Like so many others1, I ventured down to Tampa for the weekend to take see the Red Sox play at Tropicana Field. One of my old friends moved to the Tampa area a few months back and figured an end-of-year series was a good excuse to bring a bunch of friends down to Florida for a few days.
Game-wise, the trip went pretty well. We got to see the Sox victories on Friday and Saturday. Josh Beckett pitched well and Daisuke Matsuzaka seemed to pitch better than he has in the recent past. Were Javier Lopez actually an effective LOOGY, Daisuke would’ve come away with the victory. Of course, Lopez’ failure (giving up a 3-run homer to Carlos Pena) set up the Sox dramatic ninth-inning victory with homers from Jason Varitek and Julio Lugo.
Those homers, combined with the Royals knocking off the Tigers, clinched a playoff berth for Sox, making them the first team to clinch a spot. To be completely honest, I want the Sox to take the division. To be in first place since April and lose it in the last weekend of the season would basically suck. That said, winning the World Series is the main goal. I get why the Sox have been giving injured players extra time and I get why they’ve been trying to straighten out Eric Gagne, but it doesn’t make it any more bearable when they were dropping game to the Blue Jays last week. That said, winning the World Series is the most important thing. Just as winning the World Series as the wild card would wipe out any of the disappointment of losing the division, watching the Yankees win the World Series as the wild card would wipe out any appreciation of winning the division.
Tropicana Field… Hmm… I’d watch another Red Sox game there. We’ll probably repeat this trip next September, or whenever the Sox make their final trip of the year to Tampa. I guess the best way to describe my impressions of watching a game there is this — I wouldn’t trade seats at Fenway to see the Sox play in Tampa, but I’d certainly go in addition to having seats at Fenway.
It’s not a great place to watch a ball game, but there’s other stuff to check out. I’m not usually the type of person to do these things during a ball game (I’d rather watch the game), but the whole Tampa experience has enough of a minor league feel that I somehow took the whole experience less seriously than I took the games I saw at Fenway and Camden Yards this year.
When I say “minor league,” I’m talking more about the stadium atmosphere than the actual Devil Rays. Many of the between-inning and concourse-level activities seemed more like something I’d see at a Sea Dogs game than at a Sox game.
Of all the ideas, College Nights on Friday didn’t work so well. $1 beer in the Party Deck might seem like a good idea when the stadium’s half-full, but it doesn’t work so well when the stadium’s near capacity. The guys sitting in the back of our section clearly had no interest in baseball and were only at the game to drink lots of cheap beer and try to start something with any Red Sox fan they could find. They must’ve mouthed off to every Sox fan within 5 rows of their seats. It wasn’t until the 8th inning that we saw the first sign of stadium security.
Guys, I know you don’t have a lot to do most nights, but you know you’re going to have near sell-outs for the 16-18 games when the Sox and Yankees are in town. A little show of force for those nights (particularly in the $1 beer section) might be a good idea.
Games aside, the highlight of the trip might’ve been meeting Mike Greenwell and Sam Horn at Ferg’s on Saturday. Horn’s probably better known at this point, between the name connection with Sons of Sam Horn and his appearances on NESN, but meeting Greenwell was the big thing for our group of 20-something guys.
When you meet somebody you grew up watching, there’s always a possibility of a let-down. That definitely wasn’t the case with Greenwell. He hung around our table for about 10 minutes, had a drink, talked with fans, and signed autographs. He was a very down-to-earth guy. He surprised us, though, when he said that Saturday would be the first time he would see the Sox play in person since he retired after the 1996 season. He told us that Horn finally convinced him to make the 2 hour trip to Tampa to catch a game.
Later, we were discussing amongst ourselves where Greenwell was sitting. We figured he and Horn were probably in a luxury box or in high end seats. However, we could easily see Greenwell sitting out in the bleachers and talking NASCAR with anybody in the vicinity. He just seems like that kind of guy.
Grr… When I first posted this, I forgot to mention the one thing every Red Sox fan should make sure to check out while at Tropicana — the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame. When the Williams museum wasn’t able to sustain itself as a stand-alone entity, the Devil Rays made room for the museum within Tropicana Field. The museum features a huge collection of Williams memorabilia and displays for each of the hall’s inductees. I’ve always felt like this belonged at Fenway when the stand-alone museum was forced to close, but I appreciate the fact that the Devil Rays were willing to host the exhibits. Anybody who is a fan of baseball and baseball’s history should make the trip.
If you’ve made it this far, some photos from the trip are up at Flickr.
- Seriously, I think think this article is just a template; ie, insert home team name here, insert disgruntled player name here. I saw the same article when the Sox were in Baltimore.↩