ST PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 04: A fan holds up a sign as the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Texas Rangers in Game Four of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field on October 4, 2011 in St Petersburg, Florida. The game began at 2 p.m. EST. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
One of the things that has spurned out of this entire kerfuffle surrounding attendance this week is the lack of stories from actual fans and why they do and do not come to games. Later today, we will have an online survey for people to complete as we try to qualify what is going on within the fan base, but we also plan to do show the human side of this issue by talking to fans from all over the area about what process they go through on game day as they decide to go or not go to a game.
As I solicited input from fans on Twitter yesterday, one story was emailed to me that I felt could not wait for the larger story. This story comes from us from Mr. Walker who does not go to Rays games and only watches them on television. After all, his one-way drive to Tropicana Field involves 4,623 miles as he lives in Amsterdam. Here is his story.
I am a huge Rays fan, I had season tickets in their inaugural season and even won a trip with the Rays that year for the expansion draft in Arizona. The first 10 years were tough, but the last 4 have been worth the wait. One of the best moments I have ever witnessed in baseball was on that last day this year when they beat the Yanks on Longo’s homer and won the Wild Card. Typical to most so far, but my story is different.
I live in Amsterdam, Netherlands…I watch the games via Slingbox (which is hooked up to my parent’s TV in St. Pete) at all hours of the night as Amsterdam is 6 hours ahead of Florida. Last week I went to Turkey for a 7 day vacation. Part of me was thrilled to get away but a BIG part of me was dying because I was not sure how I would watch the thrilling season come to end. Would I have internet on my trip through Turkey? Would it be strong enough to stream the games? Would the Rays pull this amazing comeback off?
The night of the last game I set my alarm so I could wake up at like 3AM to watch the game. I overslept and when I checked my phone, they were down 7-0!!! I was upset. I fell back asleep and woke again at 5-something in the morning and checked my phone again…7-7!!!! I leapt out of bed, grabbed my laptop and ran down to the lobby where they had WiFi…weak WiFi. I then watched the game via Slingbox in the lobby of a Turkish hotel, with hotel staff staring at the weird American watching a weird game on his laptop at this early hour.
When Longo came to the plate, I literally said out loud, "Evan, this is your time, your big moment of your career, you can do this…and BAM, he hit that line drive homer over the left field wall. It sounds silly to some, but I just started crying, I love the Rays, I love baseball and this moment was something that made all of the time I have spent loving the game worthwhile. I started jumping up and down, screaming and celebrating by myself with terrified hotel staff wondering what the heck was going on. I ran up to the room, woke up my sleeping girlfriend and hugged her while jumping up and down with tears rolling down my face.
It was a great moment…I will always remember where I was and how the Rays made me feel like a little kid again that night. I wonder how emotional I would have been had I seen the homer Dan Johnson hit a little while earlier to force the game into extra innings…I am not sure I would have been able to handle all that drama so far away.