As I gaze up at the Tampa Bay Rays Countdown to First Pitch clock above my television I am beginning to realize just how fast the hours are starting to tick away in advance of our Rays first contest of their 2013 campaign. As each minute seems to mysteriously vanish off that clock I am beginning to feel more and more giddy with anticipation and excitement as the threshold moment to begin our season approaches.
The emotions are beginning to scattering all kinds of grand thoughts around my brain almost to the point of round ball insanity as we edge closer and closer to the Rotunda doors swinging open at Tropicana Field and myself and a sell-out crowd of Rays Republicans wander towards our seats in anticipation of not only a great contest, but seeing our Rays again playing this grand game. I am afraid I might just explode with the bursts of excitement currently held captive in my chest. As each thump of my churning baseball heart beats as the seconds come off the clock in anticipation of the 3:10 start time when Rays ace David Price will send his first pitch of the season towards the plate.
Sure it has been 5 seasons since the Rays last shocked the baseball world, and we are again hoping to find another “Miracle” season in that back pants pocket of Rays Manager Joe Maddon. I’m thrilled with anticipation waiting for the usual Opening Day pomp and circumstance possibly making my head swim a bit as I get caught up in this emotional moment at might produce a tear or two that might slip towards my eyelid, but never make the light of day as I again see my Rays in their home whites and blues take their place along the First Base foul chalk line as each and everyone of them is introduced to the crowd and get the ovation they all rightfully deserve from this community.
But Opening Day is also a rebirth of the baseball friendships that seem to hibernate from November to Opening Day as we went about our outside of baseball lives for that short span and again assemble to cheer, celebrate and rejoice that the game is back again. It will be the time to showcase and introductions of new people in our lives, a new hairstyle, or even just a renewal of our first love….baseball.
Honored to again remember and relish those unique Opening Day magical moments that will pulse us in an instant through our own memories of past, present, and hopefully playoff-bound futures still to come for this Rays team in 2013.
To stand there tall and proud as I become awash with fond memories of the Rays past 14 Home Openers and possible be swept away by the moment as those awesome past Opening Day scenes flood my brain and escalate the excitement to unforeseen levels as the adrenaline rushes through my body with each cheer and sound.
Rushing back into my mind is a day, March 31,1998 when a new franchise was born in front of a sold-out Tropicana Field who were eager and ready to embrace professional baseball being played in our own town past April 1st. During that first ever Rays game, I was situated up in “The Beach” region with the rest of my fellow baseball loving workers at Pepsi Bottling Group as we all shouted, saluted with a few adult beverages and took in this magnificent sight from our high catbird’s seat for the night.
That was the last time I have ever sat in an Upper level seat, but I cherish it because I got to celebrate with my hometown Tampa Bay community on something I hoped and dreamed for all my young life. It was sad that over 15 years ago, on that inaugural night we watched as the Rays suffered their first ever loss to the Detroit Tigers, but it was the beginning of a long and enjoyable journey into the realms of baseball love for me.
And maybe this afternoon will bring back the flooding of emotions from Opening Day 2009 when with a flurry of fire thrusting upwards towards the Teflon roof, and with that huge American flag being unfolded as the National Anthem is belted out with pure emotion and pride. As our local political leaders get their chance to possibly hit the mitt during those famous ceremonial First Pitches prior to the game. I truly can’t wait to see this year’s players standing at the Rotunda gates welcoming fans into the game which has been a long time Rays custom on Opening Day.
It will not be the new eye candy we see as we all flow into the stadium which has taken on a new persona and a new purpose in 2013 to again bust through the door and play deep into October again. The real beginning of the Rays 2013 journey will commence the moment we hear those two special words we have waited to hear spoken loud and proud since early October….Those words that define that baseball is again ready to become a part of our everyday lives and it will all begin when one lucky young Rays fan who will become the next generation of Rays fans says those immortal words:…..”Play Ball!”.