As writers here at DRaysBay, we all have different levels of attachment to the Tampa Bay Rays. Some of us still live in relatively close proximity, some of us grew up in the bay area but have since moved on and now admire from afar, and some of us are recent converts, drawn to the team due to some inherent proclivity to root for the underdog.
I myself am part of the second category. I was born in Tampa and raised between Lutz and Town n’ Country. I graduated from Gaither High school where I played baseball and attended college at the University of South Florida. During my 22 years as a Tampa resident, I was as big a (Devil) Rays fan as there was.
It started when my dad took my to Al Lang for the expansion draft in 1997. I was a little too young to understand exactly what was going on at the time, but judging how excited my father was at the time, I knew it was a big deal. We no longer had to drive 4 hours south to consume Major League Baseball. For that reason alone, I was hooked.
I’ve attended mote games than I can count, but one game that stuck out to me as particularly memorable was the game that Gerald ‘Ice’ Williams charged Pedro Martinez after getting hit on the hand by a fastball (Martinez then went on to take a no hitter into the ninth only to lose it on a bloop single by John Flaherty).
My favorite game, though, had to be game 1 of the 2008 ALDS. Watching Evan Longoria smash two homers in his first two playoff at bats, and this exchange between Grant Balfour and Orlando Cabrera:
Of all the baseball games I have seen live, Rays or not, I point to this moment as the most intense, emotional and dramatic one that I can remember.
Whatever the case may be for us as individuals, we have all experienced Rays baseball in one way or another. And while many of us remain at home wondering how to fill our days without baseball, I decided to ask my colleagues about their favorite Rays moments, more specifically, the ones they experienced in the flesh.
Here’s what they had to say.
Mister Lizzie: Do you remember that exciting game in 2008 when the Rays clinched a playoff spot against the Twins? How Tropicana Field was electric as Evan Longoria snagged that last pop-up out?
Well I wasn’t there for that one. I was there the following day. The Rays lost 4-1. Nothing terrible happened, but everyone — players, fans, beer hawkers — seemed to be hung over and half-asleep. Lesson: don’t go to a game the day AFTER something great happens.
But then I also went to game four of the 2019 ALDS, and saw this, so I think the baseball gods have evened things out:
Adam Sanford: I was at a game in 2002 where the Devil Rays actually won. My defining memories of that game is a Reed Johnson home run and seeing the left field run into my favorite player, Randy Winn, at the wall. The left fielder I later learned was Carl Crawford.
Another game I went to was in 2004 in June, one of the few times in team history in which the team played solidly over an extended period of time. On June 11th, 2004 the Colorado Rockies were at the Trop and early on in the game, I heard one of the loudest crowd reactions I have ever heard in my life.
Vinny Castilla came up and the Trop was filled with 9,000 people all booing him, it was incredible how loud it was.
Anyway, it was a fun back and forth game that the Rays blew a couple of leads and came back multiple times during the contest. Eventually, it went into extra innings and Rey Sanchez, he of a prolonged homerless streak, sliced a ball into right field that made its way under the fielder’s glove and went into the corner. Sanchez booked it around the bases and came all the around to score giving the Rays an inside-the-park walkoff home run.
Danny Russell: I am lucky enough to have borne witness to two of the strangest moments in the Rays 20-year history, which included James Shields’s only relief appearance in his career — an 11-inning nightmare known as Vuvuzela Night in Miami, FL.
In the fairly empty football stadium that housed the then Florida Marlins, the BZZZZ of the Vuvuzela was relentless and deafening, and at one point caused the Marlins to bat out of order, resulting in the manager’s ejection as he argued his cause.
This game had everything, with the game tied at five-runs after eight innings, the Rays returned with four more runs in the eleventh before surrendering three runs as Lance Cormier fell apart and Andy Sonnanstine struggled his way to the “save.” Before that, Rafael Soriano pitched two clean innings with three strikeouts for a “blown save” and James Shields was awarded the “win” for his scoreless tenth inning performance.
All in all, the game (a Father’s Day treat for my dad) was a terrible experience, but I’ll never forget it! And if you don’t believe me, please try this 11-second clip from YouTube capturing the magic of that game, and try to tell me it doesn’t sound like millions of geese crying out in terror.
John Ford: I guess the easy answer is, I was there for the day clinched in 2008 against the Twins. It was so loud! I couldn’t hear right for days afterwards!
But if you want unusual, I was also there in 2016 against the A’s for the ultra-rare two-hit complete game shutout twirled by noted Rays ace ... Matt Andriese.
Yes, that Matt Andriese. And he gave up just two singles and plunked a guy while striking out five on his way to finishing this James Shieldian masterpiece. The performance spawned an entire season and a half in which I would only refer to him as “Matty-Ace.”
Jim Turvey: As both a recent convert to Rays fandom, as well as a Northeasterner, my most memorable in-person Rays experience is a rather strange one. I was in attendance for the 2013 ALDS Game 2 in Boston.
I was rooting for the Rays, but only out of a hatred for the Red Sox and a beautifully contrarian personality.
Although, ala some of the parents in Step Brothers, I have to admit.... I did join in on some of the “Myyyyyyyyuhhhhhhhs” chants. Will you all still accept me?!
JT Morgan: I’ve attended many dozens of Rays games over the years, but one thing is certain. Nothing memorable will happen. If I have to choose one it would be the last game I attended, Game 3 of the American League Division Series. The good guys put on an offensive show hitting three homers off Zack Greinke (Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Lowe, and Ji-Man Choi). The Rays cruised to an easy 10-3 victory to force game four. The crowd was electric and I will never forget the Ji-Man Choi chants.
Jared Ward: I dont even have the best game attended in my family. That honor goes to my mother who went to the 2013 ALDS Game 3 at Tropicana Field where Jose Lobaton hit a walk off home run against a then dominant Koji Uehara.
The best game I went to was the return of David Price to Tropicana Field after he was traded to the Detroit Tigers that same season.
Darby Robinson: I was in the press box in Seattle last year as they looked to complete the sweep, fully erasing the awful memories of years and years where heading into then called SafeCo Field was a horror show for our Rays. This was a nice Sunday day game, and on the mound for Tampa Bay was a former Mariner Ryan Yarbrough. Coming into the game, Yarby was absolutely dealing.
Can anyone good with cybermatrix, please confirm if that is good? https://t.co/eMwbPLKLBS— Darby Robinson (@darby_robinson) August 11, 2019
It became very apparent to everybody in attendance that Yarbrough was very much on his game, and the Seattle Mariners lineup were unable to handle the dancing and painting that was going on from the southpaw. As a fan, it was a delight to see Yarby just carve through the lineup. As a writer on duty covering the game, it was even more fun because the game was moving very fast and this was an alley-oop of an easy easy narrative.
Around the 7th inning, with the score still just 1-0, Yarby mowed right through the 4-5-6 batters for the Mariners , that’s when the mental math began. Yarbrough was 6 outs to go for the first Rays complete game since Matt Andriese of all people did it in 2016. When the 9th inning began though, my mental math suddenly shifted to a grim reality.
The Rays held just a 1 run lead. Yarbrough’s pitch count was looking good, and seemed in total control. In the aforementioned 7th inning, he did give up a rather hard and deep fly ball to right-center from the right handed hitting Austin Nola, but since then, he was giving up nothing and making the Mariners look silly. As the 9th inning began and Yarby went out to toe the rubber, the first two hitters seemed tailor made for him: lefties Mallex Smith and JP Crawford, neither posing much of a power threat. But it was the guy in the hole that posed dread for the decision Kevin Cash was set to make. Slated to bat 3rd in the inning was the best right handed power threat that was in the lineup for the Mariners, Domingo Santana. Santana earlier in the day had reached on Catchers interference, and made two of the only hard hit balls Yarby had surrendered all day.
Kevin Cash has no fear of making the extremely tough call that will get him some ire. What would soon come as a shock to all the Mariners fans in attendance and complete shock to the Mariners beat writers in the press box: Kevin Cash was not going to let Ryan Yarbrough have a chance to get the final out of the game against Santana. After Yarby got Mallex and Crawford to make two quick outs, Cash bound from the dugout and made the signal to get another former Seattle Mariner: closer Emilio Pagan. Pagan would throw two pitches and get a groundout to finish off the game, but the story of the day, what I still remember to this day is the near complete game shutout dominance of Ryan Yarbrough’s 8 2⁄3 inning game.
Dominik Vega: Remember when the Rays scheduled a doubleheader in 2017? There was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to see two games in one day, especially on a Saturday. The first game was a “fauxback” game and the Rays were wearing their bright yellow and light blue uniforms to start off the day. Sonny Gray started this game for the A’s and struck out 10 while Erasmo Ramirez took the mound for the Rays and fanned six. The Rays almost had the victory secured but Alex Colomé could not get the save, sending game one into extra innings. Extras didn’t last long, though, as Evan Longoria stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 10th with Peter Bourjos on base and hit a walk-off single to give the Rays the first win of the doubleheader.
The Rays were not as fortunate in game two, dropping the second game 7-2. Jose Alvarado and Danny Farquhar pitched not only in game one but also the second game, while Evan Longoria served as the DH and hit a solo home run in the second game. The doubleheader was a really fun and unique experience and something that I would love to see scheduled again in the future.
Are there any memorable Rays moments you were in attendance for?