Monday, May 21, 2007

Notes From Tropicana

I'm republishing my notes from a weeknight Rays/Baltimore game last September...

My big adventure…driving 115 miles in a downpour from Orlando to St. Pete to see the Rays/Orioles. Left the office at 4:40, stopping once for gas/Arbys…arrived at the box office five minutes before game time. Parking was close and free. Only saw one scalper…an amateur selling two club seats. Bought an upper deck row seven seat, right behind the plate…for eight bucks. Never made it…instead alternating between the third and first base foul lines.

They’ve reduced seating capacity in the dome by taking out upper deck seats up high…perhaps they are obstructed view seats due to the catwalk. The crowd was very old, even for a baseball game. One couple was celebrating their 54th wedding anniversary. When a between innings contest won my section a soft drink, and two old gentlemen discretely moved over to our section. As I was keeping score, Raymond the Mascot tossed a cushy ball over my head. Another old dude two rows behind me fumbled the ball into the row between us. I could’ve easily grabbed the ball, but since he wanted it so bad, I let him have it.

Vendors hollered “Water! Soda!” Over the loudspeaker, “Rays baseball” sounded like “Braves baseball”.

2ND…with Baltimore’s Jay Gibbons on first, Corey Patterson grounded sharply to 1B Ty Wiggington close to the bag. Ty wheeled and fired to SS Ben Zobrist to force Gibbons. Then Zobrist fired back to first for the DP…but there were two out when the play started!

2ND…Rays fireworks…after Wiggington drove the rightfielder to the wall, 2B Jorge Cantu homered to left, then Damon Hollins hit a loud foul to left, then a double in the RCF gap. BJ Upton drove him in with an infield single, and Zobrist tripled to RCF. But then Rocko Baldelli attempted a two out squeeze bunt! Baldelli came up to bat with ZZ Topp blaring.

4TH…Baltimore puts together four singles. Each time the runners can only advance one base, and only one run crosses the plate. The Ray’s Hammel has a 30 pitch inning.

4TH…Nick Markakis makes a wonderful diving catch into foul territory. Markakis had his own cheering section there in the dome.

5TH…Brian Roberts leads off with a nice single off a big curve ball, and is balked to second. Later Tejada lofted a pop near the RF foul line behind first. Though RF Delmon Young could’ve/should’ve caught it running full tilt in, 2B Cantu called for the ball. He made a nice running catch, but Melvin Mora easily tagged and took third on the play. Then Cantu made a wild, off-balance throw to third…allowing Markakis to take second. The O’s send ten batters to the plate, and score four runs off four hits and three walks…a 20 pitch inning for Hammel, his last.

5TH…CF Patterson cuts in front of RF Markakis to make a nice running catch…and barely avoids a collision.

6TH…Carl Crawford (C.C. to the fans) manufactures a run to make it a one run game. He walks after an eight pitch at bat. With the pitcher looking right at him at first, he leans toward second. Pitcher Loewen is so distracted he walked Wiggington. Then Crawford takes a running lead and steals second without a throw, and tags and scores on Hollins’ line drive out to left.

7TH…after the playing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, fans were encouraged to stay on their feet for…the Chicken dance? Upton leads off with a single and is balked to second. A two balk game! Makeup call, I think.

8TH…Baltimore’s reliever Todd Williams allows a leadoff Carl Crawford hit, the potential tying run. Williams slows down the game. Wiggington has a nine pitch AB, lining out to 2B Roberts. Caught off first, Crawford is a dead duck, but when Roberts goes to tag him, Crawford doesn’t let him make the unassisted DP…making Roberts throw to first. Cantu then grounded down the line. Mora makes a great backhand catch and acrobatic throw, but Cantu legs out the hit. The game slows, as Ryan Burres is brought in to face PH Greg Norton (batting .296 with 14 HR…but only 37 RBI!). After Norton walks, LaTroy Hawkins comes in and strikes out Shawn Riggans.

9TH…after warming up alongside lefty reliever Bruce Chen, righty Chris Britton comes in and picks up the save for Baltimore.

Bullpen notes…starter Russ Ortiz watched the game from the spartan “bullpen” bench down the left field line. On the Astroturf field, the bullpen plate was dirt colored Astroturf, the “plate” just a painted pentagon.

Fan Poll…favorite Rays giveaway:14% Noisemakers16% Caps26% Figurines44% Bobbleheads

The game ends after 10 pm. I wander around more and drive out at 10:30. the rain and traffic have cleared, and I make it back to the Maitland Courtyard shortly after midnight. I’m getting too old for these adventures!

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