Will the Rays Fan Support Flat Line in 2009?



Here in Tampa Bay, the Rays fans are a bit new at this winning tradition thing. Our fellow brethren in the American League East, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have established these traditions that we are striving for after a successful 2008 campaign. I can admire the courage and the determination it takes to follow a team with such traditions, but how is a team only around for 11 years to fight such a monster wall of expectations.



Heck before 2008, the Rays faithful had only one season where we  could cheer and find success, and even that was only a 70 game winning season. And because of that lack of solid confidence at times, I am tempted to remind people that there might be a short lived backlash into the past  ways for fans if the Rays do not get off to a great start in 2009. This area has always craved a winner. We have won Super Bowl trophies and Stanley Cups, but that World Series trophy was being salivated over by the millions who live in the Tampa Bay area.



So are we to believe that the hysteria and the mass explosion of excitement will be in the air in April when we first open the 2009 season after a short road trip through Boston and Baltimore? As fickle as that might sound, the team has only had that one brief practice into the realm of respectability. And because of that, there might be a slide or two in 2009 due to the increased awareness that this team is coming to play every night or day now.


No more will there be teams that will be surprised or caught unaware of this teams potential.  Teams around the American League will not be resting players or even expect to sweep a series against the Rays any time soon. The air of uncertainty is gone from the Rays sails and they are on course to come into each contest as a stepping stone back to the promised playoff lands. The Rays will come out hungry in 2009, because they have been in the classic, and they want to get back there as soon as possible.



But  can this team battle day in and day out with a huge expectation on it from the start of even Spring Training games? That sense of responsibility comes with the success of winning a  A L Pennant. You get a  huge target set straight on your back and you either back up your claims, or fall by the wayside and let the winners’ pass by waving at you. 


In the past, the Rays fans and the team have done a lot of waving at losing streaks and misplays in games. But with the increased defense and the Rays Bullpen coming to win every night, it made for a more interesting 7-9th inning in games in 2008. Can they build upon that experience and step it up a notch or two and finally contend nightly with everyone at anytime, or will 2008 just be a case of catching some teams napping and the Rays feasting on their downward seasons.



But what if the Rays do not get off to a monster of a  start in 2009 ?  Will the “boo” birds be ringing in the papers and from the stands even if we  start off near .500 in April. Will the once vocal and energetic fans still come in bunches to every game, or only for the “Prime” games against the likes of the Red Sox and Yankees.  Will a losing streak silence the cowbells and hide the home made signs for the blue and white clad Rays, or will the fan base again convert  back to whoever is winning more games at the moment.


That is the problem with living in a region that boasts only 10 percent population over 30 years of age who were born in the area. Everyone is from somewhere else in the country, or the northeast. And with that move came a sense of tradition in following your old team no matter what. But just because you have a relative or even a parent who is entrusted to another team, do you feel obligated to support your new local team.


I have always wanted to ask any of the Boston or New York faithful who come here if they support any of the other local NFL or NHL teams. Do they still hold a traditional place in their hearts for the Rangers or Giants. Or maybe even the Jets and the Islanders if you are from the Gotham city. And do all Boston fans still cheer for the Bruins and Patriots even if they might have down seasons.


The pitiful thing here is I think the region is still polarized  and not committed to the Rays even after posting one of the best turnarounds in the annuals of baseball period. I hate to say it, but after years of other sports teams in the area not living up to expectations, could the Rays be bunched into that bushel of apathy after just a short time again. I think it is the Rays responsibility to keep a good product on the field and in the stands.


Fans will come for the games, but they also come for the entertainment before and after the contests in Tampa Bay. Some of the best attendance marks in 2008 came during the Concert Series on Sat night, when the team regularly sold out the entire Trop. so people could sing and dance in the aisle after the games. But do we have to be as gimmicky in 2009? I hate to say it, but we still have about a year before the rest of the Tampa Bay area can trust that the Rays are on the right path here.


I think a good barometer of the support factor might come in a few weeks at the Rays 2009 Fan Fest. That is usually a good sign of the type of support and the excitement about the upcoming season. But could that even be a bit more downplayed this year because of the team being based in Port Charlotte instead of here in St. Petersburg. It will be interesting to see how the distance and the Fan Fest will be changed because of the long commute for the event. 


I know, I know, what else does the team have to do to show it wants to be winners, well it does go beyond the field. In the next few months the Rays marketing department will have ample chances to remind and entice the area’s fan to again come and support the team. Now you know that the Opening Day game against the New York Yankees will be sold out, but is that because of the pennant raising before the game, or because of the Yankees.



Fans in this area may have to make a choice in 2009. They might have to decide if the bandwagon effect works for them, or they might just want to hop on board and be a full time supporter of the local team. Who knows what is going to happen in 2009, but you can bet the team will fight until the last out in October in the 2009 season. I  not expecting a huge turnaround in 1 season after our greatest success on the field to translate into huge attendance numbers.


The team might be expecting a large increase, but that will come with the team winning again. I hate to say this, but this region is like a lot of small market teams, there is a lot to do besides baseball on any given weekend or even weeknight. But if the support is there, the team will again do everything in it’s power to showcase themselves again as the team to beat. But the crowd as a 10th man has been instrumental in the past in making the difference late in a contest.


So as I am again getting ready to go cowbell shopping for 2009, and buying 2 dozen fresh white balls for the upcoming Fan Fest.  I truly think that 2009 will be a closer contested divisional series than ever before in the A L East. There are three team poised to fight for the title, and 1 sitting back and might jump over the heap if we forget about them. I am looking forward to the first game, and cheering for my hometown team again.



The boys’ played longer into the season in 2008 that ever before, and might still be a bit shell shocked at the result, but the area is proud of them and want to again show their spirit and energy to the team. 40-some days and the guessing game starts all over again. It seemed like just yesterday I was writing about the World Series match ups and the rain delays.  And the Rays and the Phillies get to relive it all again a few times during Spring Training, both in Clearwater, and in Philly.


Let’s Go Rays!!!


I will not be sad if there aren’t cowbells at your games! Sorry – but when I watch it in surround sound at home it is really annoying! I think, as a Red Sox fan, the gimmicks at other ball parks are a little hard to understand. Yes our park is small so it is easier to fill, but I think people come to Fenway for the game and not for the give-a-ways. You are right to be concerned about whether fans will continuing coming to the games if the Rays don’t start on a hot streak. The Trop, for several years, has been thought of here as one of the Red Sox “other” home stadiums. (Baltimore comes to mind also.) There are a lot of retired New Englanders in FL and many families visit on vacation and it was always a lot easier to get tickets in Tampa then it was at home. Because of the long tradition that baseball has here I think people continue to support the Boston teams no matter where they live – I know I would. I really hope that the success that the Rays had last year carries over with your fans this year. As much as we may joke about it, I really do feel sorry for the home team when there appears to be more people at their games cheering for the Red Sox. With fans like you I’m sure the Rays will be fine!


I do understand the mentality of the Northeaster transplants still holding in to their old traditions and teams. I had to spend a year out in Seattle in 2007 doing some sub contractor work on my proposed retirement home on Puget Sound.

While I was there, I became a season ticket holder of the Mariners for that season and did wear my Tampa Bay gear during their two series in the city that year. I was not going to throw 9 years of loyalty away in just a flash. But, if I lived there for over maybe a 4 year period, I might consider toning it down more and more until i was a local supporter……..but that is just me.

We will see what will happen in the Rays situation in 2009. I do know that repeating at something is more difficult than winning it the first time. Expectations will be high, and the threshold of misery will be extremely low…but the true fans of not just the Rays, but of baseball will still fill the blue seats.

Rays Renegade


True baseball fans will continue to stand behind the Rays! I drive from Georgia to see the Rays play frequently. Also, I subscribe to MLB online games to watch the Rays. They are a real team that works as a unit rather than an overpaid display as are the other two primary contenders in the AL East.

I can’t wait to go to fanfest. Do you have any info on when this great day will take place?

The Tampa Bay Rays Fan Fest will be held on Feb 14th. That was the date I was given a few weeks ago by someone on the third floor.

It should be interesting this year since the Spring Training complex is about an hour and a half south instead of in St. Petersburg. I am also looking forward to it to meet a few of the new guys like Pat Burrell and reliever Randy Choate.

See you there……….. I can usually be found near the huge Pepsi display behind third base. I am told we are going to have a great speaker at the event this year, but they are not releasing that information yet.

Rays Renegade


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