It could have been when they announced a baseball team was coming to Tampa.
It could have been when I called a 1-800 number to vote on my favorite team nickname.
It could have been that first game I went to, during the Inaugural season, and bought my first ever New Era Fitted Tampa Bay Devil Rays hat.
It could have been when I had the chance to go to the game when Wade Boggs hit his 3,000th hit but decided to wait till the next night, because we didn’t think he’d get enough hits, and then feeling genuine disappointment the following morning because I had missed it.
It could have been one of the many occasions where me and my dad drove the 1 hour and 45 minute drive to St. Pete from our home in Sebring Florida to see the Tampa Bay Rays play a game of Baseball.
When did I become a Rays fan?
I don’t really know.
Why did I become a Rays fan?
Why did I want to subject myself to a decade’s worth of disappointment only to finally be rewarded for my faithfulness with a successful team in 2008 after many had given up on the team?
Again, I don’t know.
There are a lot of things about my Rays fandom that I don’t understand how or why or when they came to be.
There are a wealth of experiences I have had at the Trop that make up how I feel about this team.
I remember when I got to compete in a contest on the Jumbo Tron when I was a kid and ended up winning an autographed game-used bat by John Flaherty.
I remember watching Jose Canseco launch steroid enabled Home Runs during the Hit show years.
I remember getting the chance to watch future Hall of Famers on other teams come and play.
I remember when I got Cal Ripken’s autograph on a Tampa Bay Devil Rays baseball (Am I the only person who has an autograph like this).
I remember the summer of 2008 when I, after having lived in Alabama the last 4 years, spent the summer at home working and had the opportunity to watch the Rays play baseball every night while their greatest season ever unfolded.
I remember shaving my hair into a Rayhawk in my college dorm that October when we made the playoffs for the first time ever.
I remember watching Matt Garza’s no-hitter this past season in my apartment in Birmingham, Alabama and wishing every second that I could have been at the Trop to cheer him on.
I get ridiculed by my friends for being a Rays fan.
They’ll say, “Why would you want to follow them?”
“The Yankees or Red Sox are better.”
I’m called a bandwagon fan because of the Rays Recent success.
“You didn’t care about them five years ago.”
“Who are you going to cheer for when Crawford and Longoria leave?”
People can say what they want about us.
They can make fun of Tropicana Field.
They can talk about how nobody goes to the games.
They can make jokes about how the ownership doesn’t shell out enough money for players.
I don’t care about all this.
I’ll be a Rays fan for life.
I’ll love all future visits I have to Tropicana field.
I’ll love watching Andrew Friedman’s creativity as he works with limited resources to keep the Rays one of the best teams in Baseball.
I’ll love watching our young guys, Jeremy Hellickson and Desmond Jennings, blossom into Stars.
I’ll love that day when we finally climb to the mountain top and win the World Series.
One day, when I have kids, I’ll take them to Rays games.
And they’ll become fans the same way I did.
They’ll have their own experiences and stories to tell.
I’m sure you have your own reasons for being a Rays fan.
You’ve had some experiences that are the same as mine and others that are completely different.
There isn’t one singular path for why everyone likes a team.
There isn’t a particular reason for fandom.
It’s not a choice you make. It’s not something you were born with.
To be a fan of something is to experience and live something. To be a part of it.
And I’m glad I’m a part of the Tampa Bay Rays.