Home openers are a something to awe at. Especially if you are at Fenway, Yankee Stadium, Shea, a new ballpark like PNC or PETCO, or your team has a shot at going all the way this season (i.e. Cleveland, Philadelphia, Los Angeles…).
But what about Tampa Bay? In the words of a good friend of mine “You’d better believe it”! If you were there last night you would agree with me.
Last night the Rays unveiled the “new” Tropicana Field, or as we like to call it here at 3Guys “the house that Stewy re-furbished”. It was beautiful! New scoreboard (one of the biggest in all the majors), new brick and fence facade, very modern advertisements, and a new atmosphere. It looked like a modern ballpark enclosed in an old dome.
Enough about the Trop.
The fans were ignited! It’s the first time since the Rays “Hit Show” that featured Jose Canseco, Fred McGriff, and Vinny Castilla that this type of excitement surrounded the Rays. The announced crowd of 38,437 was a sell out, with close to 38,400 of those cheering for the hometown Rays.
After Ty Wigginton, B.J. Upton, and new 3B Akinori Iwamura each homered the “house that Stewy re-furbished” almost lost its top. It was great to see Rays fans standing when Shields had 2 strikes on a hitter. It was awesome to hear the crowd chanting an elongated version of “Dukes” (sounded like Doooooooks) when rookie CF Elijah Dukes came to bat. It sound like Fenway Park when Kevin Youkilis steps up to the plate.
The Rays eventually lost the lead when Shawn Camp gave up a 2-run homer to Troy Glaus in the top of the 8th. Did it stop the fans from cheering on their favorite team? Heck no! The Rays went down pretty quickly in the 8th though.
Bottom of the 9th comes, the Rays 3-4-5 hitters are due up against one of the best closers in the game in B.J. Ryan. Rocco Baldelli battles and gets teh count to 3-2. Ryan finally wins the battle, on the 10th pitch (I believe) but that at-bat is what seemed to wear Ryan down. Ty Wigginton then singled. Delmon Young homered to right on a beautiful opposite field swing. Akinori got a bunt single which made him 4-4 on the night. Gomes pinch hit and flew out to Wells in center, almost hitting the ceiling with the ball. Dukes singled hard to left, Akinori advanced to third. Upton came up. B.J. vs B. J. Mr. Upton hits a high, soft bouncer past the pitcher to John McDonald at short and McDonald only had one chance to get Upton and couldn’t make the play cleanly. Rays win!! Rays win!!
The fans in Tampa Bay played a huge role in this game. “[The] fans were fantastic,” Maddon said. “I’d like to see that on a more consistent basis. It does make a difference.”
B.J. Upton had this to say: “Great crowd tonight made it special. Hope they continue to come out.”
It was shear pandemonium in the house that Stewy re-furbished that night.
So you ask me, “are home openers the best, even in Tampa Bay?” And I tell you “Yes, you’d better believe it!”
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