Results tagged ‘ Tropicana Field ’

Dance Willis, Cause the World is Watching

 

Somewhere in the Far East there is a Tampa Bay Rays fan, or at least he is a super fan of the funky and classic dances moves of Rays Mascot coordinator Willis Harris.

images (6)Most Rays fans have seen Harris performing during the break when the Rays Grounds crew drag the clay surface and replace the orange-spotted bases during the bottom of the 4th inning during Rays home contests.

You knew the Rays dancing and highly flexible moving and grooving crew member  had a following because of the many videos posted to Youtube or mentions in new articles or blog posts over his tenure with the team. But now his side-splits and gyrations have taken to the International stage as his persona has been jacked and become an instant hit or miss depending on your political views or geographic locale.

images (5)It seems someone has positioned the mighty mug of North Korean leader Kim Jong- Un upon the shoulder of Harris who dominates the first 38 seconds of the newly released dance track featuring the North Korean leader.  

If you were wondering, the musical soundtrack is set to a Chinese pop hit by the Chopstick Brothers, which is pretty toe-tapping. The Korean online new source Chosun Ilbo says the video was the brainchild of a Chinese man surnamed Zhang from Suzhou who reportedly studied at Kyonggi University in South Korea.”

Here’s to hoping that Jung-Un has some sort of comedic bone in his body and can appreciate for a second that someone gave him righteous dance moves and even a great finishing move….but I have a feeling Jung Un is out for almighty revenge against anyone featured in the video, even if they did not send it or let their image be used in such a fashion.

download (1)Hopefully Harris will not come back to his Rays 4th floor office any time soon and find a ton of well fermented Kimchi stacked from the carpet to the ceiling tiles and a terse letter from the depot leader stuck to his door with a ceremonial Liaoning bronze dagger.

Whoever did post the video most certainly will be popped into the crosshairs of the infamous North Korean State Security Department in the near future.  We know by the translated message on the video it was not sent or made within Tropicana Field, or by any member current or past within the Rays, but Harris will probably be guilty by association since someone brandished his trademark dance moves for all the World to enjoy.

images (4)Surely the video will play on every television news program for at least the next 24 hours…or more and Harris will get a bit more great free publicity on his antics during Rays games and hopefully will return to an office free of fermented veggies, Korean symbols and a bronze dagger.

Still, you got to love that the Rays also got some free publicity, few bytes of video antics as to the fun and entertainment you can be assured of at a Rays game.

So for now….Dance Willis, dance like the World is watching, because it is.

 

A Rays Groundskeeper video Encore featuring Korea’s Psy  “Gangnam Style” :

 

 

Happ..Happ..Happy He is Okay

Desmond Jennings

Toronto Blue Jays Pitcher J A Happ is one lucky guy. Considering the sound I heard the moment the ball struck him on the left side of his face, just a hair to the outside of his orbital socket, he is lucky to be standing now much less have his facilities intact.

J.A. HappSure the ball’s stitches caused a bit of bloody damage as it ricocheted off his ear and then down the First Base line towards the Rays Bullpen, when he went down into a lump in front of the pitcher’s mound, you had a assume the worst because of the sound the ball produced as it made contact with Happ. I watched the video of the event a few hours later and saw Happ try and make a valiant attempt to spear the ball, but he was both a few inches shy, and a few nanoseconds too late.

It also reminded me of the video from late in 2012 of then Oakland A’s starter Brandon McCarthy getting plucked by a batted ball in which he suffered some concussion related symptoms and missed some valuable time during the last month of the season. Twice now we have seen events that not only shocked the audience in attendance, but also left those watching on the television or the radio in a state of limbo as to the condition and injury status of a pitcher who did not have ample time to assimilate or react to a ball coming back at him at maximum velocity, definitely faster than it got to the plate.

J.A. HappThe Happ incident will again bring out a few critics who debated the merits of a supported cap or quasi-batting helmet design to protect the skull and side temples of pitchers from just such a ball bouncing off their noggin. In Happ’s case, this would not have been an effective deterrent, and might have even made the situation worse if the ball had caught the underneath of such a cap and bounced down towards his eye socket region.

Then there is that mode of thought of possibly moving the current pitcher’s mound back from its present 60 ft 6 inches to possibly 70 inches to give a little extra reaction time in just such an event as a batted ball coming in at full velocity at a pitcher’s head or other regions. Sure both suggestions have merit, but are they the answer or just a solution to a problem that will be debated and talked about every time a hurler gets plucked by either a broken bat or a batted ball.

Desmond JenningsLast night I do not think a mound 10 feet backwards would of made a huge difference as Happ might not have had adequate time to react to attempt to either spear the ball, or duck and cover. The great part is Happ received care immediately and if you look at the photo of Tampa Bay Rays Desmond Jennings a few moments after he struck the ball and before he began to run the bases, he immediately knew it was a severe moment and one that might haunt him for a few contests.

BMcCMcCarthy who now plays for the Arizona Diamondbacks was also on the hill last night going against the Los Angeles Dodgers hours after Happ’s injury and I wonder if his own event flashed back through his mind before he hit the hill for his late night start. Pitchers’ all know the inherent threat of balls coming back at over 100 mph at them glancing off body parts or taking shots to their body that will leave more than physical marks. One of the best moments of last night was as Happ was being wheeled out the Rays Home Plate opening he did a small wave to the assembled crowd in that area showing he was awake.

J.A. HappBut it was a moment where the entire crowd within the Trop., plus the entire viewing audience was hoping and praying was not a moment that would produce a substantial injury or worse.

I think we will hear a few debates and proposed moves or solutions to this every happening again, but in the end it is a part of the game, something every hurler knows could happen at any given moment and with each swing of the bat. Happ got his medical clearance today from Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Florida and should be on the Jays dugout rail or possibly sitting deep in the dugout away from any stray baseballs.

It is just great both Rays and Jays fans can be Happ…Happ..Happy today knowing J A will be working through his injuries with courage after knowing he danced with the Devil a bit last night and lived to speak about it. 

Roberts Tattoo’s a Few Rawlings

Ryan Roberts

I have had Tampa Bay Rays infielder Ryan Roberts on my Fantasy teams for the last several years. It is not for him maintaining a high batting average, but when he gets on a bit of a roll, he just plain tattoo’s the Rawlings right off the baseball. And when you have an alter ego like “TatMan”, adding a little extra ink or black mark produced by your bat smashing into the ball is not always a bad thing.

0430827683_10548011_8colAdding another little ink moment to Robert’s first Home Run was the fact it was against the Rays numero uno nemesis, the New York Yankees who put their ace CC Sabathia on the hill and Roberts was behind in the count 0-2 when he lifted his first shot up and over the left field seats.

Say what you will about Robert’s unique and always expanding body art, but when he truly gets on a bit of a hitting streak, he is someone who not only can help elevate his own game, but those around him seem to also feel that same vibe and energy. You have to believe Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar felt some of that residual energy at the dish last night as he combined with Roberts to post back-to-back Home Runs becoming the first Rays middle infielders to EVER produce this feat.

Ryan RobertsEven more impressive was Robert’s blast as he lead off the bottom of the 3rd inning and got into a nice hitters count with 3balls and 1 strike when Sabathia tried to sneak a pitch by Roberts that he instead decided to deposit again into the left field seats to the joy off everyone in Section 135-137. His Home Run in that at bat also secured only the 3rd time in Rays history they have seen such a power explosion from their middle infielders.

Roberts display last night with his bat also was the first time since he has given up two long bombs to a single hitter since May 23,2010 when he gave up a “deuce” to New York Mets OF Jason Bay during an Inter-League series at Citi Field. Not only did Roberts hit two long and far away shots, but he went 3-for-4 in the contest and helped pace the Rays to their 4th straight win at home to boost their home mark to 7-3 this season.

What is even more special is the pure fact Roberts is in the middle of one of those nice hitting streaks I spoke about at the beginning of the post as he is currently 7-15 with 2 HR, 4 RBI and 2 runs scored and there are still 2 more contests in the Trop. before the team hits the road for a 10-game slate. You can bet Rays Manager Joe Maddon will not hesitate to pencil in Roberts name on the lineup card as he is hitting a spectacular .455 (10-22) and has a 2-game hitting streak in which he has gone 5-9.

york-yankees-v-tampa-bay-20130422-172614-105Roberts is quickly establishing himself as one of those hidden gems to the Rays offense considering most people who do not keep stats might not know Roberts currently enjoys a robust .308 2013 batting average and has been set up in the 2-hole the last 2 contests and produced a .455 average (5-11). Surprising enough, his elevation to the number 2 slot in the Rays lineup is the highest he has been in the Rays batting order with his previous best being in the 5th slot.

Throw out the additional facts Roberts has produced 3 multi-hit games over his last 4 starts and we might see someone who can reduce a bit of Maddon’s stress and worry, especially against southpaws. Yesterday Roberts also produced his second 3-hit game of this season, the first “trifecta” coming when the Rays hosted the Minnesota Twins back on April 12th. Seems kind of funny that Roberts only had his first extra base hit of 2013 this past Sunday in the Rays win against the Oakland A’s.

Ryan RobertsRoberts is also quickly establishing himself as a get plug-in player around the horn as he has made game appearances for the Rays during contests at First Base (1), Third Base (1) and his usual home Second Base (8). That mobility and versatility could get Roberts a lot of chances to expand upon his prior top hitting marks and possibly be another one of those hidden gems that seem to come to the surface for the Rays and gleam brightly all season long.

I can only image the design and location Roberts might pick to put a everlasting symbol of this great night and feat somewhere upon his skin canvas. Who knows, if he keeps hitting like this he might have to dedicate an entire limb just to his Rays accomplishments as well as tattoo a few hundred more Rawlings along the way.

Nothing Like Opening Day….Nothing!

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays
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.
New York Yankees v Tampa Bay RaysThe 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.
New York Yankees v Tampa Bay RaysSure 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.
New York Yankees v Tampa Bay RaysBut 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.
WADE BOGGS  MIGUEL CAIRO  KEVIN STOCKER  JOHN FLAHERTY  DEVIL RAYS OPENING DAYTo 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.
 
OD2009And 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.
main_promo_play-ball-kidIt 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!”.

Rays New Decal Shows Tampa Skyline, Not St. Petersburg..Oops!

TriClsuterfk

Everyone who knows me knows I’m proud of the city of my birth. Been boasting and thumping my chest about this hamlet that catches the Gulf breezes at night, and seems to celebrate Hurricanes instead of fear them. I’m one of those people who get a bit irritated and spit vinegar when the National Media forgets that the home of the Tampa Bay Rays is St. Petersburg, Florida and not Tampa, which is 16-20-odd miles to the NorthEast of Tropicana Field.

TamponBut I also understand that this region has always labeled their sports team as “Tampa Bay”, and many of them started or make their home across the Howard Franklin bridge in that 3rd largest city in the state of Florida. Sure I’m unhappy and down right spiteful towards people who have not gotten the memo that this team is situated in a borough that has been separated by government rule by the Tampians for over 100 years and we are considered their redheaded step-children at times.

So what do you think was my reaction when I opened a MLB Opening Day display for one of my Wal-Mart store deep in the heart of St. Petersburg, Florida and my gaze came upon the same decal centered in the photo at the beginning of this post. At first I thought it was a great decal until I begin to take a closer look and noticed it was not the St. Petersburg, Florida waterfront skyline I was looking at, but the Tampa skyline just a bit South of the Platt Street Bridge.

BSWas this a virtual mistake by either the graphic gurus at Major League Baseball home office in New York City, or maybe someone within the Rays fold accidentally put their John Hancock and approval on this photo to be used as the showcase skyline for this Rays decal. Either way, it will be a collector’s item since it is a mistake, or at least it is in my mind.

Sure it could be a subliminal visual message from someone hidden behind the MLB cloak as to where the Rays need to call home, but for now it is just a major cluster-boo boo and one I’m going to have nestled away in my Rays collection as another example of the haphazard way that most people outside of Tampa Bay still sees St. Petersburg as a town with those green benches, a Salvador Dali museum and a stadium that looks more like a tilted ball cap than a long-term homestead.

VinoyI’m sorry if I’m locale sensitive to the plight of this side of Tampa Bay always getting the short end of the stick when announcers and even ballplayers can not fathom with any intellect the city that they are staying in during their series with the Rays. Heck, ever since 1998 the only hotel to even house any MLB team that visited Tropicana Field has been the Renaissance Vinoy right on the waterfront of St. Petersburg with a firm view of the real Tampa Bay just outside their hotel or bus window.

I mean would any other MLB fan sit lightly on their fingers if someone called the vista that is their team’s home incorrect in the media or over the radio waves. I would severely doubt anyone would get the location of any other ballpark in the major leagues wrong for the pure fact that journalism is based on the simple fact of accuracy, accuracy, and an additional dose of accuracy. Would a Atlanta Braves fan be upset if someone voiced a suburb of the city as their stadium’s locale instead of Fulton County?

san_jose_athletics_2Would the Oakland A’s faithful be a bit harsh and up in someone’s face if an announcer already had them in San Jose or even mistake them for the cross bay Giants? Most would think I’m being a bit oversensitive right now, but if you look at the third photo on the bottom of the first photo in this post you will see a daylight shot of the Tampa skyline that matches up perfectly almost to the building of the Rays decal that was included in the Opening Day pallet.

Sure there are more than a few whispers and thoughts that the Rays could move their entire organization somewhere over the Howard Franklin within the next 5-10 years, but with not even a simple dialog currently being communicated, a future home possibly in Tampa is just words in the wind at this moment.

253750_10151395672823429_1707979118_nI do not expect too many people within the Rays organization to take heed or even investigate this for themselves, but as someone who supports this team, and as one of those fans who do reside in the hometown that encircles the Trop., I would hope someone would at least acknowledge the error even if it was a possible subliminal message to the rest of the Nation. Guess 100 years of Spring baseball in this region doesn’t get you respect, and it definitely doesn’t get any glimmer of accuracy.

Baseball Should Have an April Holiday

openingweek2011

Maybe it is time.

Maybe we are at a pivotal point in our gallant sports consciousness that we can finally take a firm first step in this journey. Make that initial swing towards the process of immortalizing this one special day ever year….. forever.

opening_day_2009_1280x1024-thumb-250x200-2776151Maybe this is the perfect time to get a few important political allies in line to push for possible binding legal legislation to make Major League Baseball’s Opening Day a Nationally recognized holiday.

I know a majority of us already use it as a stealth day of fun, even possibly at the expense of taking a sick day or calling into work with excuses with gapping holes like Swiss cheese. Maybe by making it an “official” day we can come out of the closet and profess our baseball love to the world without riddicule or penalty. Viva la Beisbol!

Is the want to make this day a more than just a symbolic holiday lost on the fact most of us take measures already to cease production, fake sickness or family matter to rush to the ballpark to see that first glorious pitch of the season in person. If it was a defined day on our yearly calendar, then possibly Human Resources Departments or Sales team could coordinate group outings to the ballpark in support of this great day. More fans celebrating this day means more excitement, more revenues, and more special memories

OD2009With a key “fan” of the game currently residing in the White House right now, who shares in our love/hate relationship with the game of our youth, possibly now is the perfect time to consider such an sports-oriented endeavor. Not only does our President, our Commander-in-Chief boldly salute his own deeply-rooted White Sox love, but his yearly invitation to meet the eventual World Champions is a symbol that the highest office in the land has a genuine sense of ultimate baseball respectability.

Now if we can just corral a minimum of 26 United States Senators who also possess the same passion and admiration for the game, we will be well on the way to securing historic legislation. As Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston) so adamently screamed in “For The Love of the Game” when Billy Chapel (Kevin Coster) was lying on an ER gurney after cutting his pitching hand profusely, “Is baseball not America’s game!”.

Congress needs to acknowledge officially that the American image is firmly planted with roots on the clay and grass baseball field of this Nation, not just subject to apple pie, hot dogs and Chevrolet.

Flag2009As a baseball community and as a Nation, we should embrace the active thought of a celebrated day solely devoted to “America’s favorite pastime” A sport that doesn’t discriminate on ability, sex, race or even physical limitations. From T-ball, Miracle Leagues all the way to “The Show”, the escalation of the game only breeds warmth and admiration along with the true essence of the American spirit.

We could then outwardly celebrate on this day and support a game that has taught so many of us the rules of teamwork and of binding and bonding together for a common goal. We could celebrate our finest youthful moments again on a yearly basis with a sea of new baseball friends.

Baseball already brings out their own brand of ceremonial pomp and circumstance on this day, but why not include the rest of the sports nation into the fold for a National celebratory moment.

Sure there is still NBA and NHL games on tap, but the first week of April is about the bat and the ball. Of a Spring season of change and possibilities closing with the anticipation of 162 games played between defined chalk lines on pristine grass and immaculately turned clay infields. A game fought with distinctive individual skills, But defined within the team concept. A perfect storm of sports competition.

It deserves a day all its own, red lettered and circled on every calendar in this Country.

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay RaysFor this country to celebrate a day dedicated to the sport we know has a long and historic alliance with the United States both at home and abroad, it is a testament to aspect of fair competition and the essence of the American dream. Sure it may be a child’s game played by adults making a boatload of cash, but the childlike expressions on the faces of the players show daily it is not only about the competition, the pride and the admiration of this simple but complex game of chance.

Starting tomorrow maybe we can all collectively voice our opinions on possibly immortalizing forever as a country, baseball’s Opening Day. The time is right for such a couragious venture. We have a President who adores the game. Members of the United States Congress who have either played the game as children, young adults or at the MLB level.

Ground level support is definitely there for all of us to individually and as a Nation showcase our own passion and respect we have for this game that celebrates strength, integrity and unity on the field. Be it Major League Baseball, minor league affiliate or even Independent Baseball, this glorious day should have the added spice of being officially announcing our continous love for this game to the World.

The game has been exported around the World with leagues springing up during every imaginable season of the year devoted to this great game. It is time now to give a big chuck back to the game by getting it the recognition it should have had previously.

BDD_BO_allstar_71409_gett.jpgWe have the chance now with a President who flaunts his long distance alligence, even wearing his South Side Chicago squad’s colors at his current Washington DC address. In President Obama we have a firm example of loving the game from afar, keeping tradition strong no matter the miles or trails and tribulations, of supporting your “hometown” team openly and proudly, even in a polarizing town like Washington DC.

No matter if you are in the Northeast,Florida, Pacific Northwest or SoCal the passion for your team travels with you and you are open to express that love, even in enemy territory like a Yankee fan in Boston, or a Dodger fan expressing their love in San Francisco. The game transpires all kind of boundaries and deserves a day all its own.

Aubrey was right when she shouted that in “For The Love of the Game“. Baseball is America’s game and now it is time to put it firmly up on it’s pedestal where it belongs, as a National Treasure.

Players and Fans Definitely Rocked the Trop at Fan Fest

Rays Fan Fest 2013 120

I saw a member of the Tampa Bay Rays front office while doing my usual trading card route a few days before that Saturday’s Rays Fan Fest. He seemed really excited about the anticipated fan to player ratio at the multiple events held throughout the day, and believe me, the Rays not only delivered, but a few of their players such as INF Sean Rodriguez and P Chris Archer seemed to be everywhere.

Rays Fan Fest 2013 099All day long I heard stories of players going above and beyond. We all have heard of Archer inviting a young fan up to the Autograph tales and behind the Rays blue curtain to meet a few of his Rays friends in the “Blue Room”. It was stuff like this, plus the added touch of players reading to young fans,  being open to fan’s questions and requests all day long that made a deep and lasting impression as to their investment in this region and this special fan base.

Rays Fan Fest 2013 073I did not hear a single story of a player turning down a fan, or refusing any request during this special Rays day that is a huge celebration of the season that is now upon us. Heck I think we all might even have gotten a glimpse at a possible Rays future draft pick as Toby Hall’s son stroked a HR out of the curtained off ballfield a few times from the left side of the plate.

Rays Fan Fest 2013 023I mean I even saw Rays P Jeff Niemann at one point basically depositing basketball over by the hoop carnival games like he was dropping a wad of paper into a wastebasket. And during all of this were a gaggle of screaming and excited kids, adults and a combination of the two relishing in this increased presence of the player this year. Over the past few years as the team has grown increasingly competitive some of the fold reverted a bit back into old habits of selective signings and photos with fans. On this day if they were able, photos were snapped and memories were imprinted forever thanks to their increased visibility.

Rays Fan Fest 2013 039Combine this breathe of fresh air from the Rays themselves with the over 25,000 fans who walked into the Rays Rotunda on Saturday, this region still craves baseball and made sure other in and around the MLB World knew there was a fan base in this community. Even with the huge turnout of fans to Tropicana Field for Fan Fest, it was overshadowed by the fact the team only drew over that 25,000 visitor threshold 17 times during the 2012 season.

Hopefully the recent blast in the media of supposed apathy and nonchalant attitudes towards the game have been erased at least until the regular season when the proof will be in the proverbial pudding if the fans will again flock to the Trop.

Rays Fan Fest 2013 041But this day was about the 2 lucky fans enshrined into the Rays/Pepsi Wall of Fame, the hundreds of scavenger hunters snapping pictures around the Trop in hopes of grabbing an Even Longoria signed bat for their collections. Everywhere you looked there were kids, parents and even long time fans walking, talking and making mostly positive comments about the days events. Baseball Hall of Fame member Peter Gammons visited Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s “Thanks-Mas” event prior to his own panel discussion making a few of those fans not only full of Maddon-induced food goodness, but also got to hear a baseball analyst’s take on the Rays and baseball.

Rays Fan Fest 2013 045Sure there were moments that made you scratch your noggin for a second like Rays INF/OF Shelley Duncan and Rodriguez as a pairing for the “Family Feud event. There were a few scattered “boo-birds” when Duncan was announced, but most have let the Spring incident of 2008 be finally put to rest. Still, it would have been interesting if Elliot Johnson was still here…pairing him with Duncan would have caught everyone’s ear. Still this season’s Fan Fest was amazing in the items up for sale in the Rays Garage Sale to the amount of MLBPA Alumni players participating in the Home Run Derby (won by O’s OF Mike Deveraux), to the huge table of past stars both of the Rays and other MLB vistas.

Rays Fan Fest 2013 095All in all the event might have been a bit reduced in total time we all spent within the confines of the tilted cap, but it was a day spent watching kids frolic in the batting cages, running the bases and getting a high-5 from Archer as they hit Home Plate. Matt Joyce also made a few more Rays fans as he stayed after his signing time was over and came to the side of the autograph stage and signed for a bit longer for fans who did not get a chance to get to him before his time was over.

Rays Fan Fest 2013 019Rays new Stud-du-Jour Wil Myers even made extra time for Rays fans who did not know him before his recent trade to the Rays and with Myers taking that extra moment, he sparked a few comments from people hoping he makes it to the MLB level some time in 2013. So now that the Rays Republic got a chance to see and meet a few of our new players to the Rays fold, and a few of the hungry and eager ones wanting a taste of the MLB life, it is now our time to show support for this team not only this Spring, but all the way until Game 162.

Rays Fan Fest 2013 002The Rays invest a lot of time and money in an event like this, and with 16 of them now in the books I can definitely say without any remorse that the 2013 edition definitely has set a new standard for future Rays Fan Fest’s. I made a tongue-in-cheek Tweet the other day about the whole Rays front office forming a Congo line today and each of them pat each other on the back for pulling off this grand event in style. I think it was Pepsi who sealed the emotions of the day as the Rays staff and players definitely “Rocked the Trop” on Saturday and I do not think anyone did not leave with a bit of Rays swag, autographs or maybe even a former players jersey tucked under their arm. The Trop definitely rocked a bit on Saturday, but I think we were all having too much fun to notice, which is a good thing.

Sorry MLB and Rays, Guilty as Charged

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This is not the way I ever envisioned it. I thought it would never end even into my old and lean years. Had visions of setting up a yearly trust to keep my seats in Tropicana Field or another vista secured and emblazoned with my moniker way past my final breath, but things changed in the flash of a few words and I am one of those who found his Tampa Bay Rays dream interrupted over the past few seasons by our local economic downward spiral.

Compound that with the true fact I siphoned every dollar I had in my old 401-K, any cent I had for incidentals at games until after the final post-season contest in 2010 I knew the end of my consecutive Rays venture was rounding its final bend and I ended up falling off my own fiscal cliff. From our inaugural minor league game way back at high non on June 19,1996 as the GCL Devil Rays took on the GCL Yankees at Al Lang Stadium I was committed to hitting games at any cost, any time and with vigor.

Sorry 002I was also one of those sleepy but excited Rays fans who walked into the Rotunda of the Trop even before the Sun rose into the Florida sky to watch our team play in Japan against the same Yankee squad and it was as much about support for my hometown team as it was my show of civic pride. I never expected my financial reservoir t run dry, even after my 2 ½ years of unemployment when I sat in my old seat for 161 of the possible 162 contests from 2009-2010.

Tampa Bay Times Rays beat writer Marc Topkins recently divulged information in his Heater blog that the citizens of St. Petersburg, Florida only number just above 300 Rays Season Ticket holders. That number represents only about a third of the Rays secured Season Ticket fan base in their home camp and this somehow translates to Major League Baseball that this region can not support a team. St. Pete is just a small finger on the hand of Tampa Bay but right now MLB is making me want to use a certain finger with vigor. Lost somehow in the MLB disapproval for the Rays fan base that this Tampa Bay hamlet as the rest of the region suffered greatly in the recession of funds with some once proud and supportive fans having no extra funds or like myself exhausting my resources to the penny until I had to walk away from my Seasonal bliss with the team not by choice, but because 1 and 1 did not make 2 anymore.

I know of more than 60 former Rays Season ticket holders who have either moved to less expensive seats or taken to their television sets or small Seasonal packages to suffice over the last few years. This was not done to punish the Rays because believe me, it is us, the fans who had to eliminate this luxury from our grasps who take full responsibility for this action. Some left after the Rays lifted their Season tickets to heights they could not swing a full season package without taking from their essential funds to live their lives away from Tropicana Field. And some walked away from their vested seats in tears knowing that once they made this move, they might never again get their seats back even after the economy rebounded and they had money in hand to again regain their past blue seat.

Sorry 004So MLB is upset the St. Petersburg fan base has evaporated into a thin rail of its former glory, but it did not happen overnight, and was not done in malice or for the wrong reasons. Even now as the economic picture is being painted brighter this season I know I might not be able to purchase or sit again in my old seat I treasured along the Bullpen Cafe back wall just a out-stretched hand away from touching players and old friends who ventured past my seat as I open and closed the iron gate. The wall damage inflicted by a Ben Zobrist crash so many years ago is still evident along with the signature I got affixed to the spot.

So many positive memories with caught baseball during games, chats with players both on the Rays and other teams during Batting Practice along with a nightly “hello” to the strapping young lad, Todd Kalas. Giving up that treasured seat was not centered on the yearly number during the 2011 season of $ 2,000 for those 81 contests, but the pure fact I was still not working and funds were on empty and I was forced to make my treks to the Trop in sporadic splashes instead of my daily or nightly stroll down the stairs of Section 138.

JN4I have noticed over my last 2 absent seasons my old seat at the bottom of that section is not filled as much with a warm fan. It is a pity since I consider it one of the best values in the Trop and has a interesting sight-lines that gives you a unique angle down into the strike zone and perfect view to pitchers warming up so you can watch their mechanics and break to see if they are “ on their game” that game. Believe me, when I come to the Trop I still try and sit in my old location as much as possible and the two screw holes that once held my nameplate that I now have in my house saddens me when I sit there, but I also know hopefully one day I might again call it my second home.

I hit the Rays website today to see how high the asking price is now for my old seat that has been over the last few seasons reclassified from an Outfield seat to a Baseline Box seat has risen way past the 2011 cost of $2,000 for my blue seat to a wild $3,527.00 price listed. In 2 years my one seat has risen over $1,500. and people wonder why some have relinquished their once highly guarded secret seats. So it hit me today that I may have sat my last Rays game from my old cherished perch because the current amount is over my luxury spending limit.

I wish I could of kept that seat with its unpublished and unknown extras, but even as I’m now working I can not afford a hit like that without losing a necessity or two. And it saddens me that my old spot is out of my reach now. And I know mine is only one example of why a former Rays Season Ticket holder with a St. Petersburg address is now a yearly nomad coming to handfuls of games instead of venturing through the Rays rotunda with regularity.

It is nothing personal to the Rays or MLB, but sometimes you have to make the hard choice and when that happens, sometimes a thing you love takes the hit. So I will find Topkin this Spring and tell him “I’m guilty as charged.”

BobbyRI am proud of my town, my team and will support it through another series of half season packages that do not seem to include my old seat as the Rays have deemed it either a Season Ticket or Game Day selection with no chance of ever regaining it even unless I hit those 6 lovely Lotto numbers. And it is a pity because I want to be number 301 or more I be a positive force and figure to the Rays and MLB that this town loves this game and wants to support it in any way imaginable just now from another seat somewhere under the tilted cap of the Trop. And without a 81 game commitment.

Is Peninsula Bound St. Petersburg Getting a Raw Rays Deal?

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I am one of those people who just sit there and shakes my head when Major League Baseball or one of the Tampa Bay Rays front office head honchos talk about the fan base within 30 miles of their current home in the downtown section of St. Petersburg, Florida. I understand the logic that Rays Senior Vice President of Development and Business Affairs was trying to convey that only “600,000 people live within a 30-minute drive of the Trop”. But you have to remember the founding Fathers of Rays baseball knew the Trop would be surrounded by water on 3-sides and still they built it because they believed “If you build it, they (baseball) would come”.

tampa bay estuIt is quite understandable that the consolidated population number quoted by Kalt would be low considering to the West of St. Petersburg there is about 7-8 miles of fans before you hit the Gulf of Mexico. To the South of the Trop’s current location there are some 7 miles of fans then you splash into the estuary that is Tampa Bay or travel over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to a small segment of people in the Palmetto and Ellenton. If Rays SP David Price threw a stone due East he would hit about 2 miles of potential or actual fans, then his rock would hit only water until you venture over to the other side of Tampa Bay towards Apollo Beach and possibly a few dozen faithful Rays manatees by the TECO power plant.

If you journeyed North from Tropicana Field you would get the second biggest segment of the fan base within that 30-minute trek as Pinellas County forms a bit of a lower case “b” from the St. Petersburg area and narrows considerably until you get up in the Palm Harbor and Oldsmar areas which then you can travel eastbound on solid soil. If you travels Northeast over either the Gandy or Howard Franklin Bridges you get a minority of the fan base population not situated in the heart of St. Petersburg with the 30-minute window and on a good driving day might find that 30-minute stopping point about halfway through Tampa possibly basically near 50th Street just a short tad short of historic Ybor City.

lCAGI4S8QKalt is right that St. Petersburg and the lower half of Pinellas County are cut off a bit from the population core that has sprung up over the last 10 years venturing North, East and South of the metro Tampa area. With water on our 3-sides it makes sense we might not have the fan base of some Triple-A teams. I would love to have the luck of landlocked cities like Atlanta and Cincinnati who have their Triple-A squads within a car ride away from the MLB Clubhouse, plus do not have a water trap like we do here in St. Petersburg to act as a deterrent to some fans beyond the 30-minute drive window.

I understand totally the logic and slanted numbers here that show that the current Trop location doesn’t have the ample 30-minute availability of some more centrally located areas in the Tampa Bay region. But I wonder if anyone has done any research to see if the numbers show a more positive swing if the stadium was situated in the Carillion Park region of Pinellas, or if the numbers are staggering to show a Tampa slant, possibly more in the Dale Mabry/Raymond James Stadium region than in the Tampa Channelside or downtown region. Of course the farther you go East, the higher the population base would be as you are going farther away from the St. Petersburg situation of water on 3-side and venture into other cities like Brandon, Seffner, Plant City and maybe a sliver of Lakeland, Florida.

Bashing the Trop’s current location is the modus operandi of Major League Baseball and the Rays right now because it shows a negative population impact compared to some other areas within the land-based regions of Tampa. It bothers me when numbers that are slanted and made to swerve left and right into the plans of the Rays and other factions. St. Petersburg and its citizens do not deserve the negativity. I understand the numbers, concur with the Rays logic, but if the stadium had been placed in mid-Pinellas where a majority of us Rays Republic fans had hoped back in the 1980’s, this mumbo-jumbo of stats would not be thrown into the ring at all.

TroproofSome times people forget this region was so baseball hungry back in the 80’s, way before the Rays expansion team was awarded we built a stadium hoping baseball would come. Tried to buy,relocate and even got stonewalled by MLB before we got our team via expansion. Sure the old St. Pete Gas Plant location might not have been the most feasible location even back in the 1980’s, but the site was decided by some people who felt it was a centrally located area at that time. It is a foregone conclusion baseball has a limited shelf life in the confines of Tropicana Field, but to downgrade a region that can not expand horizontally because of H2O to me is just wrong. The reality of it all is the initial site that became the Trop was the wrong spot and that was decided way before the building was rigged for baseball and was home to large concerts, huge Home Shows and even a high-caliber of NHL Hockey and Arena Football.

Sure Kalt is right about his numbers, but why should we give more ammo to the already negative outside National media to our stadium’s present location and attendance when even in its current Rays mindset of being an illogical location, it still has some of the best sight lines in baseball and is home to a high-octane MLB team.

TropTyThe proposed new Rays home will logically be some distance from the Trop’s current location, but why throw so much negativity about the current stadium location when we all know deep down and in our hearts will be plucked from the St. Petersburg region. The first 15 years of this franchise has seen huge changes across the board, 2 championships, a Wild Card berth and 21,059,547 proud Rays fans have ventured through the rotunda at Tropicana Field the last 15 seasons most not afraid of a 30 minute drive to watch quality MLB baseball.

Time for Foster to Release his Death Grip

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I think it is time. We have hit that moment where either we have to throw the Carolina blue curtain back and expose that some within the castle of Major League Baseball have given their ceremonial “thumbs down” on this once vacation and getaway vista for any viable baseball long-term existence. And within their recent comments to that effect, MLB and their top honcho Bud Selig have fired yet another cannon blast over the Tampa Bay communities bow and if we again stick our heads in the sand and hope the situation will evolve without comment, we could see this team take their balls and bats and move away leaving a huge void again in our sports lives.

doomsdayThere are groups within this community outside the Rays own fortress walls who have whispered and made subordinate plans and survival methods for this franchise to stay rooted in the Tampa Bay area, but there is also someone within the political arena who needs to take off his Bermuda shorts and pull on his “big boy” pants before this team packs their bags and beats a hasty retreat to a community that awaits them with open arms and checkbooks. If Tampa Bay had their own “Doomsday clock” we would have heard a distinct loud click of the minute hand as it moved one more moment towards our impending reality that too many moments have been wasted and only a clear and concise plan will move the hand further away from that final movement towards the end.

And it is not all St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster’s arms crossed and bullying action that have eroded MLB’s mindset to baseball surviving their low attendance numbers and minimal show of season long support by the fans or the local Tampa Bay community. Sure Foster and his threat of spanking anyone and everyone with lawsuits and punitive punishments has put any plans of a Rays stadium outside the kingdom of Foster’s own chalk drawn lines a political and financial nightmare, but maybe it is time to remind Foster of the fact most St. Petersburg voters have him firmly in their crosshairs as the main reason for the blockage of any real talks going on within the sunshine instead of behind the cloaked curtain with our brethren beyond the Howard Franklin.

tampa bay estuReality is there are plans out their for the revival of baseball on either side of that big divide we call the estuary Tampa Bay, but Foster’s firm stand and opposing legal thumb has kept any vocal talk of any progresses or recesses to the press releases or behind doors to keep the bay of lawyers barking within the city limits of St. Petersburg as Tampa and Hillsborough county make their own revival plans.

Maybe it is time Foster give a 2 or 3-week reprisal to let the Rays talk to whoever wants to listen or work with them in a stadium development and realistic plan to keep baseball in this cluster of cities that eagerly want an end to this drama and again rejoice in the sound of bat upon ball in that small cluster of 180 days that is the MLB season. St. Petersburg has already lost their Spring Training iconic focus with no team training here for some time, and no team looking to this community since the Mayor seems to be pushing the wrong buttons within the MLB hierarchy and no reprisal on the horizon.

Foster has to know there is a plan being whispered on the other side of the waters of Tampa Bay in the city that has the expansive land masses that can afford a stadium revival as his city lays surrounded by water on 3 sides and has limited space and populous to grow a sound foundation. This is hard for me to write because I am a proud St. Petersburg native who was birthed just a super human throw from Tropicana Field and have a firm and honest love for this community, but the reality is afoot that maybe the true answer to keeping the Rays and MLB in this region might be located across to our city rival, Tampa. Sure I wanted the stadium on the waterfront when it was announced in 2008, but a small segment of this city’s population put the same fear in the Rays as Foster is now employing and the Rays have remained silent until recently.

c4s_sternberg040111_168947cSure the Rays are now talking with both the Pinellas and Hillsborough County Commissions on their wants and needs, but is it too late and this is the beginning of the end because of Foster still keeping his thumb firmly on the Rays coattails to keep them on his city and not exploring any other vista for fear of them liking another vista instead of his fine hamlet. I know it is not lost on Foster that even if a Tampa plan unfolded, his city would get a nice chunk of change possibly helping his own city budget concerns and then leaving him with the demolition of the old tilted cap that is Tropicana Field, but also with a huge bit of acreage for further development and taxable income to the city.

It is time for Foster to pull his hands back and let the Rays talk among the community, explore beyond the confirms of the St. Petersburg city limits and at least see what offers and plans have been circumvented in blacked rooms and boardrooms possibly to find a plan that would not only keep baseball in this community for a long, long time, but also reap financial rewards and increased fan base that would make MLB eyes look further West to the Oakland A’s and San Jose debacle and leave the Tampa Bay area knowing progress is only a sunrise away.

thCAT487XNThe Rays talking with the two county commissions is firm starting point to an open discussion and possible back-and-forth motion of ideas and proposals that could escalate into a real and concise future home for the Rays that would make them economically sound as well as increase their fan base foothold within this community. Foster’s actions to me remind me of the old political “Good old boys” firm hand and an iron fist mentality that reined in this region in the 50’s and 60’s.

New ideas, plans and excitement will keep the Rays in this community and Foster holding the team tightly to his ideals and wants only makes them want to escape that grasp and explore even more. Foster has a right to want to protect his town’s revenues and most visible tenant, but his strong hand notions have not worked in recent years and maybe it is time to take another path, let the Rays venture eastbound and look at their options and explore the horizons that have been blanketed from them for so long. Foster knows if he wants a second term in office the Rays could be his linchpin to defeat or victory.

etc_friedman_072208_31476cMaybe the best thing Foster can do for St. Petersburg right now is release his grip a but and let the Rays do their due diligence. Who knows, maybe the team will see the Pinellas county ideas are not unfounded and possibly stay within the city limits. But the other reality is that Foster’s firm grip on the team’s stadium discussion could become even more constrictive in the near future and in effect choke the life out of the Rays stadium situation. Yep, it is time for the “big boy” pants to come out and we give viable options to the Rays before they decide that distant pastures have more appeal….outside of Tampa Bay.  

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