At Tropicana Field watching the Rays play Seattle, May 27, 2015.
On the same day the 32nd Wrestlemania was held at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, the 2016 MLB season got underway with three games stretched throughout Sunday.
Turning on ESPN early awaiting the 1 o’clock start of the Cardinals-Pirates game, I saw a preview of the big wrestling card later that night. I don’t watch the “World Wide Leader” that much these days, so seeing a WWE card, even it’s biggest event of the year, promoted on the channel caught me by surprise. But it did remind me of watching Channel 13 (WTVT) in Tampa on Tuesday nights, and seeing sportscaster Andy Hardy promote the night’s card at the Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory. They held weekly matches in Tampa back then. Now, the top wrestling promotion only comes to town a few times a year, though its NXT farm system frequent holds performances at a small arena near Pinellas Park High School, not too far from me.
Also not far away was were the second MLB game of the day was played: the AL runner-ups from last year, the slugging Toronto Blue Jays, took on the local Rays at Tropicana Field. Usually, the Rays don’t draw well for a multitude of reasons I’ve discussed on this blog before. I also think that FOX Sports Sun carrying about 95% of their games is part of it too. No knock against their crew, which does excellent work, led by veteran play-by-play man Dewayne Staats and host Todd Kalas, whom I once had a chance to meet doing the P.A. at Largo High basketball games when he worked at Vision Cable in Clearwater. The games get great ratings for the local sports network, but it also tends to eliminate incentive for fans to go visit the ballpark.
On this Opening Day however, attendance is not an issue, as a sellout crowd came to the Trop to watch the road team from Toronto get the 5-3 win. Say what you want about the Tampa Bay market, but if your team is a consistent winner, and the game is important enough, fans will come out and see the big game. The price of parking, hot dogs, beer, and hamburgers the size of a small child are mere temporary financial setbacks. The game of baseball provides memories that last forever, and the game will likely be there to be observed and savored when the NFL eventually crashes and burns.