Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tampa Bay Rays v Kansas City Royals Saturday Night

My friend Debbie and her son have season tickets to the Tampa Bay Rays games. Luckily for me they were not able to use them for the Saturday night May 1 game against the Kansas City Royals. Debbie offered the tickets to me and away Lynn and I went to the watch the game. This was a huge sacrifice for me because my beloved Bradenton Marauders were playing at home last night against the Charlotte Stone Crabs. I gave my ticket to my friend Matt who went with his son in my place. The Marauders lost without me there.

Our seats were in Section 147 which is about as dead center in left center field as you can imagine yourself being. We were only five rows back from the fence. Unfortunately no home run balls came our way.

The Rays play all their home games at Tropicana Field just off I-275 in St. Petersburg. At 1.1 million square feet in size, "The Trop" is the second largest domed stadium in the United States. The seating capacity of The Trop is 45,000. It seemed like almost all the seats were filled last night.

I never noticed it before last night because I have never sat in the outfield at The Trop, but in center field there is a live tank (10,000 gallons of water) with live Devil Rays in it! How freaking cool is that? Any time anyone hits a home run into the fish tank the Tampa Bay Rays pay out $5,000 in charitable donations. Half of that goes to the Florida Aquarium and the other half to a charity of the player's choice. Massively cool, huh?

Our season tickets also afforded us access to free parking but the designated parking lot was way the hell and gone north of Interstate 175 so our arrival at the stadium was slowed. I still get the feeling that Tropicana Field looks like a humongous space ship tilted skyward.

As we drove toward our parking lot we could see large numbers of people standing
in line to purchase tickets for the game. Once inside it was pretty obvious that nearly every seat in the place was occupied.

With the car parked we walked into the main entrance of Tropicana Field and started looking for our seating section.

As much as I love baseball I still get the feeling that I'm in a shopping mall when I walk into the Trop. Like most baseball stadiums everything is over priced. We found a "Corona Beach Bar" that had Modelo Especial (the best damned beer in Mexico) on draught. A 12 oz glass was $9.00!!

On entering the field we had this view from center field.

Again, not the best seats in the house but a hell of a lot better than being up in the third deck nose bleed seats!

As the box score for last night's game shows, the Royals beat the Rays 4-2 in 11 innings. It was an exciting game down to the final out but in the end there was no joy in Mudville.

I really enjoy going to Rays games and they are rapidly becoming my most favorite team. I'm headed down to Miami in a couple of weeks and will sit in on my first Florida Marlins game on that trip. I enjoy the Marlins also especially because they have the lowest payroll of any Major League team and still play very well against their opponents. Still the Rays are closer (just 40 minutes from my house to Tropicana Field). The down side of last night's game was when we stopped in the Coach and Horses for a cool one after the game and I was informed that I was not allowed to attend any more Rays games this year because they lost when I was in the stands. I guess all the Pub regulars are concerned that I will bring the same bad luck to the Rays that I brought to the Sarasota Reds last summer!

The only thing I don't like about going to a Rays game is the aggravation that comes from hearing the infernal cowbells all the damned time!

Why Rays fans ring cowbells when the Rays are named after an oceanic fish is explained in this website.

The entire Tampa Bay cowbell movement was borne out of the famous Saturday Night Live "More Cowbell" skit starring Christopher Walken, which first aired in 2000 but continues to have a cultural impact today.

According to this St. Petersburg Times article, the cowbells debuted at Tropicana Field at the 2006 home opener for no other reason than the team's new owner — Stuart Sternberg — thought the Walken sketch was hilarious. Believing that cowbells could become the Rays' version of the Angels' Rally Monkey, Sternberg asked the team's entertainment director if they could begin playing the claim of Walken's famous character that he had to have "more cowbell." The director did and a Tampa Bay tradition was born.

"The clip is drop-dead funny," Sternberg told the paper at the time. "It gets funnier and funnier each time. We'll bring in other bits, but I'm hoping this one becomes our — and the fans' — signature."

More than two years later, there's no doubt it has. The team's most famous fan is named The Cowbell Kid (that's him above), the team hands out cowbells as giveaways on select nights and a special video explaining "Cowbell Etiquette" is played at each Rays' home game

Cute as the story sounds I still think the damned things are obnoxious.

As obnoxious as are the cowbells, the other side of the coin is the hilarious Raymond, official mascot of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The history behind the unusual discover of Raymond is almost as hilarious as Raymond himself. Raymond alone is worth the cost of a ticket to get into a Rays game!

Lynn enjoys baseball as much as I do (and even runs out to the hallway to get beer and peanut refills when needed!) so I'm sure we'll be back up at the Trop for more games this year.

While sitting in the outfield watching the Rays lose in 11 last night I decided that before the year was over I was going to cough up $250 for a single ticket to sit directly behind home plate at a Rays game so I could be in prime heckling territory. You certainly can't get in any digs 400 feet away from the action in center field but you can behind the plate.

I looked at the Rays schedule this morning hoping that there would be an afternoon game with the New York Yankees some time this season that I could attend and sit behind home plate. My objective would be to heckle Alex Rodriquez simply because he's an overpaid primadonna. I wanted an afternoon game because there would be fewer people in the stands and my voice would carry better. Seats behind home plate at The Trop are only 50 feet from home plate so some serious heckling could be accomplished. Unfortunately the Yankees are not going to be here during any afternoon games.

However (big smile) the miserable Minnesota Twins will be in town for a four game home stand the first week of August. I now have a ticket for the Thursday August 6 at 12:10 p.m. for the Rays v Twins game. I am THREE rows directly behind home plate in supreme heckling territory. It will be worth the $250 spent for the ticket to be able to heckle the likes of Joe Mauer, or Justin Morneau, or Michael Cuddyer (whom I refer to as Michael Cadaver simply because he's a Twin).

The high point of this Rays game will not be their decisive victory over the disgusting Minnesota Twins. Nope, it will be if I can get one of them to give me the finger. If that happens, my next book will be titled "MAJOR League Heckler."