Tropicana Field in Tampa is #1

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Yes, this totally looks like a flying saucer from outside.  Tropicana Field is consistently rated at the very bottom of most everyone’s lists of Major League Baseball stadiums.  It’s old.  It’s dumpy.  It’s hideous.  Or maybe it’s like the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.  As Linus Van Pelt said so many years ago: “I never thought it was such a bad little tree.  It’s not bad at all, really.  Maybe it just needs a little love.” Tropicana Field, let me give you a little love!

From the moment I walked in, I was encouraged by the staff and attendants to move down during batting practice and get the best pictures I could.  This is my third trip to Tropicana Field, and I can honestly say that I have never yet met an unfriendly person in a yellow shirt.  They love their team, and while their “home” has that “lived in” look and will never be mistaken for a palace, they are happy to share it with anyone and everyone.

Valerie was my attendant tonight in the 300 section.  Her dad was the attendant next door in the 302 section.  She made sure I got my pin for “1st Rays Game.”  Even though I told her it was my third trip to Tropicana, she insisted that it’s still my 1st out of 30, which is worth celebrating.

There is a rays tank out in center field where fans can actually pet live rays.  While this is not the ballpark every child dreams of going to someday, the Rays have done a very nice job making the fan experience a good one.  The ray-petting is one.  The air-conditioning is another!  And also, they listened to the fans who were frustrated about difficulty getting around the stadium.

They actually tarped off the back few rows of seats in the outfield and took out another few rows to create a walkway, so that fans can walk all the way around the stadium and still see the game.  There is a counter now built in at the front of the walkway, so that fans can put their food and drinks down on it and watch several innings standing up, if they so choose.  Even though I bought the cheapest ticket in the nosebleeds, I was encouraged by several attendants to take advantage of this opportunity to get a better look.

The Rays have had some good teams lately, but yet, they have a really hard time drawing fans to games.  Tons of empty seats immediately after the National Anthem.  And for a first-place team on a holiday evening.  A Rays fan lamented to me that this was the situation in Montreal with the Expos several years ago, and they lost their team.

The artificial turf is the ugliest playing surface that I have ever seen–which I find totally charming.  I mean, think about it: this is a Major League Baseball team.  Professionals.  And every single high school football artificial turf game I have ever seen has BEAUTIFUL turf compared to the numerous shades of green on display in the outfield.  It makes me think of Grandma Sackenheim’s old living room carpet, which was worn for 30 years.  Then, a hole appears and she runs downstairs and grabs a piece of unused carpet that has been extra and sitting there for 30 years, and the shades don’t match.

Oh, yes.  How can we forget the infamous catwalk?  There are all kinds of special ground rules for what happens if a batted ball hits different parts of the contraption at the bottom of the flying saucer up there.  Yes…that yellow bar hanging down from the catwalk in the picture on the right up there is actually part of the foul pole!

Yes, those are the umpires with the two managers before the game, going over all of those different catwalk-related rules.

Cool looks from the inside of the stadium.  The acoustics and the blue paint job really do make this baseball stadium feel like a really large racquetball facility.

Happy Memorial Day, everybody.  Thank a vet.  And while you’re at it, thank a police officer.  They need the support these days!