So many reasons why people say the Trop is empty. It's simple: our residents and visitors to the Trop don't know basic baseball fan etiquette.
I need suggestions and support how to change this. If we can, there is a slight chance the team won't leave Tampa Bay when the economy fully recovers across the US.
Before you roll your eyes, I'm not going to drop the word classy or sportsmanship. I'm talking about die-hard baseball fans. Fans that know the starting lineup of the '89 As; not because they liked the As, but because the As were the dominant team when they played little league baseball. Fans that know Ken Griffey Jr.'s rookie card was an '89 upper deck and Don Mattingly's '84 Topps card is the best of all time. Fans that can explain to any little kid what a hook is outside of the fishing boat and why the Rays' trades last year were healthy and a necessary evil.
We don't have these types of fans at the Trop.
I am a first-year partial season ticket holder, and I love the Rays, and I was contemplating going to a full season package next year to get closer to the action. But after this past Friday, I've totally lost interest; the straw on the camel's back fell two days before the broken glass, and, unfortunately, I do not think there is a catharsis.
For the third time this season, I was forced by ushers to sit down with a full count, two outs. Since our seats on section 135 are on the aisle, and by the concourse entrance, the usher was quick to come over and enforce Trop policy. She calmly stated that we may "only stand in between innings and when everyone else in the section is standing. We want you to be loud, but you need to do it sitting down." We weren't cussing, standing the entire game or even asking others to stand. We were merely doing what you're suppose to do in the early innings of a key game during a full count with 2 outs - STAND UP AND MAKE SOME NOISE!!!
My season ticket rep agreed, and he was very kind and empathized. He promised to bring this up to the fan experience director (or whatever his title is). He reassured me that the Rays want fans like me, and do not want to discourage standing and cheering for support, while keeping it clean for a family atmosphere. His words have given me some hope, but we'll see what happens at the Yankees game tonight. My money is on me getting asked to sit down again.
As I let this stew in me over the weekend, the pride in my hometown team as quickly diminished. I realized that there is little any one person can do. There needs to be a major paradigm shift to create a change.
This isn' t a Rays problem. This is a Tampa Bay problem. This happens all the time at Bucs games and concerts at Ask Gary. Tampa Bay, and the South in general, is full of laid-back, non-demonstrative people. For further proof, look at every other professional sports team in the South - no one sells out. The Braves had decades of good teams and couldn't sell out playoff games. Everyone knows the Marlins history during their Series' runs. The Jags consistently lead the NFL in blackouts. South of the Missouri compromise and east of the Mississippi, people just don't get into stadium-style entertainment. Everywhere else in the country (expect Seattle, San Diego and Phoenix), your sports team is directly attached to your male genitalia, which means it's tied to your overall psyche. Unfortunately, we don't have those fans here, and we never will.
I love the Rays and will continue to support them, but free tickets,Guchi give-aways and the best stadium in the world won't keep this team in Tampa Bay once the economy recovers around the country. You have to change the mindset of generations of hundreds of thousands of people, and I just don't see that happening without a major drive to educate people on what its like to have fun at the ballpark.