April 2010

Riding the Rays Rollercoast with no Seat Belts


Man, we are only two whole games into the 2010 Tampa Bay Rays 13th Major League Baseball season and I am already extremely tired from the massive rollercoaster journey we have taken just in the last two days. And believe me, I do not mind the twists, drops and even the unsuspecting high steeping emotional climbs, but I am still a bit wary of that stomach shifting towards the Adam’s Apple intense drop that takes not only your breathe away, but does something to your overall mode of team confidence and inner soul that can not be repaired by just a few spotty wins.

And already there are those dark D-Rays souls who have warned the “pumped-up” people like me about the possible side effects of believing in the hype before there is a foundation to support it. And believe me here, there is no “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey in my I-Pod music mix. But then again I am reminded in the back of my mind that these same dark dwelling remnants of D-Rays people have not attended a single Rays Spring Training game since the Rays left St. Petersburg for Port Charlotte, Florida in March 2008, and they are still stuck in the muck and mire of their season-ending Rays emotions pertaining to the 2009 season.

Maybe I am getting myself in a serious state of heart break and toeing the edge of the jagged path on the high cliff to a possible let down of massive enthusiasm proportions, but then again, maybe I am going to do what I feel is the right thing for myself and this team and throw my caution to the wind and hope the monkey on the loose doesn’t throw a steaming pile of poo at me from the Rightfield foul pole during the game.

But if you have been amongst the tidal waves of emotions surrounding Tropicana Field the last two night and really felt that pulse of energy cascading throughout the stadium with even the 15,000+ on Wednesday night, then you know that something special is happening in front of us again. And maybe since St. Petersburg is the “Lightning Capital of the World”, it is about to strike hard for a second time in 2010. And maybe Rays fans like me are all riding that huge wave of off season pent-up emotions right now, but that is what fans do, they act and react and counter move to the ebb and flow of the rhythm of the game hoping that the last big wave of the night will produce that moment you remember for a long, long time and provide you with that rush of adrenaline we all seek as we drive home with smiles from ear-to-ear .

And that is what is happening right now. From Tuesday nights bottom of the ninth inning extravaganza when the longest tenured Ray, Carl Crawford provided the 90th Walk-off moment in Rays history, to the thunderous crack from the bat of Rays legend-in-the-making Evan Longoria, the last two nights have been sprinkled with classic Rays moments where a huge cloud of magical pixie dust has fallen from the rafters of Tropicana Field and coated all of us with amazement and wonder.


If you would have told me the Rays would win a game in Walk-off fashion in either of these nights, I could have believed you. But if you would have told me Longoria would make his first two blasts of the year pale in epic proportions by going into the TBT Deck/Beach/ way-the-heck-up-there, I might have taken that bet and thought it was a sucker bet by you. But more amazing was the shot last night into Section 149, which had a plastic poster hanging at the top of that same section of Tropicana field asking Longoria to hit it here with a massive Bulls-Eye of red and white.


Two games into the 2010 season and we already have a few moments that will be talked about even after the All-Star break, and maybe in the 2010 off season. Seriously here, I could imagine Carl Crawford lacing a ball for a 2-run double to produce a Walk-off win way before a blast 473 feet that just missing the Second slot on the Rays All-Time Home Run Distance list by a tiny foot compared to the Centerfield blast of Jonny Gomes that bounced like a golf ball on the roof of the Batter’s Eye Restaurant. But the amazing fact might still be that Longoria has 4 RBI on his only 3 hits this season, and all three of them have been for extra bases.
But what might be more amazing about the last few nights is the show of support this crowd has shown this Rays team especially after a bad invisible swinging strike call by Home Plate Umpire Kerwin Danley, who never even asked Third Base Umpire Dana DeMuth for a ruling on the invisible phantom swing by Crawford that brought out the Trop. boo-bird for the rest of the game. I have always thought that when the true meaning of baseball and the intelligence level of our area fans ever matured, this Rays “Pit” environment would be a huge vocal point towards pushing the momentum into the Rays favor in extreme moments.


I was extremely proud of the 15,000+ who were screaming and yelling for an appeal to the Third Base Umpire, and their fats reaction to booing and questioning the call immediately instead of looking around for an exclamation from someone wearing headphone listening to the game on the Rays Radio network in the stands. I actually had a nice photo of Crawford at that moment and he was hunched down in his stance and could not have even thrown out a half-hazard swing to fend off the ball if it was a true strike. But the pure fact this crowd has matured as a whole and gathered the mustard to question and show immediate recourse towards Danley reminds me a lot of the baseball savvy crowds you see in other MLB stadiums that have been around for over 100 years.


But I am also aware and poised to remember that these same Orioles have beaten us into the ground before when our guard has been down a bit, or the confidence level made a few Rays fan’s heads rise an inch or two and not remember that a streaky Baltimore Second Baseman Brian Roberts can change the entire game all by himself with his legs and bat. But maybe his bad start to the season is our reward right now. To be 2-0, and maybe blossom to 3-0 before the Evil Empire valet parks their Deathstar at the Vinoy for the upcoming weekend series, it might be a nice emotional and confident momentary foundation before we partake in the renewed rivalry for the first time in 2010.

And some people have already brought out that attendance trump card after just two Rays games, but they also forget that these mid-week games have always been the Achilles’ Heel of this Rays clubs attendance marks as far back as 1998. They are a work-in-progress, and with 15,000+ in the stands last night, that is a nice bump up from the last time the Orioles were in the Trop from September 29-October 1,2009 when an average of just over 10,492 fans packed the Trop for the season ending series of these same two teams.


5,000 extra bodies in the seats might not seem like much to those viewing the empty blue seats in other locales. But those same 5,000+ extra Rays bodies have also been sporting more of the home team’s Columbia Blue or Rays Blue this season and that in its own small way might show the Tampa Bay community trickling in little by little to see if the Rays can renew that spirit and drive that possessed this region in 2008. And I guess I can revel in the fact that the “greatest game played on dirt” is living up to that moniker in the first two fun-filled energy-draining contests of 2010.

But you ain’t seen nothing yet as the New York Yankees will be unpacking their equipment in the Rays Visitor’s Clubhouse soon enough, then the first true test of 2010 is full on………Game on people….Game On!



Rays Bang Out an Opening Night Victory


Got to admit, that was the way to throw an Major League Baseball Opening Day gig last night. From Tampa Bay Rays players coming out and meeting us at the Rotunda Gate 1 location at 4 pm, to the explosions on and off the field, if this doesn’t get Rays fan excited…then this region is in for a heartache. But what better way to get a community pumped up for the first journey into the Trop. of the Evil empire than to have a Walk-off 2-run double produced by one of your marque players.

So with that in mind, and with me still emotional tired and drained from the whole episode, let’s take today as a “photo blog” day and I will throw a few photos up for the fans who were not at the Trop. to see what might have happened in their absence. I have to admit to everyone, when I moved in October 2009, I think I lost my 3.5X Telephoto lens, so you will have to squint and look at thing s a bit out of focus until my new lens arrives from Miami (hopefully by Friday).


But it was all about the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day today with several new additions to the Tropicana Field scene, and even a few new looks to the ballpark that I will show you in the next few days. But different this season is the fact I will not have my laptop with me during games at this time, but that might change in the near future if a few good things happen, like a real job (lol).


When I got to the stadium at 3 pm today, I was the first person standing in the Season Ticket holders line at Gate 1, and was quickly bombarded by Rays friends and ballpark buddies talking about the uypcoming season and just renewing friendships. I even got yelled at by a friend who sit in the Upper Deck for my April Fool’s Day joke, and another baseball buddy in the Rays front office commented on that post too later in the day. But today was all about seeing the 25 members of the Rays surge towards their goal of getting back to the playoffs in 2010.


But there were also some new sight on the field during the Rays Batting Practice as Rays outfielder Gabe Kapler was showing off his new glove that featured a Columbia Blue dyed “U-pocket” on his fielding glove, and a bit of Columbia Blue trim along the inner seams of the glove. It reminded me of the color scheme that ex-Rays infielder Akinora Iwamura did with his glove over the past few seasons. I will try and get a better shot of the glove today as Kapler was in a bit of a hurry yesterday and I did not get an “up close” look at his new mitt.

Rays RP Grant Balfour was also sporting a Columbia Blue T-shirt under his BP sweatshirt that read “Defend The Trop” with a black AK-47 situated in the middle of the shirt. It was produced by the Cowbell Kid in 2009 and given to Balfour, who is an honorary member of the Cowbell Security Force now. Another example of the right attitude can produce amazing results.


I liked the way that the Rays today incorporated the smoke and fire elements in their pre-game festivities, but it ended up producing a smoke and haze within the Trop that had to be a definite obstacle for both teams outfielders during the game. At one point, it seemed early in the game that Rays centerfielder B J Upton had to make an instant change in his path to the ball before collecting it over the shoulder that would have had Willy Mays shouting his name.


Over the past two Rays seasons they have used the propane fire pots more in a vertical display before the Opening Day festivities, but this season that had some very interesting variations on the flames paths, and also a nice addition of the Rays blue and yellow to bring out a different feel, but also a collaberation of the Rays color scheme.


And Rays injured reliever J P Howell even came out for a little bit today to sit with his Rays Bullpen mates before going into the Rays dugout and watching the rest of the game. I was talking with Howell before the game and he is feeling the shoulder getting stronger and the wrokout program developed by Rays Strength & Conditioning guru Kevin Barr and Rays Head Trainer Ron Porterfield is showing fast imporvement in Howell’s mobility, but he is still on track to be out until possibily May 15th.


So glad to see that Rays Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos is again down in the Bullpen area for the 2010 season. During most of the Rays Spring Training schedule, Ramos was either doing Third Base duty, or helping out on the Rays bench learning some more tricks of the trade. Ramos would not tell me if he is heading towards a possible Bench gig in 2011, but he is still taking out the Rays line-up cars every game, since he is riding a 12-game winning streak when he performs that pre-game duty.


Also something new at the Trop. this year is Raymond, our faithful Rays seadog has produced a new coat over the Fall and Winter and came out tonight with a shiny new coat that produced multiple sparkles and shimmering highlights. Either that or the Seadog finally began using conditioner on his coat for a healthier look in 2010.


Rays new $7.5 million closer Rafael Sorinano did have a rude awakening tonight against the Baltimore Orioles as he got into trouble early and got bailed-out on a brilliant play at the plate on a throw by Rays Third Baseman Evan Longoria. Soriano was releived as Longoria’s throw kept the Orioles from again tacking on a few runs and gave the Rays a chance to come back in the bottom of the ninth for the victory.


I had my camera going nuts last night and thought I might have caught Rays pinch-hitter Kelly Shoppach’s blast that popped off the Baltimore outfielder mitt and moved towards the yellow line on the railing in Left-Centerfield. But as you can see, it did not come out perfectly, but it did put two men on base, and if it had gone above that nice little yellow line on the fly…The game would have ened 15 minutes earlier.


Got to admit, I am getting slower in my old age becuase I did not pick up the ball in flight here on Carl Crawford’s 2-run Walk-off Double, but then again I was trying to keep moving to get around the errant Rays ballboy that did not want to stay in one place while I tried to gather in a picture that would sum up the game’s event….I will try again. Dang you Ballboy!


But really this picture says it all. And what was so amazing is the discussion I had with Rays Radio Host Rich Herrera before the game about we need to again get those “magical small moment
s” back into the Rays game plan in 2010 to get off to a great start and force someone else to hustle and keep up witrh us in 2010. And the way the Rays employed their confidence and their strive to produce those runs last night shows that maybe a few sparks fromn that 2008 spirit might still be alive and well within the hearts and souls of the Rays players.


I do not have a photo of the event, but again Rays catcher Dioner Navarro is getting pretty stealthy when it comes to the post-game shaving cream pies. Carl Crawford was doing a interview with Todd Kalas by the side of the Rays dugout when a swiftly moving Navarro came out of the tunnel and just missed planting the towel filled with shaving cream onto Crawford’s face. Navarro ended up pushing most of it onto Crawford’s uniform right shoulder, but you can not discount his effort.


But in the end what was important was the “W” last night. And in an interesting twist of fact here, Crawford’s 2-run double was the Rays 13th hit of the night to highlight a victory in the start of their 13th season, and of course, Crawford wears number 13 for the Rays. Nothing unlucky aboiut that number last night, and i have a feeling Rays fans will be looking for that 1 and 3 combination ( Sean Rodriguez (1), Evan Longoria (3), plus the always swifty number 13 to bring another win tonight as the Rays send starter Matt Garza to the mound. God I love this game!

Adrenaline pumping,Fists raised High, Opening Day!

 New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays
Got to admit it now, but I was extremely jealous of the rest of the country, and mostly of my own American League divisional foes who got their first glance at their teams the past two days. It was a very uneasy feeling to see the Red Sox and Yankees square up on Sunday night, then take in the magic of seeing so many other teams celebrate the beginning of the 2010 season while my Tampa Bay Rays had their formal run-through for tonight’s Home opener against the Baltimore Orioles.

But quickly as the hours tick away I am getting more and more giddy with anticipation and the excitement threshold is about to borderline again on insanity as we edge closer and closer to seeing the Rays faith unfold for the first time tonight at 7:10 pm EST. But it is Opening Day, and with that comes all sorts of great magical moments that will quickly flash towards the past, present, and hopefully playoff-bound future still to come in 2010 for the Rays. And some of my fond memories of past Home Openers keep flooding my brain and bringing the excitement to untold levels as the adrenaline rushes through my body in anticipation.
Rushing back into my mind is a day, March 31,1998 when a sold-out Tropicana Field held so many Rays fans in anticipation of finally seeing professional baseball played here during the Major League Baseball season that some seemed to hyperventilate at the thought of this day coming true. I was situated up in “The Beach” region of Tropicana Field that night with the rest of the baseball loving workers of the local Pepsi Bottling Group and our local distribution plants as we all shouted, saluted with a few adult beverages and took in this magnificent sight from our high catbird’s seat for the night.
That was the last time I sat in an Upper level seat, but I cherish it because I got to celebrate with a Tampa Bay community on something I hoped and dreamed for all my young life. And to me it was a bit sad that I was 38 years old when Major League Baseball finally got a chance to be played in the Tampa Bay area, and for that, I will always envy my friend’s children who get to grow up idolizing Carl Crawford, Wade Boggs and Bubba Trammell. And it was sad that over 13 years ago, on that special night we suffered a loss to the Detroit Tigers, but it was the beginning of a long and enjoyable journey into the realms of baseball love for me.

And with the pomp and circumstance that surrounds tonight, you can be sure a tear or two might slip towards my eyelid, but never make the light of day as I again see my Rays in their home whites and blues take their place along the First Base foul chalk line as each and everyone of them is introduced to the crowd and get the ovation they al deserve from this community. But it is also another rebirth of friendships that spawn a baseball season, and the updating of information both digitally and emotionally to what has happened in the past off season. It will showcase some of the growth spurts by younger Rays fans, and maybe be an arena for introductions of new spouses, new hairstyle, or even just a renewal of our first love….baseball. 

And maybe it will feel like Opening Day 2009 to me again with a flurry of fire thrusting upwards towards the Teflon roof with a huge American flag being unfolded and slowly produce ripples like the Gulf as a singer belts out their rendition of our National Anthem. And you know the local political leaders will all get their chance to possibly hit the mitt during those famous ceremonial First Pitches prior to the game. But the game, and 2010 will not truly begin when the doors of the Trop. Open and Rays players and Coaches greet the fans, which has been their custom for what seems like forever on Opening Day.
It will not be the new eye candy we see as we all flow into the stadium which has taken on a new persona and a new purpose in 2010 to again bust through the door and play deep into October again. The true beginning to this 2010 season will not even take part in that time honored tribute to both teams lining up on the foul lines or seeing Rays Third Baseman Evan Longoria get his Golden Glove tonight, or even Rays rookie Reid Brignac getting the Al Lopez Award for the Best Rookie in Spring Training.
The real beginning of this Rays 2010 journey will commence the moment we hear those two special words we have waited for since early October….Those words most definitely shouted loud and clear by a young Rays fan who will be the next generation of Rays fans, tonight truly is just a ballgame until we hear…..”Play Ball!”



Remembering the Rays and Gameworks Events

Gameworks2009 | www.RaysRenegade.com

Over the past couple of Tampa Bay Rays seasons that Rays Season Ticket holders have seen some of their past ” advantages” going by the wayside. We used to get one of every promotional item, plus had an end-of-the-season Team Photo Day with the Rays players to get memorable photos to put on our face book pages or computer screensavers. We were a bit spoiled at times and got used to getting the “star” treatment from the Season Ticket Sales Department at every turn.

But in the last several years the goodies have gotten pushed into bag “A” or Bag “B”, with limited promotional items, plus the omission of most of the kid’s items tend to make a few of my nephews and distant cousins sad that they could not get special Rays toys for their Christmas stockings. But with the recent closure of a Centro Ybor institution, another Rays budding tradition is left by the wayside…never to happen again.


When the Gameworks family-friendly arcade closed their doors after spending 10 years upon the landscape of the small cultural center of Ybor City. So I want to take today’s blog posting to remember some of the events and times I remember at the Centro Ybor landmark that I will miss more for the faint echoes of young Rays fans and their familes taking a night out with Rays teammates and celebrating as a true Rays Republic.

I can still remember attending a long ago Rays Christmas party for local youth from the Boys and Girls Club at Gameworks where ex-Rays Toby Hall and Seth McClung spent most of the afternoon playing carnival type games and race simulation events with the kids laughing, smiling and giggling at the big players trying to keep up with them both on the screen and running around the arcade area. With presents and food and games galore, I do not think anyone, including the Rays players went home without an ear-to-ear smile on their faces.
The Gameworks arcade became a Rays Season Ticket holder staple during the Rays “magical” 2008 season when the Rays Sales department tried out the distant East Tampa arcade as a way to have both fans and players celebrate the Rays season by attending an invitation-only party. I still remember during the August 2008 get-together when Rays outfielder Justin Ruggiano came out to the special event even though an hour earlier he was informed by Rays Manager Joe Maddon that he was being shipped out to Triple-A Durham in the next morning. But Ruggiano and Rays pitcher Edwin Jackson both played pool with me in the back pool room and fan and players both meshed together for one night through fun, laughter and a little bit of slick pool stick work


But the scene that still stays deep within my mind is not the photo of me helping myself to the yellow chocolate sauce fountain, but of Rays outfielder Jonny Gomes holding court at the end of the bar just to the left as you entered the arcade. Gomes was in hid element that night, shaking hands and hugging friends, plus raising a toast or two to the Rays success. And hidden just a few feet behind Gomes was Maddon who was sitting there with several fans discussing all kinds of things besides baseball and seeming to really enjoy himself. But the best part was seeing Rays players like Scott Kazmir playing an NBA video game with a younger Rays fans and getting his booty kicked, but loving every minute of it.


And the 2009 event was a standing room only affair with almost double the crowd, and double the fun as most of the Rays players from that day came out including every member of the Rays rotation. From Matt Garza trying to be slick and getting beaten time after time on the Dance, Dance Revolution machine, to Grant Balfour’s fiancee’ kicking all comers’ brains-in on the Dance, Dance Revolution machine, including reliever Randy Choate. It was a great time where fans and players got to mingle and bring some of that special chemistry that Rays have with their fans.

And maybe it is true that all good things come to an end sometimes, and that you got to truly treasure your moments within the game of baseball for the future telling of great tales and adventures. And you can bet Gomes, Kazmir and Jackson have taken these memories of Gameworks with them as they left for other Major League Baseball venues, and hoped that their new teams would also embark on these same types of great inter-mingling player/fan activities.


It is a time I that is near and dear to my heart, because as an ex-football player, I always cherished these special times with the team’s fans to not only take photos and talk about other things outside of baseball, but to show the “human” side of ourselves to those same fans.

Sometimes the lines get muddled between the green outer wall of the Trop and fans and player develop misconceptions on themselves and their interaction with the fans.

But this Rays team is certainly one of the most open and fan-friendly teams I have ever seen around baseball. They respect the way the fans support and try and use noise either by cowbells or their voices to show audible support for the team. And the many home-made or professionally-made signs by Rays fans show they have their players back.

Some say that the Gameworks staff could not update and bring new technologies and gaming machines into the establishment fast enough with the recent gaming explosion brought on my X-Box, PS-3 and Wii systems. That the gaming community could play just as sophisticated games at home and did not need to venture out into the video arcades anymore for their gaming fix. But with the locked doors at the Gameworks location came the end of another Rays era.

Who can forget the Rays mascot Raymond sitting in a race car simulator racing against younger fans, or seeing Rays outfielder Gabe Kapler with his two boys enjoying the multiple games and interacting with young Rays fans . Something you wish could stay the same forever. Something you just do not want to see change, but that is life. And you can bet the Rays Sales staff is eagerly trying to piece together another great event in the not-to-distant future where the Rays and their fans can also cheer, laugh and enjoy each other away from the field of play.
BTW, This is my 750th MLBlogs.com posting. Can you tell I really do love writing (lol).


Sorry Fox Sports, but we Play in St. Petersburg!


Sometimes I do not understand the ignorance or the sheer arrogance of a National Media Giant like Fox Sports who sit there and throw pile after pile of mistakes at this Tampa Bay region and we still take it like a punch drunk fighter. We all expect and rely on our National broadcaster partners to honestly tell all of us what we need to know, or items to ponder and reason with in regards to the multitude of sports issues or events.

Sure, I am just like the rest of the Nation sometimes just oblivious to the real truth as I listen or visualize the trivial elements they are feeding to our eyes and ears as pure adulterated cold-hard facts to begin the formulation of my own mindset in correspondence with their telling of the tale of events or a one-sided profile on a player or his off-the-field actions.


But I personally take great personal pride in this city of my birth of St. Petersburg, Florida , and find it to be an incredible civic insult and a social injustice when the Fox Sports clowns can not after 15 years of Tampa Bay Rays team existence, still can not get the Rays stadium’s locale correct on a television teaser promotion to showcase their upcoming Fox Saturday MLB Baseball slate. And this is not the first time that Fox has made this same city error either during a broadcast, or in an promotional advertisement.

But you would have thought the Fox Sports producers, directors and higher management echelon might have learned their mistakes during the last few times they made this same city error. And why hasn’t St. Petersburg new Mayor Bill Foster not publicly chastised the National Fox media circus again for this breach of accuracy, or even voiced his opinion locally to his constituents? This is not the same Foster I elected to office this past year.


I am pretty sure if the same Fox Network bigwigs made the same errors in saying that the Los Angeles Dodgers play in Burbank, California or the New York Yankees are now playing in Lower Manhattan, the vocal firestorm, not only on the Internet would be incredible and magnificent to behold, but corrections would be made in haste. There would be multiple ESPN or competitor network broadcasts showing the insensitive nature of the Fox Sports media giant to forget their code of “getting it right the first time” at the door and throw their journalistic integrity right out with the bathwater.

And such a mistake would be certainly met with a hefty post event price in future advertising by that community for their obvious civic ignorance. But why do we always let it fly here in Tampa Bay?


Have we finally become that sleepy cowtown where the numerous green benches outweigh the patrons downtown, or are not the same proud community our parents envisioned when they moved here from their Northern homes. Have we as a community been beaten down so many times by the National hand of the media with the same inaccurate city persona that it is now becoming commonplace, and we feel utterly helpless to fight for our own civic dignity?

Why is it that we always somehow look at it with the heated voices and disgust it deserves, but the rant and raves are somehow subdued compared to what might happen in other MLB cities. Maybe it is time for us to finally get totally heated and ********** and send countless emails or phone messages to the Fox Broadcasting Headquarters in New York City to amplify the civic support our Tampa Bay community.

And it should not matter if we live in Bradenton, Port Charlotte, Brandon, Holiday or even Tampa. This is a National disgrace focused at this area, not just a simple local humiliation. And this last inaccurate National promotional Fox Sports spot has finally broke this blogger’s back to a point that I am physically angry and will be on a personal mission over the next few days to sending endless streams of online email comments, and burning through hundreds of my personal cell phone minutes documenting my civic disgust to the Fox executives.


I would rather have that 30 second promo pulled totally from the air with its inaccurate city locale mentioned than have the rest of the country see the errors of the Fox baboons one more time and have the entire MLB Baseball community laughing that even after the Rays recent successes, that Fox Sports can not even get their town correct. I have more respect for the monkey that has been loose for over a year within Tampa Bay than the same Fox media monkeys who produced that MLB promo piece, or the editors that okayed that falsehood for airing in the first place.

I am not calling for a mass firing, staff re-alignment or even a visual tongue-lashing of the Fox Sports people responsible for this Fox broadcast promo error. I just want it fixed, and there is still time for that to be done effectively, and maybe an apology on your FoxSports.com website to our entire community for your blatant error.


But to be honest, National media members have been making that same Tampa/St. Petersburg locale blunder for years, but it is 2010, and the cycle of Tampa Bay locale arrogance and ignorance needs to finally come to an end. And how ignorant is it that less than a season and a half ago these same Fox Sports executive producers and directors spent their days and nights in St. Petersburg, Florida as the Rays were taking on the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.

They did not get the city wrong during most of the 2008 series of Fox Sports telecasts, but maybe we just are just a ” out of sight, out of mind” kind of city, and with our exclusion from the 2009 Playoffs, St. Petersburg has slipped back into the dark Fox Sports abyss.


The National Hockey League announcing teams never got it wrong when the Tampa Bay Lightning played their brand of hockey in this same dome, which was then known as the Thunderdome. The Arena Football League announcers never got the city locale, or the stadium name wrong either. Then came the biggest National media showcase when St. Petersburg, Florida hosted the NCAA Final Four, which took place under the tiled Teflon dome of Tropicana Field, and the tourney’s broadcasting teams were perfect 100 percent of the time in their city locale descriptions.

So some might say this is a fluke by Fox, but I beg to differ here. They have made countless mistakes in the city locale in the past telecasts or web podcasts, and I am sick of it.


It just gets old when you sit here and have to argue and rants and rave at least once a year and the Fox Sports crews still can not fathom the difference between the two cities. Maybe it is time for us as a whole in the Tampa Bay community to let the National media giants know that it is over! That the Tampa Bay region is not comprised of sleepy towns spotted with backwater communities, but that this community will fight with the best of them for what is right and accurate.


Maybe it is finally time for the entire Tampa Bay community to come together and stop separating at the hip with our upcoming stadium site concerns or ramblings and focus for a moment to demand that the National media eggheads get the Tampa Bay city locale right as a show of civic respect for this great region of Florida.


One of the biggest problems I have with today’s journalists, and especially some of the Sports higher echelon of writers , is their admittance that accuracy has gone by the wayside in regards to the media’s reporting because of the social media channels. This is total horse hockey pucks excuse, and we should not tolerate less than accuracy from theses media members.

If you or I wrote a prefab false blog posting, or attacked a player, team or organization without proof and facts, the National media would devour us like hungry jackals and pronounce us as “fakes”, and rally around their circle of journalistic integrity. But so many times the National set of writers have gotten a free pass from the web community without the masses asking for revisions or retractions or even apologies.


Mistakes happen. We all know this and it is accepted as a part of our every day lives, but the ignorance of still playing those same Fox Sports MLB promo spots with misinformation is insane and irresponsible journalism. I understand that post production it would be expensive to re-edit the commercial promos, but the voice-over would be quick and easy to perform. It is not like the entire promo segment has to be re-shot or reconfigured, only the voice segment. You can bet there are Yankee fans just chuckling at the fact that Fox can not even get the stadium’s location right, which shows why we can not get respect or a level of stability with the inconsistent level of true fandom in this community.

We do not need the outside National media also dumping on us like a Waste Management truck throwing more and more garbage on the inaccurate pile. So here is what I am going to be doing for the next couple of days. And people within the Tampa Bay community can either join in, or just stay with the status quo and take their constant beating of irregularities in reporting towards our fair community.

First, you can contact the higher level Fox Sports Communicaitons department executives at Fox Sports:
Lou D’Ermilio Sr V P Communications, Fox Sports
( ldermillio@foxsports.com

Dan Bell V P Communication, Fox Sports
( dbell@foxsports.com

Ileana Pena Director, Communications, Fox Sports
( ipena@foxsports.com )

Or maybe it is more your style to call the Fox Broadcasting main number of their offices located at 1211 Avenue of the Americas in New York City at (212) 556-2400 over the next several days, and ask for one of the above names and voice you concerns either personally or in a voicemail that the Fox Sports “St. Petersburg” errors should be corrected on the National airwaves by Fox Sports. Sometimes the grass roots attacks have to be made to focus the larger picture.

I know some people will just see this as a Tampa Bay regional concern, and why should you get involved. The reality is that it sometimes takes a simple ripple to begin a tidal or rogue wave to make change. By nipping this in the bud today and showing that the general public is aware of their Fox Sports mistakes, maybe change can become of it.


The stadium located in St. Petersburg, Florida at 16th Street and 1st Avenue South celebrating its 20th year in 2010 and having been a host of a Final Four, a National Hockey League Playoff game, Arena Football Championship and a World Series. Each of those events have world wide appeal and fan viewers. It is also the only stadium in this country to ever host each of those events in its history.

I personally feel a great civic pride and honor to have lived and grown up in this community and I just feel it is time that Fox and the rest of the media conglomerate remember we are proud of the St. Petersburg community, and even being a community with Tampa Bay. But more importantly, St. Petersburg is proud to be the current Home of the Tampa Bay Rays.



Catch Some New Rays Food Options


Maniac shoot | www.RaysRenegade.com

It is only a matter of hours before I get to again strut through the doors into my second home from Spring to Fall. Only a few ticks of the clock before I can again see some of the new and exciting changes within the concrete walls of Tropicana Field, and again see our hometown Tampa Bay Rays take the field.

Some might call it a “dress rehearsal” since we come back in only a few days to do it for real and begin the 2010 Major League Baseball season on Tuesday, April 6th at 6:10 pm. But these last Spring games in which the Rays invite the Rays faithful back into the Trop to see a Spring Training game are more than just rehearsals to me.
They usually are a good time for me to wander all around the halls and by-ways of the stadium and try and seek out the new and unusual around Tropicana Field. It might be something as simple as a new coat of paint, or even a new vending area, but usually I can smell the changes even before I turn the corner in Right or Left Field Street, or even take a step up or two towards the First Base or Third Base concourse areas. The biggest changes to the Trop this past off season might be in the food selections.

In the past we have seen a few well known favorites of the Trop come and go like the Columbia Restaurant booth near the Rotunda that went poof into the night one off season, or even the home cooking favorite, the American Plate that featured the great Southern style BBQ ribs, meatloaf, roasted chicken and either peach or apple cobblers produced in house by local Chef Enzo.

Both were truly missed when it was discovered they would not return. But in 2010, the Rays main concessionaire, Centerplate went above and beyond the call to provide some new tasty options to Rays fans.


And the first great thing Centerplate did this past off season was remember where they were located. With water caressing the shores on all three sides of Pinellas County, in the past, seafood has been mostly a fried grouper sandwich in one of the First Base concession stands, and this great fresh food option has been lost in the shuffle. But this off season the group decided that they should embrace this segment of everyday Florida life, and also provide an extra seafood treat to visiting fans who might not get the chance to sample great Florida seafood on their short visits.


But first Centerplate did something really smart, and really wise in hiring a Chef who has been called the “fish whisperer” by the New York Time, Chef David Pasternick. He has such a flair for the love of fresh seafood ingredients, Pasternick has been known to personally go out into the local New York City waters and troll for his daily fresh fish specials himself before finally preparing them for his dining patrons at his New York bistro Esca. His restaurant is known for its creativity and originality in regards to fresh products from the sea, and some critics call it a “seafood Mecca”.


So it was a bit of a seafood coup for the Centerplate big brass to get the 2004 James Beard Foundation Best Chef Award winner to step into the confines of the kitchens of Tropicana Field and submit his own signature on some of this region’s most bountiful food items. And from his brainstorming sessions, Pasternick came up with a few more fresh options for Rays fans in 2010. And he used two of his favorite regions of the United States to bring these new ingredients into the Trop’s menu offering, and none of them involve a fryer or hot oil like our old staple, the grouper sandwich.

Actually, the two new food stands that have popped up in different sections of Tropicana Field will be a well sought after alternative to the usual ballpark food, and ones I will definitely hit within the first week of games this season. The first will be located about 30 paces down the stairs from my current Season Ticket seats just in the Rightfield Street section of Tropicana Field, just to your left if you enter at the Rotunda/Gate 1 entrance and then follow the smell of great cooking fish and spicy sausages.

You will then quickly notice the new sign for Ti (Cajun for little) Dave’s Po’ Boys which grew out of Chef Pasternick’s extreme love and admiration for the cultural foods of the New Orleans region of the country. Here you can sample two distinctive designed Po’ Boy sandwiches were are a common staple of living in New Orleans, with a added flair of Chef Pasternick’s bold use of flavors to kick your taste buds into third gear.


The stand will offer both a marinated and grilled shrimp sandwich as well as an artisan andouille sausage concoction. Both will also be topped with a zesty slaw and a specially spicy Creole mustard and both will be served on a traditional French baquette. And if those two items did not get your mouth watering, Ti Dave’s will also offer his version of Dave’s famous Cajun Fries, which will be French fries served extra crispy with a special Cajun country blend of herb and spices. Some people might say this stand’s fries will make most people forget about the 2009 fan favorite the garlic fries, and will become one of the “must have” items in 2010 when attending a Rays game.

And that is one of the important reasons to bring someone of Chef Pasternick’s expertise to Tropicana Field. To get you to try something different and exciting while also watching the same excitement on the playing field this season.


But some people might flock just as much to his second stand, that will be located in the First Base Concession area just beyond the walls of the First Base seating areas. The Fresco Fish Taco stand might just turn out to be one of those instant favorites for people looking for a healthier and more refreshing food option this season. The stand will feature a fresh fish taco either in a soft or hard shell filled with great grilled Mahi Mahi that will be topped with a piquant cabbage coleslaw and extra warm tortilla chips. Also available will be the option of either having a fresh tropical mango salsa, or a creamy queso dip to accompany the taco.


As an added bonus at both booth will be a localized adult beverage selection that was tailored to the regional menu of both locations. Ti Dave’s Po’ Boys will feature Louisiana’s own Abita beer, which is brewed in a local brewery about 30 miles north of New Orleans. The first bottle of this craft beer left the brewery in 1986 and has become an instant favorite with beer collectors. The second new beer selection also shared a nickname with Rays First Baseman Carlos Pena, as El Presidente beer will make its entry into Tropicana Field and be offered exclusively at the Fresco Fish Taco stand. El Presidente, which is brewed in the Dominican Republic has been a favorite resort beverage for vacationers to the Caribbean nation.


But that is not the only new beverage options to enter Tropicana Field. In 2010,Centerplate will also open several wine bars around the stadium to bring another beverage option to the adults attending Rays games. These are only two of the first options and swaps going on within Tropicana Field this season. You can look forward to more changes and upgrades to both the menu offerings and choices within the stadium in the near future. With the food industry leaning towards more health conscious items and fresh ingredients, the Rays and Centerplate will work in harmony to also provide these options to patron of the Rays soon.

So there you go. A few new food options you might consider tonight before the last Spring Training game against the New York Mets, or maybe even on Tuesday night when the Rays officially open their 2010 season against the Baltimore Orioles. Two distinctively different options that have not been available before in Tropicana Field, and ones that are sure to become very popular in 2010.

I know I my mouth is already watering in anticipation of getting either a shrimp or andouille sausage baquette tonight while I sit in my seats. Maybe I might even wash them down with some besides Dr Pepper for a change…..Now that is the ticket to a true food experience, plus the added spice of great baseball played in front of me by our Rays.

A Sad Goodbye


I am done. I am completely done. Over the last decade I have been fooling myself inside and have finally come to the reality that maybe, just maybe I am not the fan I put out there for everyone else to see at Tampa Bay Rays games. Maybe it was the finalization that I am not even a thought in the entire process that my money is more important than me, the Season Ticket holder. Or maybe it was final obeservation that I am treated like a second class citizen by most baseball fans because I do not have a big “B” or pinstripes on my game day wear.

Or it might have been the reality that I was chasing the dream of the “underdog” for so long that I fell into a rut or trap to where I did not have a way or a reason to want anything different. Or maybe it was the final observation that over the past few Rays season little by little my past Rays special moments have been whittled away from me, that now I am just like the guy **** comes up to the Rayx Box Office at 7:05 pm, I am just a number.

And it is sad that today I will get a huge bag of charcoal, fire that grill up and throw my 50+ autographed wooden bats, tons of photos and paper collectibles and game-used jerseys onto the flames to finally return to the heavens. For maybe the frustration levels just got so bad in my head and my heart that change had to happen now to save my soul for another sports love. Maybe I finally found the sport that will love me back as the Tampa Bay Rowdies will soon come back from the ashes and play soccer again in Tampa Bay.


But the stark reality that things have slowly been taken from me as a fan of the Rays has been a stepping stone path towards this funk I am in right now. And it is time to release the devil or demon within my chest and set it free to maybe take the soul of the “Happy Heckler” again. And it was a subtle reversal of my favorite moments that went unoticed within my mind, but now it really looks like a deliberate move by the Rays to remove my presence from their fan base with slow and methodical surgical moves to cut the umbilical cord.

Maybe the first instance that the end was coming was when the Rays held the Rays Season Ticketholder Photo Day the next morning after the team celebrated their first Playoff berth after an evening and night of late into the twilight celebratory drinks, song and maybe even a few Patron shots. When only a handful of Rays players came out for photos and much more of them were ushered way into the field of the surrounding fans and we were not even offered a quick photo or even a snap of a photos are they were whisked down the line not even turning towards the crowd….once.

Or maybe it was the reality that even though I am a kid at heart at the ballpark I could no longer complete my baseball collection each season getting some of the harder autograph becuase I was not under 14 years of age, which is the current age limit for getting player’s autographs in the lines on Sundays. Maybe that was strike two in my obvious heart. For this hurt my 2009-2010 adventure to have an autograph of everyone who was on the Rays 25-man roster during those seasons and now I am left with trading with young fans who want cold hard cash for their signed balls instead of trading Rays collectibles.

AP/Chris O’Meara

Or maybe the final blow was finding out today that even thought I have been faithfully writing paragraph after paragraph over the last few years into this very blog entry that I am viewed as an angry fan and not someone willing to post positive or even new news about the team in a “Rays fan’s point of view”. I am flabbergasted that my over 750 posts have been viewed as trash, that they have been proposed as fan propaganda with hidden agendas and motives. That my fan worship has been all about the all mighty dollar and not about the baseball and friendships that come wit it all.

So I guess all that is left to say is that I am done. I am finished. I am going to fade into the dark abyss. Sure I might have paid $ 1,800 dollars for my Rays seats but it will make a nice fire tonight. I can not fanthom following or even writing about a team who can not feel a kinship bond with me, even though some of them are my closest friends. I guess today is the day I am not longer a Tampa Bay Rays fan.

And like a bad relationship or marriage this break-up is coming with a heavy heart. It was not anticipated, planned or even thought possible even 24 hours ago, but now it is here and is a final nail in the coffin as I watch that shaved down Jose Canseco bat burning on the grill putting grill makes on the white pine shaft of the game-used bat. And next will be my “Jersey Off Their Back” Damon Rolls and Aubrey Huff jerseys with the whole episode finalizing with me burning my 1998 Game Used Wade Boggs jersey hopefully around nightfall.

It is said to sometimes say goodbye, but maybe this one has been 13 years long overdue. Maybe on this April 1, 2010 I finally found out that I am just a number. That my significance is minimal and insignificant to the Rays with every fiber of my being. Maybe on this first day of April, even with the season about to unfold…..my seat will be empty for 81 games……Goodbye.




yaD slooF lirpA yppaH