will have a few things to say about who gets to meet the Yankees, or who will send them packing (maybe). Too many things still up in the air to point with any real clarity right now.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Peter,
I actually think it is going to be a redefining post season.
You got only two big money teams fighting the good fight at this time ( NYY
No matter how it all ends, it is a eyeopner that big money doesn’t always get you to extra game in October, just ask the Dodgers, Angels, Cubs and Red Sox.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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