|My wife Tara and I traveled from our home in Naples, FL to meet my baseball buddy in Sarasota, Florida. My baseball buddy is John-Norman Tuck who is a renowned artist and hair stylist from Sarasota. John-Norman and I traveled for about one hour to Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, FL. Two blocks from the stadium we pulled into a person’s backyard ($5 parking) and walked to the stadium. The date was May 26 and my Yankees were the opponent of his hometown Tampa Bay Rays. John-Norman is a true Rays fan. He had his Rays shirt and hat on and I had my Yankee shirt and hat on. Before ascending to our seats we stopped at the food court to get our lunch. There were many options. We both chose to have foot-long dogs and French fries. The cost for both of us was a reasonable $20 (not Yankee Stadium prices). Our seats were in Row A Upper Box (face value $23) squarely behind home-plate. Great Seats! Tropicana Field is a domed air-conditioned stadium. Unfortunately the dome is not-retractable.
The starting time for the game was 1:40. The Yankee starter was their ace CC Sabathia and the Rays starter was Alex Cobb. Unfortunately, the game was a blow-out and the Rays led 8 to 0 going into the ninth inning. Sabathia was clearly off his game giving up seven runs in seven innings. You would think that a Rays fan would be smiling and content at this point in the game. But to my surprise all John-Norman could talk about were the past failures of the Rays relief pitchers. He was actually worried about the Rays blowing this game in the ninth inning. I could not believe his concern. Cobb lost his shutout bid in the ninth when Gardner homered for the Yankees first run. After allowing another runner to reach first, Cobb left the game having struck out eight Yankees (remember that number). I could see how upset John-Norman was when Cesar Ramos was brought into pitch. He clearly was not enamored with Ramos. His negatively toward Ramos seemed justified as Ramos walked the next two batters and then yielded a two-run double to David Adams. At this point in time John-Norman became really worried. That was it for Ramos and Joel Peralta was then summoned from the bullpen. John-Norman was relieved at the arrival on the mound of Peralta. He told me Peralta should be the closer, replacing the current closer. Sure enough Peralta ended the game by striking out Suzuki and Nix. If we add the eight strike-outs by Cobb to the two-strike outs by Peralta that makes ten strike-outs by Tampa pitchers for the game. The fans went wild and then I discovered why. Not only did Tampa win the game but every person with a ticket at this game was entitled to a free pizza at Papa Johns!
This free pizza was just one of many promotions and special activities which seemed to appear every inning. Such promotions as free tickets for test driving a car, on the field quizzes given to chosen fans, and races around the field by people dressed in costumes.
Did I enjoy my visit to the Trop? Well, I did not enjoy the non-competitive game especially with my Yankees taking the beating. If I was home I would have shut off the television. But I did enjoy being at the Trop with my good friend. Also, the price was right. For under $50 I enjoyed a Major League game involving my Yankees, paid for parking and lunch and had an excellent seat in an air-conditioned ballpark. The only thing missing was a competitive game. Finally, it was easy leaving the stadium, unlike leaving Yankee Stadium. I walked down a winding ramp and easily walked two blocks back to my car. Within a few minutes we were back on the highway heading back to Sarasota to meet our wives and other friends, Vincent and Diane Celeste, for dinner.
By the way, I still have my ticket stub and will eventually head to Papa Johns for my free pizza!