It was a great night to be a Rays fan Friday night, even if it didn’t show on the scoreboard with a 5-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants in an interleague game.
It was supposed to have been Pride Night, a chance for the LGBT community to show their spirit and go see some baseball. But, in light of the tragic shooting last week in Orlando, the event was turned into a makeshift benefit for the victims. Beginning the previous Tuesday (June 14th), tickets that were still available went on sale for as low as just $5. Not only did the game sell out to its regular capacity of just above 31,500, the Rays decided to remove the usually tarped over seats in the upper deck 300 level.
In all, 40,136 tickets were sold for a Friday night game, the biggest crowd the Rays have had for a regular season game in over ten years. Watching the game, it didn’t appear to me that the seats were completely filled, looking like a crowd of just under 30,000. But it didn’t matter. The tickets were bought, and the Rays ball club was able to raise over $300,000 for those lives tragically cut short.
It just goes to show you that there is a market for Major League Baseball in the Tampa Bay area. It’s just a matter of find the pricing and location that taps into that market to make the enterprise profitable and enjoyable at all.
It was my fifth trip to Tropicana Field in the past four seasons, but me and my mother (quite a baseball fan in her own right) got to see the Rays and the Indians play Thursday afternoon. It was the ninth Rays game in the 2016 regular season and their seventh at home, but Cleveland won the game by blanking the hometown team 6-0.
Things have been better for the local baseball franchise, trying to stay competitive in a brutally tough division (the East division of the American League) against teams with better economies who, thus, can get better players. The price of attempting to improve the club has been passed on to us, the consumers.
We got the tickets a week ago, seeing a Rays “steal of the day” advertised during the first home series against the Toronto Blue Jays. Press level seats at the 200 level of Tropicana Field, usually $38, went on sale at half press if you got the tickets online through the Rays website.
When we got to the park, we noticed the price of various things had gone up. Last year, I got an all you can drink Pepsi for $10 that could be refilled free during the game. This year, the price is now $11, and you get a slightly smaller paper based cup as opposed to the larger plastic cups.
Jammed into the 200 level like sardines, I went off to the concession stand at 12:45, thinking I’d get back to my seat in time for the 1:10 first pitch. The problem is, on the first base side of the press level seating, there’s just one concession stand. On top of that, the people manning the stand are going VERY slowly. It takes a few minutes at a time for simple orders to be fulfilled.
At 12:55, the National Anthem is played. Hats (including mine) are self-removed from our heads (after a brief consultation with neighbors in the line to see what the proper etiquette is for such an event), and even the concession stand that I’m at has come to a halt. Nothing wrong at all with respecting the country, so I can’t fault them for that. By the time I get back to my seat with two $8 foot-long hot dogs, a $5 candy that my mother wanted, and a free Pepsi refill, it’s 1:15, and Chris Archer had already started throwing the first pitches of the game.
On top of that, finding the right seats, and finding people surrounding you to find THEIR right seats is an issue. I made sure we were in the right row and right seats after a bit of a debacle a couple of years ago. When I got back to what I thought was our seats, my mother had moved two seats over. A couple had come along and claimed that they were in the right row. Not wanting to pick a fight, I just stayed where I was the whole game.
(I looked up the seating chart last night, and sure enough, we were in the wrong row, just like two years ago when we were in the wrong section. My fault, no one else’s.)
It wasn’t the best of experiences, and I’ve had better there. However, when fans don’t go to a major league park, those who do go have to pay more, or so goes the jist. I just wish the jist was a little cheaper…
They played five one-goal games, but tonight wasn’t one of them. Chicago won 2-0 in the sixth game of the Stanley Cup tonight, giving them the championship in their home arena for the first time since 1938.
Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in 2004, and now Chicago has won three titles in five calendar years. Both teams will come out better for the result, Chicago as a dynasty, Tampa Bay as a rising power.
For those who say Tampa Bay has no business in the NHL, let me point out this: Amelie Arena outdrew Tropicana Field and a Rays-Nationals game tonight, even though the Stanley Cup game was in CHICAGO. You can’t tell me that Tampa Bay doesn’t love their Lightning, win or lose.
In a little over three months, a new season begins. Then it will be time to write another chapter, and we’ll be a chapter closer to the Lightning winning a Stanley Cup again.
Congratulations to Chicago, and a heck of a try by Tampa Bay. No regrets.
I didn’t know when I woke up yesterday that I’d be making another pilgrimage to Tropicana Field, about seven miles to my south. I like it that way, really. Nothing to lose sleep over, nothing to get excited about. But with the game not televised locally, I joined 10,000 or so other fellow Rays (and a few Mariner) fans at the old dome near downtown St. Petersburg.
Going with my mother and her boyfriend (a former semi-pro ballplayer), I made my way to the left field party deck just in time for Chris Archer to deal the first pitch in what would turn out to be a classic pitchers duel. (won by Seattle 3-0 on a 9th inning Nelson Cruz homer) I make it to my seat, eat the two soft tacos I got from the Taco Bus vendors, drank my all-you-can-drink Pepsi (I don’t like drinking beer at the ballpark, as I might be needed for directions after the game off of Google Maps, always seem to get lost getting out of the park…), and I’m sitting up there all alone for the first three innings.
I call my mother while the fourth inning is going on, and of course she’s mad at me because I was where I was supposed to be at, and they weren’t. The boyfriend had corrupted her into getting seats behind third base at ground level, and they wanted me to join them. I wrestled with the ethics of getting a seat that I didn’t pay for, but with such a small crowd, I went ahead.
Laying low to avoid being busted by the ushers, I sat there and got a close-up view of the game, but the boyfriend wasn’t done. He wanted my mom to get a seat right up close to the Seattle dugout, which she did. Inside, I’m cringing. What if we get busted? Do I employ a Twinkie defense? Plead temporary insanity?
The game ends, with the Seattle fans at the Trop wanting to mob Felix Hernandez for the complete game shutout he pitched, a rarity in today’s brand of baseball. Despite the petty larceny of grabbing seats that weren’t ours, I enjoyed the afternoon. I just wonder with so few going to the ball game how long the Rays will be here in Tampa Bay without a new ballpark and a secured future.
The ballgame turned out to be a wonderful time, as the Tampa Bay Rays turned back those evil Orioles from Baltimore, 3-2.
But I have to tell you one story from that day that quite frankly was embarrassing to me. So in the age of the Internet, why not share?
We (me and my mother) had tickets to section 101, which is right behind home plate about 25 rows up, and right before the game starts, she tells me that she thinks we are in the wrong section since we got to what we thought was our seats around 11:20. At first, I don’t believe her, for a couple of reasons that proved to be wrong. A few minutes later, I tell her I could be incorrect, but we’d wait for more information to come in before moving.
Sure enough, the usher comes over and says we’re in the wrong section. Naturally, I ask the user that if I’m wrong, which section is section 101?
He points to his left, one section over. The section we were in was 103, not 101. Meanwhile, once we get over to our proper section, she’s shaking her head at me, mortified, as if I’m an idiot. On this particular day, I resembled the remark. But I get off a good line.
“Hey, I’m allowed to make one mistake on my birthday.”
It was one of the weirder Rays games I’ve seen in recent memory.
David Price, who has been “Mr. Ray” over the past seven seasons, was not in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform, pitching for the Detroit Tigers against his former team. You would think Price would know to pitch against his teammates, and he did, only surrendering one hit and one run. Unfortunately for the Tigers, that lone run and hit held up as the Rays scored the 1-0 win at Tropicana Field.
Will the Rays make the playoffs? Not looking likely now, as they’re 12 games behind Baltimore for the AL East title (as of this moment), and 7 games out of the second AL Wild Card berth. I’m not saying a miracle can’t happen (because it has happened before, namely the Rays 2011 campaign), but losing two out of the three games with the Tigers really took the wind out of our sails. But I refuse to give up hope.
The Powerball lottery is up again to some astronomical figure. Last I heard it was $425,000,000 up for grabs tonight.
Needless to say it’s an obscene amount of money. What would I do with it?
I’d probably get apartment or a house in St. Petersburg close enough to Tropicana Field and get season tickets for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Other than a nice car, that’d be it. I know, pretty boring. But that’s what I would do. Keep the rest of money in the bank and live off of it. Maybe learn the real estate business. The housing market has to recover at some point, right?