Thought processes and conversations started under the tilted cap of Tropicana Field. Someday everyone will know the Rays play in St. Petersburg, Florida, not TAMPA, or the fictitious city of TAMPA BAY.
I might not be the only one to tell you just how weird it felt to walk into Tropicana Field last night and already here the sound of thousands of people sitting in their FREE seats even before Batting Practice was over. Had a odd and strange aura to the stadium as I entered Section 138 and already 3/4ths of the seats had bodies in it.
Now do not get me wrong here, I applauded the fact Tampa Bay responded in such a positive way to come out last night for the Rays home finale, but I really also wanted to question each and every one of them and ask, “What took you so long to come out?” Sure, a FREE ticket probably got a few of the danglers from the fringes of the Rays Republic to take in another game, but did it really take offering 20,000 FREE tickets all around the stadium to get this kind of support.
If the Rays wanted a clear and definite response to “If we opened the doors, would they come” kind of questioning, then the Rays Front Office definitely got their answer. And I really hope that the Rays sold out of a few ballpark commodities last night, or at least I hope people spent at least $ 10 somewhere within the stadium either at the concessions stands, or possibly the Rays Team Store. You would hope a small minority of the people who received their FREE tickets would have least bought something cold to drink.
And even with the FREE tickets, there were more than a few people who brought their tickets into Tropicana Field and looked for seat upgrades or even a better seating position even though their ballpark experience that night was being bought for them by two of the Rays rising stars.
Recent comments by Rays All Stars Evan Longoria and David Price on the lack of fan support actually backfired on the young duo, and to show their concern their message was sincere and not meant to alienate or act privileged, they worked with the Rays to provide a perfect storm, or sell-out possibility for the Rays last home game of this season.
Even if this “embarrassing” moment by either player was premeditated, or had any ulterior motives is mute now because the Tampa Bay community answered the call and filled the Trop to the upper rafters. Only thing that might have cemented a more positive future consideration by some of these 20,000 “guests” might have been a more colorful and exciting game accented by an orange roof and a victory cheer. But that is where the night might have fell a bit…towards the dark side.
But hopefully, the assembled crowd that might have not been usual Rays fans might have gotten a taste or even a nibble of wanting to come again, or possibly maybe even investing in multiple games or a ticket package for 2011. And behind all the common courtesy and all the FREE promotion this pulled in for the Rays, the end result might not be felt until April 2011. You have to wonder if you converted any of that FREE crowd into becoming members of the Rays Republic, or if they are one and done, never to step again into the confines of Tropicana Field.
But it was great to look up into the far reaches of the Trop last night and not see many empty seats just prior to game time. Was fantastic to see kids climbing over each other to get to Raymond, or yelling for BP baseballs from the Oriole’s players, or maybe even just sitting there with glove in hand waiting for the game. You want to hope, you want to actually dream that this could become a reality.
You wanted to envision in the not to distant future that Sections like 138 could be filled to the brim like this when the Oakland A’s roll into town, or during the weekday evening games we could pack the Trop like a can of sardines. But the generation that can make that happen nightly are currently yelling for cotton candy, trying to eat a big Kayem hot dog, or just so excited to see their idols playing line rather than home on their television.
Nights like this can happen in Tampa Bay where the Trop can be filled top to bottom and not a Red Sox or Yankee player on the field. Nothing against those teams, but this community needs to flock and pack this stadium on dates that do not include those two American League East rivals. It doesn’t have to be 36,000+ to show this team and the Rays Front Office that St. Petersburg, and the Tampa Bay region can be a massive baseball community.
Last night was a perfect example of the fact this town loves this Rays ball club, but sometimes things out of your own control can hide this communities true feelings. Hopefully this region can decide during this post season push just how much they care about this team and provide some sort of sign in the off season as to the future of this franchise. Either this community makes some sort of conscientious effort to show the Rays their commitment, or the only time our kids will see baseball will be on the television, and that surely would be a crime.
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