Maddon’s Maniacs Video Shoot
As usual, Sean Liston, who is officially listed in the Rays front office description as the Coordinator of Fan Experience, could best be described as the wildest front office member in the MLB. I actually mean that in a good way. He reminded me of myself at 24, you might remember the feeling open to the world’s sarcastic and wild notions of fairness and irony, but also naive enough to know life can be a roller coaster with great results. I miss those times. As he usually does when we first get together, he was instrumental in getting us motivated for the upcoming shoot, and also made sure we knew the process we were about to embark on, and that it will be time consuming to say the least.
So because of this impending painting adventure, we had to walk around towards Gate 4, which is located at the SW corner of the stadium to enter without disturbing any painting or prep work on the floors. As we walked through the stadium exterior, we got to see the players’ cars down in the South lot, and a few people were trying to figure out who cars were in the lot. I knew who drove two of the cars, and pointed them out to a few people as we walked around the dome. When we finally reached the building entrance, we strolled in to a entrance way that was already decked out in the new colors and designs. Walking behind the home plate suites and party areas, we could see that they also were getting some renovations and paint changes this off season. But the wild part was the awesome paint design of the Rays blue followed by a yellow striping on the stadium entrance hallways that seemed to draw you into the stadium bowl.
Once inside the bowl, you got that giddy anticipation of excitement and anxiousness of the impending fun. We all walked down towards the bottom of the section that was located right behind the Visitor’s Bullpen area and took our seats in the first 6 rows of the section. I did not even notice the number of the section, but I am going to guess we were in the 127-129 section of the seating bowl. Again Liston was in there leading a few Rays cheers and getting the crowd worked up into a lather for the “Ground Rules” producer and staff waiting on us to all get seated for the shooting. It was then that I began to take in a wild view of the entire re-works and updates to the stadium since we last saw it after Game 2 of the 2008 World Series.
So as we sat there wondering how we might be utilized for the video we got word that this segment will be played before every home game in 2009. The video group that does the in-stadium entertainment for the games has only been with the Rays now for two seasons, but they have proven in the past to be a great addition to the Rays entertainment value with their awesome skits and video shorts during the 2008 season and playoff run. About this time we also learned that the Rays were trying to formalize a Rays fans viewer party at a local wing joint. As we sat there, we were reminded that it might not be finalized today, but if it is, we would get information about it after the shoot. ( No news yet, but I will get it right to you if it breaks this weekend).
I am not going to bore you with all the rules we shot today, but a few of them are really funny, and I will have a few close-ups since they put me in the front row for the first segments of video shots. They also decided to give me a close-up during a foul ball segment based on my glove coming up, and the female director loved my blue eyes. Ahh, the Cal Ripken Jr. eyes do it again for the third year in a row. the Rays invited a local youth baseball league ( the Burg League ) to also be used as young fans and also give themselves some great publicity during the shoots. But I have to tell you, that is why I was never a counselor at a camp or youth academy as a kid. Having 40 kids running around behind us all yelling for Raymond, who decided to pop out and show off his 2009 style and mannerisms to us today.
But in the end, after 4 hours of kids shuffling in their seats and multiple takes and angles on the video segments, we got to take a take our leave of this great stadium. As I was walking out we did the last take on a video segement to be sued during the ” Emergency” segment. But as I strolled out into the concourse, I was greeted by a huge Foggdog-type decal of B J Upton on the stadium inner walls. It seems that the Rays have placed these huge wall sized photo decals of their star players all over the blue wall of the stadium for the fans enjoyment this year. I loved seeing some of the great additions and the grounds keeping crew beginning to put the touches on the infield clay and foul lines.
But the wildest adventure of the year is the formal announcement that the “Maddon’s Maniacs” are now an official club of the Rays. From that first meeting with maybe 50-75 of us crammed in the upper area of what is now the second floor of the Ted William’s Museum, we have grown and grown daily to now take on guidance and leadership from MLB Advanced Media. That is the true test that you have made it, when the New York office of baseball leads your around the stumbles and the tumbles of becoming a great arm of the fan experience.
So before the games when they begin to play the “Ground Rules” up before the crowd in the stadium, I know I will get nervous every game. Now I have been a a few of these videos over the years, plus on the “First Pitch” cover, but now my big mug will be up there every game for the entire year/ I hope I do not embarrass the Rays or the “Maniacs” with my quirky looks and sarcastic expressions. But what I am most proud of is the fact that this small group of devoted fans has grown and grown so much that the team now had formulated them into a formal club like the “Golden Rays” or “Rays Rookies” organizations. It makes me so proud to know that the spirit and the passion of the fan’s has seen such an increase in the last 3 years. The sky is the limit, but knowing that the club is now officially a part of Rays baseball forever is the greatest gift for some of us today. The video is just icing on the cake, and I love cake!
Photo credits: All photos are by RRCollections today.