GNABRT Day 74 – Rays of hope

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GNABRT map - day 73Could just as easily have said “Rays of dope”.

I spend all week fretting about the Tampa weather and if I will be able to get my game 29 (Rays) in and I get there and see the stadium is domed.  Yuh huh.  I’m so not tuned in that I bring my raincoat with me into the stadium.  Yuh huh.

Beyond that, the GNABRT luck endured.  It did not rain a moment on the four-hour trip out to the game.  It did not rain a moment during the three hours inside the dome (parking lot was desert-dry).  And on the way home, it rained for a total of 8 minutes.

For that I spent a whole week fretting.  Dope, indeed.

Before we get to the game and other tasty morsels, a word about Tropicana Field.

Hideous.

More words can be supplied on request, but that should suffice.  Easily the worst baseball stadium I’ve visited (and I’ve seen all but one).  For such a fine, competitive team, it’s a sad reward.  I don’t know if the stadium is to blame for their usually small crowds (though not today), but I’m sure it doesn’t help.  At all.

The trip was pretty uneventful.  As traveling goes, the sights are fairly banal heading west across Florida.  The seats were surprisingly expensive, though I later found out that Tampa does tier pricing like the Marlins.  That means they charge more for certain games.  Since the Mets have a long history in Tampa, the game was going to be popular, hence, more expensive.

The seat was just fine, with a good view of the game and close enough to be a possible home run landing spot.  A man and his young son sat near me, leaving one empty seat for us to consolidate all our loose stuff (my jacket and their snacks and glom).

The man couldn’t handle the seats in the middle of the row for long, having a bad back that required him to get up and stretch from time to time, so he went for a walk in the middle of the game and, like in Philadelphia, I handled long relief pitching with his kid.

Unlike the Philly boy, this one was all about baseball and a chatterbox.  I occupied his time as much as I could and kept a steady baseball patter with him until his Dad returned.  The Dad found an aisle seat a row down from us and asked his son to sit with him.  The kid turned down the first request, preferring to pelt me with questions and theories.  Finally, he joined his Dad and eventually I tossed their stuff to them and the move was complete.

But not their story.  For that to unfold, we need to move on to…

The game:  Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Mets.  It’s been a tough year for the Rays, as they’ve currently fallen to 4th in the AL East and are unlikely to make the playoffs.  The Mets, on the other hand, seemed to be on a tear ever since that dreadful loss I witnessed in my game in New York.  The three game series was knotted at 1-1 and today’s game was the “rubber game” to see who would win the series.

The Rays pitcher struck out the side in the first (allowing a double in between).  The Mets pitcher retired the Rays 1-2-3.  In the second inning, the Rays pitcher struck out the side again, but he also walked the bases loaded, walked a run in and gave up a two-run single before the final strikeout.

After two innings, the Rays pitcher had 6 strikeouts, 4 walks, 2 hits and given up 3 runs.  The Rays got 1 run back in the 3rd and tied the game in the 5th.  And then came the 7th inning.

Earlier in the game, when I was pulling my “Guest Parent” duties, the youngster groaned at the batting average of the young player the Rays were using as DH.  He only had 7 at bats and only 1 hit.  I pointed out that since the hit was a homer, if he got a MLB regular 550+ at bats, he would hit 80 homers in a season.  My “son” called that superhuman.

He didn’t hit a homer in his first two at bats, but he did get hits and score each time.  When he came up in the 7th, with the game tied, I couldn’t point out his average was now over .300, because the boy was reunited with his Dad.

Then the player hit a home run.  Right to our section.  Right off the hands of the boy’s Dad.  The people behind him fumbled it and it went into the hands of an older gentleman who just happened to be the Dad’s brother.

More magic?  It was the player’s first home run in Tampa.  That meant he wanted the ball.  As an exchange, the club gave the boy a signed ball and also invited him back to the clubhouse after the game to talk with the player he groaned about (who, by virtue of the homer, was now hitting .400 and had 2 homers in 10 at bats…Hall of Fame numbers!).

Oh yeah, that was the winning run, as the Rays held on 4-3, making a 20-game winner out of me.  I’m now 20-9 heading into the final game in Miami in 2 weeks.

The tab:  Ticket, $42; Hot Dog, $5; Drink, $5; Parking, $20; Total – $72

And now for some miscellany, which has been missing from the last few posts because, frankly, not much miscellany happens when you’re home cleaning your house.

Miscellany of Day 73:

– I have to say that the Sunshine Skyway Bridge across the water is an impressive sight and pretty drive.

– On either side of the Skyway are piers.  Not just regular piers, but piers on steroids.  Piers big enough to drive cars the full length.  Wowsers!

– Another nice feature around the Skyway is that there are rest areas on either side of the bridge.  I decided to use one of them on the way back as an alternative to the stadium bathrooms (which were backed up – people, not, y’know, other stuff).

Deciding to also take advantage of the cheaper vending ($1 soda vs. $5), the machines took credit cards.  That was a good thing, because the dollar feeder wouldn’t take bills.  Thank goodness more machines don’t accept credit cards or more people would have bad diets.

– I was puzzled by a car that passed me on the way home.  It had (I surmise) a luggage rack that folded up flat against the back of the vehicle.  Folded up that way, it was impossible to read the license plate.  Surely that can’t be legal?

It will be two weeks until the final game in Miami, so blogs from here to there may be unrelated to the GNABRT.  I will try to “warn” you by including the GNABRT count in the headline when it’s about the trip specifically.

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