Results tagged ‘ Raymond ’
It is going to be one colorful, extravagant and interesting game tonight under the tilted cap of Tropicana Field. For tonight the Tampa Bay Rays not only play host to the Minnesota Twins, but they also invite Bollywood as a salute to their own neighbor Tampa being selected as the sight for this year’s International India Film Academy (IIFA), which some affectionately anoint the “Bollywood Oscars”.
It will be a night of choreographed flamboyant dances, or as the television show “The Neighbors” call it, “screw in the light bulb, pet the dog” large scale ballpark participation sequences. Who knows, all game long during the mid-innings we could see sporadic mob style dancing segments pop up all over the ballpark from the Porch, to the TBT Deck, or maybe even the Papa John’s Bullpen Café.
I am sure we will witness Rays game day host Rusty Kath dressed festively possibly in a Gandi cap or ornate and fashionable Sherwani. Who knows maybe he will put his Gandi cap into the ring and do some impromptu dance moves (we know Raymond will try).
Hopefully Rusty will not chose to wear a Panache or Lungi because that would make hopping a wall a bit….exposing even for the unflappable Rays game host. Now Raymond could pull off the traditional men’s sarong with grace and ease (I hope).
I know with the upcoming IIFA awards beginning today and running through April 26th in our neighboring city on the east side of Tampa Bay, it is a perfect time to bring Bollywood into a baseball stadium and the Rays Promo team jumped right into the fray with a ticket offer with a ceremonial one-of-a-kind T-shirt offer just for the special night with seating starting at $25 in the Press Level (maybe Marc Topkin will pass you a hot dog).
I am also hoping the Rays, who seem closely aligned with Florida neighbor Walt Disney Productions will also have a few trailer or spot videos of the upcoming Disney baseball film “The Million Dollar Arm” which opens May 16th Nationwide. The biological sports drama is a true story of the Indian pitching prospects Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel who began their M L B dream in another neighboring city, Bradenton, Fl. back in 2008.
Tonight should be a great festive night with colors splashes all over the Trop., great dancing and who knows maybe even a post-game dance on the field via walk-off (it’s been a while). No matter how you slice it, tonight will be a collision of the senses as colors, sounds fill the Trop celebrating Bollywood and who knows, maybe even Todd Kalas or Rays Manager Joe Maddon will get into the moment do their own little post-game shimmy….I can’t wait to take it all in tonight.
I also included a trailer for “The Million Dollar Arm” for those interested in the film:
I began my stroll through the doors of the far terminal of St. Petersburg /Clearwater Airport just at the same time that dinner was delivered to a few of the Tampa Bay Rays interns and staffers who had gotten their early to erect the skeleton of the maze that the Rays player would waltz through on their way to their buses. I was the first fans (same as 2008) to wander into the concourse a few minutes after the Rays clinched their second American League East title in three seasons.
Immediately there were a bucket load of high-5′s and even a few screams of “Go Rays!” from a few of the assembled Rays employees as I got into a prime spot with a direct shot at the door the Rays players and staff would bust through on their way back into Tampa Bay’s hearts. This moment was definitely the calm before the storm as the Rays plane would not land for another 4 ½ hours, giving me more than enough time to catch up with some people I had not seen in a while.
People like my old Pepsi boss, who along with her new Special Events coordinator (my old job) were starting to set up free Aquafina water and natural Sierra Mist soda stations all over the concourse to keep the Rays fans hydrated in the upcoming close quarters celebration commemorating the Rays first thrust in the 2010 post season. I had come early to get a bit of fodder for a future post, but within the next half hour small strands of Rays faithful were slowly assembling and in high spirits to see :their boys ” one more time.
Even had an insider (Rays ex-charter flight attendant) who kept me informed of the charter flight’s status and a few funny text messages she got from some of the people still celebrating in Kansas City. It wasn’t until 10:30-ish that the Rays plane finally touched the tarmac at St. Pete/Clearwater Airport, and by that time the crowd had multiplied 20-fold. But in that down time before the Rays plane landed, the Rays kept the crowd energized and excited with the antics of our favorite sea dog Raymond, game day emcee Rusty Kath and the Rays (dance) Team.
But what really got people fired up was the hundreds of balloons that were blown up hours earlier and then pushed into the crowd to form a balloon volleyball match that lasted for a half hour or more. It kept our minds off the wait, and on our toes as blue and yellow balloons constantly were pushed towards the white gating and needed to be pushed back into the ever increasing mass of Rays Republicans’ who turned out to welcome the team back home.
Trivia questions for bobbleheads and kid’s batting helmets, Raymond dance-off contests, and even some great mixes by D J Fresh, who is an ex-Rays bat boy turned DJ, provided easy ways for the crowd to forget the time on their feet and stuffed like sardines. But suddenly it was time. You saw the Rays stadium staff go out to the tarmac quickly followed by the Rays team photographers, and you knew the moment had arrived. You knew it was time to scream, yell, thrust signs skyward and cheer for your champion Rays.
Immediately the tarmac door opened and in came Rays Manager Joe Maddon in his customized Brayser suit quickly followed by players and staff in their own Braysers. Never had the Brayser been so fashionable than at that moment, The team had coaxed MLB during the last home stand to let the team hit the field wearing the plaid billon their game day caps, and now during the celebration, the Braysers had made St. Petersburg mad for plaid.
Instantly the assembled Rays crowd went into a frenzy of emotions and verbal cheers along with screaming and yelling for select players as they filtered in from the plane. Evan Longoria was decked out in his Brayser complete with a white belt and white patent leather loafers in a look that would have made Pat Boone proud. And you could tell by their faces that the sounds of this enclosed terminal area kind of put a few of them back on their heels, but they quickly adjusted and got into the flow of the moment.
It was officially celebration time in Tampa Bay, the mighty Rays had landed home safe and sound. Maddon made a short speech then turned the microphone over to Longoria and then David Price before the team quickly made their way to the buses stopping to shake hands with the fans, read a few of the signs and look totally overwhelmed ( in a good way) by all of this Rays attention.
The veterans of the 2008 airport celebration knew what to expect, but playoff rookies like Matt Joyce and Dan Johnson just looked like deer in the headlights, but were into the moment as they went through the maze on their way to the exits. It was another example of the great support and admiration this club has by some of it deepest and most passionate fans. Rays players did not take a lot of time to greet fans and friends they knew along the winding white gate path.
Glances and finger pointing were the signals of the day as the players quickly got to the busses possibly for an extended round of celebration on tap later in the evening. As quickly as the emotions and sound has risen, it was suddenly silent and the crowd moved for the many exits, hoping to get a glimpse or wave from the Rays players on the busses before they disembarked for Tropicana Field. The Rays were finally home.
They had finally completed one of their seasonal goal by winning on the road, and in achieving that goal, they had won an A L East crown. It was an evening of renewed friendships, honest emotion and a buzz that seemed to stay within your body for a few hours. As the large crowd began to filter out of the terminal, local media news crews were summarizing the action and events, trying to collect the balls of energy of these great celebratory moments for those Rays fans at home.
As quickly as it began, it was now over. Time to go back home and personally access the moment, collect our thoughts and begin to focus on the goal at hand. The Rays had secured another A L East title. Another banner would be raised to the rafters in April, but two more still had to be fought for in the coming weeks, with the journey beginning in 3 days as the Rays kick off the playoff punch with a 1:30 start on Wednesday afternoon against the Texas Rangers.
Even this morning, the buzz and effect of that crowd scene last night still hums in my head, and is alive on my camera. And all of it will collect again soon as the Rays Republic ( and me) assemble again on Weds. To begin our quest for another ring, another victory, and another great moment to celebrate in our Rays brief, but fantastic history.
See you at the ballpark.
So I have gone the way of providing every photo for my blog posts so far this season from my little Fuji digital camera, and I know they are not as sharp or as professionally poised and postured as the old Associated Press or Getty Images photos I have used in the past, but they are free and mine to use in any way I desire this year. And with that, you will see my photos hopefully improve and get extremely better over the course of the season. But they will all be taken from one vantage point in the stadium, my Season Ticket blue seat. That’s right, the one blue seat within Tropicana Field that has a warm body in it every Home game will also try and provide a few timely and game action shots.
But the problem with learning “on-the-fly” like I am this season is sometimes I will also be coloring outside the lines , and hopefully they are mostly in some kind of focus range. This is the biggest obstacle for me since I can not take a lens larger than a foot into the stadium without the proper Rays photo credentials, and I am still trying to get on “double-secret probation” with the Rays to even stand in the back of the room taking panoramic views during any type of team event. But that is also fine because I know I have a few mountains to cross and a few rivers to swim before I can say I even remotely “get it”.
And another reason I have come to trying and getting my own photos is the recent decisions by some of the photo agencies to offer limited “royalty-free” photos to people like me who write small “Mom & Pop” blogs posts and usually only want 2-3 photos to accent the piece, not bury it in a visual jungle. But those same “free” photos are not the kind I would post on my site anyways as they are more still action shots not even of the baseball nature. The sports shots I might desire are now considered “rights-managed” images, and being unemployed and a blogger who doesn’t submit to a site where I can gain income from advertising or even selling my printed products on Cafepress.com , my options are limited.
But this is not a rant on the tightening of the grip by the photo conglomerate so that even us little guys have to squeeze out some greenbacks to get great photos. There are still a vast majority of photos on websites or even local newspaper media Sports sections that we can still “right-click” with our computer mouse and save to our computer files. But I think that free practice might come to a quick halt soon as the general media is also aware of the royalties and the provisional monies lost by people taking their ” copyrighted” images and throwing them up as their own photos.
That is one of the reason I started to post “by-lines” under each photo a few years back to at least show that I am trying to give the proper credit where credit is due. No matter if it was “Joe Shmoe” on Flickr.com, or Associated Press photog Steve Nesius, I have tried to give them at least a form of photo credit acknowledgment over that span of games. And I truly think everyone should do the same online, but it all starts with one person doing it until someone else does it and soon enough you have a revolution heading in the right direction. I loved writing stories and taking pictures as far back as Junior High School and always wanted to work at a newspaper or magazine.
I am still not sure what disillusioned me when I was working as a Sport Correspondent and occasional Sports Copy Clerk at the now defunct Evening Independent afternoon paper in St. Petersburg, Florida back in the early 1980′s. To this day I am seeing an ex-Dixie Hollins graduate Rick Stroud still employed by the St. Petersburg Times and I wonder if I too could have stayed on the path any maybe be the one in the Rays Press Box ( not knocking current Rays beat writer Marc Topkin). But then again, I am a bit more relaxed and pressure-free considering I write what I want and there are no political battle line or subject limitations on my blogs posts. But still, I find it simply ironic that the National media journalists blast bloggers, but have the smug audacity of calling their own postings “blogs”.
But I am not going to digress into that segment right now but instead sit here at the bottom of Section 138 at the Trop. with a direct shot of the Batter’s Box and a clear view (but a wide angle) of the entire Tropicana Field playing surface to partake in seeing, shooting and hopefully capturing some exciting Rays moments in 2010. Evolving as a person and a more consistent writer was one of the main goals I set for myself personally on New Year’s Eve. I have begun that journey, plus added a new notch in trying to gain some photographic cubbyhole for myself. I will probably never be considered more than a closet sports photographer, but then I am also not trying to be a provocative modern day sports “Anne Lebowitz” either.
Maybe it is my next evolution as a fan too to make some awesome photos and treasure the games with a few odd or wild shots such as the entire Rays Bullpen wearing Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s black rimmed glasses, or the bad angled shots of fireworks going off within the confines of Tropicana Field. My photos submitted and posted on several photo storage sites along the Internet Superhighway will never have a place in the annuals of Sports Illustrated or even a moments notice in ESPN, the Magazine, But then again, it is not someone elses work I am not acknowledging here, it will be mine, all mine and if I pop it up online for the world to see you can bet the byline will read “RRCollections“.
Got to admit, that was the way to throw an Major League Baseball Opening Day gig last night. From Tampa Bay Rays players coming out and meeting us at the Rotunda Gate 1 location at 4 pm, to the explosions on and off the field, if this doesn’t get Rays fan excited…then this region is in for a heartache. But what better way to get a community pumped up for the first journey into the Trop. of the Evil empire than to have a Walk-off 2-run double produced by one of your marque players.
So with that in mind, and with me still emotional tired and drained from the whole episode, let’s take today as a “photo blog” day and I will throw a few photos up for the fans who were not at the Trop. to see what might have happened in their absence. I have to admit to everyone, when I moved in October 2009, I think I lost my 3.5X Telephoto lens, so you will have to squint and look at thing s a bit out of focus until my new lens arrives from Miami (hopefully by Friday).
But it was all about the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day today with several new additions to the Tropicana Field scene, and even a few new looks to the ballpark that I will show you in the next few days. But different this season is the fact I will not have my laptop with me during games at this time, but that might change in the near future if a few good things happen, like a real job (lol).
When I got to the stadium at 3 pm today, I was the first person standing in the Season Ticket holders line at Gate 1, and was quickly bombarded by Rays friends and ballpark buddies talking about the uypcoming season and just renewing friendships. I even got yelled at by a friend who sit in the Upper Deck for my April Fool’s Day joke, and another baseball buddy in the Rays front office commented on that post too later in the day. But today was all about seeing the 25 members of the Rays surge towards their goal of getting back to the playoffs in 2010.
But there were also some new sight on the field during the Rays Batting Practice as Rays outfielder Gabe Kapler was showing off his new glove that featured a Columbia Blue dyed “U-pocket” on his fielding glove, and a bit of Columbia Blue trim along the inner seams of the glove. It reminded me of the color scheme that ex-Rays infielder Akinora Iwamura did with his glove over the past few seasons. I will try and get a better shot of the glove today as Kapler was in a bit of a hurry yesterday and I did not get an “up close” look at his new mitt.
Rays RP Grant Balfour was also sporting a Columbia Blue T-shirt under his BP sweatshirt that read “Defend The Trop” with a black AK-47 situated in the middle of the shirt. It was produced by the Cowbell Kid in 2009 and given to Balfour, who is an honorary member of the Cowbell Security Force now. Another example of the right attitude can produce amazing results.
I liked the way that the Rays today incorporated the smoke and fire elements in their pre-game festivities, but it ended up producing a smoke and haze within the Trop that had to be a definite obstacle for both teams outfielders during the game. At one point, it seemed early in the game that Rays centerfielder B J Upton had to make an instant change in his path to the ball before collecting it over the shoulder that would have had Willy Mays shouting his name.
Over the past two Rays seasons they have used the propane fire pots more in a vertical display before the Opening Day festivities, but this season that had some very interesting variations on the flames paths, and also a nice addition of the Rays blue and yellow to bring out a different feel, but also a collaberation of the Rays color scheme.
And Rays injured reliever J P Howell even came out for a little bit today to sit with his Rays Bullpen mates before going into the Rays dugout and watching the rest of the game. I was talking with Howell before the game and he is feeling the shoulder getting stronger and the wrokout program developed by Rays Strength & Conditioning guru Kevin Barr and Rays Head Trainer Ron Porterfield is showing fast imporvement in Howell’s mobility, but he is still on track to be out until possibily May 15th.
So glad to see that Rays Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos is again down in the Bullpen area for the 2010 season. During most of the Rays Spring Training schedule, Ramos was either doing Third Base duty, or helping out on the Rays bench learning some more tricks of the trade. Ramos would not tell me if he is heading towards a possible Bench gig in 2011, but he is still taking out the Rays line-up cars every game, since he is riding a 12-game winning streak when he performs that pre-game duty.
Also something new at the Trop. this year is Raymond, our faithful Rays seadog has produced a new coat over the Fall and Winter and came out tonight with a shiny new coat that produced multiple sparkles and shimmering highlights. Either that or the Seadog finally began using conditioner on his coat for a healthier look in 2010.
Rays new $7.5 million closer Rafael Sorinano did have a rude awakening tonight against the Baltimore Orioles as he got into trouble early and got bailed-out on a brilliant play at the plate on a throw by Rays Third Baseman Evan Longoria. Soriano was releived as Longoria’s throw kept the Orioles from again tacking on a few runs and gave the Rays a chance to come back in the bottom of the ninth for the victory.
I had my camera going nuts last night and thought I might have caught Rays pinch-hitter Kelly Shoppach’s blast that popped off the Baltimore outfielder mitt and moved towards the yellow line on the railing in Left-Centerfield. But as you can see, it did not come out perfectly, but it did put two men on base, and if it had gone above that nice little yellow line on the fly…The game would have ened 15 minutes earlier.
Got to admit, I am getting slower in my old age becuase I did not pick up the ball in flight here on Carl Crawford’s 2-run Walk-off Double, but then again I was trying to keep moving to get around the errant Rays ballboy that did not want to stay in one place while I tried to gather in a picture that would sum up the game’s event….I will try again. Dang you Ballboy!
But really this picture says it all. And what was so amazing is the discussion I had with Rays Radio Host Rich Herrera before the game about we need to again get those “magical small moment
s” back into the Rays game plan in 2010 to get off to a great start and force someone else to hustle and keep up witrh us in 2010. And the way the Rays employed their confidence and their strive to produce those runs last night shows that maybe a few sparks fromn that 2008 spirit might still be alive and well within the hearts and souls of the Rays players.
I do not have a photo of the event, but again Rays catcher Dioner Navarro is getting pretty stealthy when it comes to the post-game shaving cream pies. Carl Crawford was doing a interview with Todd Kalas by the side of the Rays dugout when a swiftly moving Navarro came out of the tunnel and just missed planting the towel filled with shaving cream onto Crawford’s face. Navarro ended up pushing most of it onto Crawford’s uniform right shoulder, but you can not discount his effort.
But in the end what was important was the “W” last night. And in an interesting twist of fact here, Crawford’s 2-run double was the Rays 13th hit of the night to highlight a victory in the start of their 13th season, and of course, Crawford wears number 13 for the Rays. Nothing unlucky aboiut that number last night, and i have a feeling Rays fans will be looking for that 1 and 3 combination ( Sean Rodriguez (1), Evan Longoria (3), plus the always swifty number 13 to bring another win tonight as the Rays send starter Matt Garza to the mound. God I love this game!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I always seem to get a bit giddy when the Tampa Bay Rays Fan Experience department sends out an email seeking out members of the “Maddon’s Maniac’s group to come on down to Tropicana Field and participate in a in-game video promotional shoot for the upcoming Rays baseball season.
Not only has this become a recent yearly adventure for members of the group, but one that we all look forward to, and is a clear indication to all of us just how soon we will all assemble again for Rays home games. And the air around the group waiting outside the Trop. Was filled with great anticipation and excitement in the air as we collectively get ready to again pop our mugs upon the Jumbotron for another video to show our support for our Rays team.
And even with the rain darkened skies outside looking a bit more menacing by the minute, the enthusiasm of the Maniacs’ was sky high, even with the reports of a tornado touching down across the bay in Tampa. But outside in a drizzle of rain stood some of the core of the Maniacs group that currently hold over 1,500 card carrying members to the organization.
The video shoot today was going to be an in-game promos piece to include our loveable Seadog mascot Raymond, and include both young and young-at-heart Maniacs dancing and swaying to the music of Naughty by Nature and their hit “Hip Hop Hooray!”
Our first location of the day would be at the end of the long corridor down Leftfield Street at the Mountain Dew Extreme Zone to begin our video shoot. I was excited to again be down in this section of the Trop. The area was inspired to resemble an inner city stickball court with hubcaps strung up along the netting, an old Lincoln Continental for ambiance’, and colorful paintings and graffiti all over the walls to bring to life that city personality to the area. It would make the perfect backdrop for the urban hit, and also give a more hip-hop feel to the video. So the group took our places among the backdrop as the Raysvision production crew let us know what they wanted from us today.
I decided to park myself right nest to the banana-yellow Lincoln and the oil drum can. I had brought some drumsticks to use during the video on the oil drum that I knew was in the scene (I helped set-up this area years ago), but there was a little girl who had a broken leg, and we set her on top of the drum instead so she could participate without having to stand for a long time. It was great to see everyone so excited as we did a few run through of the song before trying a first complete shooting of the video.
We stayed in this area of the Trop for about another 45 minutes before finally switching to the Centerfield gate location where the Rays had positioned their Hummer for a second segment of the video shoot.In this scene, we were all suppose to run up to the Hummer, with Raymond on top and again do the hand sways and mannerisms of the song to give a second groove to the production. The Raysvision film crew decided to do a high angle shot from the top of the outfield stands looking down on us as we did our thing.
Again the kids were tremendous in this part of the taping, but some of them were a bit hyped up and go real close to the Hummer and might not have been in the shots. But again, it was a great moment for everyone, even the parents, to promote some team spirit and also do some dancing in the background.
So after another 40 minutes or so of grinding and moving to the music, we were done for the day, but most of us were still standing around chatting about what had happened during the off season in our lives, or the excitement of the upcoming Rays Fan Fest on February 20th. I have to again thank the Raysvision crew, the Fan Experience department and the countless fans who came out on Friday to again help promote our Rays team.
I always have a great time doing these types of ventures with the Rays, and hope that more of you can also do it in the future too. Again during this season’s Fan Fest, the Rays will be setting up a Maddon’s Maniac’s table near the Home Plate section of Tropicana Field to provide information and an opportunity for other Rays fans to also join this group.
In closing today I am going to post a pirated copy of the Maddon’s Maniac’s 2008 Rays production to promote the Major League Baseball set of “Ground Rules” that are broadcasted before each game. I am actually only in the first minute of this production as I went to the back section of the stands just after the first segments of shots to give some kids and other Rays fans an opportunity to see themselves up on the Jumbotron before all 81 games last season.
Again, this is just a small part of what this Maniac’s group does for the Rays during the season, but it is great that the Rays Front Office and their staff (Darcy Raymond, Eric Weinberg, Sean Liston )gives the Maniacs a chance every season to help show our support and our fandom for our favorite team. Can’t wait until they call on us again! Hopefully for a Postseason video version in 2010.
What better way to celebrate a series ending victory than take a group of 10,000+ of the Rays biggest supporters to a place in Ybor City that celebrates the kid in all of us. And boy, did we all have a great time and also get a few great moments playing game with and against some of those same guys who took the field that very same afternoon. It is an event I have been looking forward to every since the invitation hit my mailbox, and the Rays Email system must have gone nuts with how fast I responded to the RSVP.
Yesterday was the Second Annual ( hopefully more) Season Ticketholder event at Gameworks in Ybor City. Now if you have never been in a Gameworks, think Dave and Busters on PED’s with a gleaming polished metallic finish that would send anyone into “Kid Mode”. Now I have been to both of these events, and let me tell you this season’s events kicked some royal booty. Missing were some of the Rays stars, but the entire rotation of James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, David Price and Jeff Niemann hit the event to show their support to the fans.
But they were not the only ones to come on out and see the masses in this crowded but truly spectacular event put on by the Group Sales Department of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Bullpen was also very heavily represented with Randy Choate, Lance Cormier, Grant Balfour, Brian Shouse and J P Howell holding court near the racing games and near the “Dance, Dance Revolution” platform. But not to be forgotten was some of the guys who also play out in the field for the Rays who made the journey over to Ybor City. Ben Zobrist and Dioner Navarro came on out to represent the guys who play in the infield, and Gabe Gross and Gabe Kapler also made the event along with B J Upton last night to show the love from the Rays outfield.
But even with people clammering (myself included) to get personal pictures and autographs from the fans, I could see that the guys truly enjoyed their time out with the fans last night. Shouse and Choate were even able to blend in and play a few games before some people noticed they were there last night. But some of the true hits of the night were delivered by the Group Sales Department as they again put on a first class event. From the photo opportunity area where you could be put into a Rays photo, to the awesome stuff given away as door prizes, the event sparkled from the first fan entering the building. And it was great seeing these guys out and about not in uniform and enjoying themselves.
And some lucky fans even got to race or play against some of the players during the night festivities. I remember seeing Kazmir in the back of the Game Room playing an NBA game against a fan and it was a highly contested game with a lot of great plays by both until someone had to lose. But the true hit of the night for me was the fact that 6 foot 9 inch Jeff Neimann got up on the “Dance, Dance Revolution” stage and strutted his stuff. I was in such awe of the event I forgot to pop my camera into video mode and film the entire wild and crazy event. But I have to tell you, once he got the hang of it all, the guy held his own on the dance floor, or platform.
I did not see Rays Manager Joe Maddon, but Rusty, the Rays game day host was remarking (joking) that he was holding a wine tasting seminar in the corner of the bar area. From seeing people like Matt Silverman, the numero uno of the Rays, to Andrew Friedman, the Vice President of Baseball Operations out in the crowd was fantastic. Oh, and Andrew, I truly loved the photo of the top of your head in my picture with Ben Zobrist, but I laughed out loud when I saw it. Some days I have wanted to pick your brain about the team, but never thought I would get a photo of the “brains” of the Baseball Operations group.
But what makes this such a great events is the milling of the Front Office guys and the players and the fans themselves just discussing everything from baseball to the chocolate fountain that is always the highlight of the event. I got lucky enough to be photographed last season at the fountain, but this year I kept an eye out for the camera. Just to see that light blue, dark blue and yellow chocolate flowing out of the top of the fountains crowned with a triangle of baseballs was tremendous.
And again, the food was one of the true stars of the evening. From the beautiful ladies handing me pot stickers or small wrapped tasty morsels, to the cute and personable bartenders, this was a night to celebrate everything Rays. From the hot stations in the front area of the party, to the temporary apps station piled upon the ticket counters, it was a feast made for a king. And if you did not try the roast beef, you missed out on some fantastic meat with a juicy and succulent au jus.
But the evening had to end sometime, and even as it neared 10:30 pm Garza was still laughing and holding court near the back game room. Gabe Kapler had left by then with his two boys, but he was the perfect doting Dad last night. By the time I left, or my card read only 100 minutes left on it, there was a light rain falling outside, but it felt great on the skin after all the sweating I did beating some unnamed pitcher on “Dance, Dance Revolution” score 1 for the old jock. I know I had a tremendous time, and the Group Sales guys and gals have to feel great about this event.
The sheer fact that so many people fit into that small place and left with smiles should be a great indicator of the event. And my ticket rep, Craig Champagne was there from start to finish. I have to tell you a wild story about that night concerning Craig. My game card did not work and I asked him if anyone else had that problem. Well, instead of making me plow my way back to the front, he took the card and return within minutes with a
new one for me to use.
A small minor flaw that night was quickly fixed and repaired like new by one of the Group Sales best guys. Seriously, me not playing shooting and alien-killing games might have put a damper on my night. Then I would have had to sample a few more intoxicating beverages, and enjoy the view. But in the end, I was physically exhausted and sore, was full of great food and spirits and did not want to leave. But as I walked to my car parked in the Centro Ybor Parking Garage I was already flipping through the memories and the sights of the night in my mind.
This season there have been some changes in the Season Ticket realms. Some things have been scaled back,some things have changed,but all in all,this event is still a benchmark of the dedication and the commitment of the Rays to the fans who attend so many baseball games. It was a great environment to see so many people you knew, and would get to know have a great time by themselves and with their kids. I know I am already with a red marker ready to circle the 2010 date to do it all again.
Iknow I have been a bit intense the last few posts, so I am going to venture into my light-hearted side today and see if I can bring some joy and smiles back into my blog today. I look forward to the next few days to write about some more positive adventures that hopefully will be a relief to the muck and mud we are experiencing right now.
You see them every game doing unusual things and even driving those crazy motorized vehicles allover the field and you wonder to yourself, just how hard a job could that be?, or that a trained monkey could do that job. And I admit it, I have wondered if I could do a better job, or might have a better dance routine or skit in me that I could perform in that furry costume.
Sure we all think, and some of us know we are funnier, more athletic, and certainly more friendly to kids than the people currently in those big, bulky suits. But little do we know that according to a recent poll, that being a team mascot is one of the ten worst jobs in sports. And in baseball, most of your time is spent in the stands and not on the sidelines like during a football game. If you have a phobia with people, or touching, this will not work out for you, no matter how funny or personable you are in real life.
And we have all collectively wondered why this would be considered a hard job? Come on entertaining kids and frolicking around in a suit incognito would be fun. You can insult the opponents fans in the name of game humor, you can spray silly string into the mugs of sarcastic and beer-induced adults, and you even get paid for it. But before you go all gung-ho looking in your local paper or team website for a want ad seeking a mascot, you might want to consider a few things.
First off, I think you have to be pretty secure with being “yourself” to know you are not going to do anything to ruin the illusion of your team’s character. That might include something as simple as not speaking at all while you are in a costume. Seriously, even if the guy in the third row gives you a perfect line and you have the perfect response, you have to grin and bear it, or in this case, non-verbally get him back maybe with that silly string. Ahhh, got to love props!
And that in its own rights might be an art form. I know that might be a really hard thing for me to digest at certain times. I see the Rays mascot Raymond doing head nods and hand gestures like he is chatting with the crowd, but in reality is is just motions and no sound. You also see Raymond doing weird and wild dance routines and crowd inducing skits to get the crowd into the game not thinkig of the time it takes to master those simple movements in that furry suit.
And just like you, I would think I could do a lot of things better, faster and with more personality than the current occupant of the furry wondersuit. But there are a some really big hazards to worry about before you hit the sunlight and cheers of the fans. If you have even the smallest hints of claustrophobia, you will be in really big trouble. You can be in that suit pretty much for most of the game, or maybe only 15 to 20 minutes at a time with people all around you calling your name and you have a tunnelvision view of the world. Voices seem to come from everywhere and you might not even hear the small voice of a child just underneath you at times.
Plus people forget that since you are enclosed in a huge furry suit, your body heat will accumulate and build up and you will end up with sweat on sweat before the night is over. So dehydration will be a constant enemy of yours, and you will have to fight it again and again even at nighttime. And those game days in Texas must be murder on your body considering it might be 100 degrees outside, but maybe approaching 150+ in that costume for just a few minutes jaunt in the stands.
Plus, if you are like me and not a huge “touchy feely” person, the constant barrage of fingers and hands pulling you and touching parts of your costume might freak you out a bit during your job. And kids do not know that you are getting tugged from both directions at the same time. And with your tunnel vision, sometimes you might turn away from a small child wanting a hug or a autograph from you. And you do not want to upset your littliest fans, for they go tell mom and dad, then you have bigger problems.
And all of this is just a small sliver of what is your job. You might think it is just a fun fest with fur, but with all the joy and the happiness you can bring to the crowd, you are always just a step away from maybe even getting hurt yourself. I remember Raymond, the Rays mascot a few years ago was in rightfield getting the crowd into the game and Raymond stepped onto the top rail to get above the crowd. Raymond slipped and fell 12 feet to the turf and hurt himself badly, but he never went out of character as Raymond sprinted towards the sidelines and his waiting handler.
And other people, including the baseball players do not always take into consideration that you are there for fun and games. Some take you taunts and mannerisms to heart and get offended. None really try to hurt you, but you do not need the odd baseball smacking you in the costume headpiece because you upset a team’s shortstop. It is a huge give and take job with everyone outside the costume. And some people get with the program, and others lose their sense of humor in a flash.
But it might be a reality of the job that on any given night no matter what you do, someone will be upset with you that night. You might not have seen the cute little girl tugging on your costume and barreled over her by accident. Or you might have someone wanting a picture, but you are in an area that any picture taking will block the field view of fans, and they do remind you that you are blocking their view of the pitch 250 feet away. Or something as simple as a popcorn prank could backfire and you get a fan complaint to the front office.
And all of this is done for what, the money? Only a small handful of mascots get paid really great money. Most do it more for the rush they get when the crowd follows their lead, or even shows some affection towards their costumed persona. And some mascots really have to change themselves and their “game time” personalities during their time in costume. And the costume can be its own drug, with a rush of adrenaline and a need for the attention even after you take the sweaty, musty costume off for the day/night.
But most of all, you have to remember that most people can not even know who you are, or what it is you do for the team. You might walk around the stadium with that “All Access” badge, and some will question why you have tht right and they do notno one will every know why you get such treasured rewards. You have to stay unknown to the fan base. You can not do interviews in costume because your character doesn’t speak in real life. It can be a hard adjustment to make, and few people can pull it off without a hitch. It is a busy and silent world within a hectic, frantic world that can not tolerate any slight deviation from the plan.
It is a job we all think we can do better, faster and with more excitement. But the reality is that we have no idea how we would even begin such a journey. I know it is a job I personally could not do because of some of the physical requirements now. I know the touching from behind by tons of kids and fans would drive me personally nuts, and tasting my own sweat while working is no longer in my job description.
So if you are a Major League mascot and I come up and I shake your hand, it is not for a photo op, but because you do a job I know I can not do in real life. You do your duties under circumstances and conditions that would totally freak me out. But most of all it is a simple handshake to tell you I understand a bit more now of what you do for a living, and the care and preparation you go through to do just a 5 minute bit in front of the crowd. So if you really think you can do it……..Go for it! Myself, I am happy in my corner front row seat watching the mascot do his magic and wondering what they are going to do next.