The first issue here is why this team is called the Tampa Bay Rays. The ballpark, Tropicana Field, aka “The Trop,” is located in St. Petersburg, which is not Tampa. Yes, the nearby water is Tampa Bay, but still, seems like St. Pete got the short end of the stick.
But on closer inspection, maybe not. The Trop is the only non-retractable dome in the Bigs and, with the exception of the old Seattle Kingdome, is the worst big league ballpark in creation. As you can see from this panorama, there isn’t a hint of the outdoors once you enter. It feels like a convention hall. Maybe St. Pete is smart to keep its name out of it.
Take another look, especially at the white roof. Following a fly ball with that background and the lights requires special powers, which apparently not all the Rays have, as evidenced by the high pop fly hit by a Toronto batter in the ninth that had everyone on the Rays from the third baseman to the right fielder calling for it. It dropped in front of the third baseman for a double (credit the hustling Blue Jay). OK, not really a double – scored as an error – and, to be fair, maybe the Rays could see the ball, but it hit part of the roof structure and ricocheted. Where else does that happen?!
The Jumbotron, such as it is, is partially obstructed by structural features. The separate display of batter stats is behind a walkway, so you have to guess at some of the numbers depending on how many fans are headed to the restrooms.
And another thing. Never have I seen the grounds crew dragging the infield “grass” as they did here. I guess it is important to get that artificial turf headed the right direction before the game starts. Only the Trop and Rogers Centre in Toronto still have artificial turf, so these two teams were on equal footing (get it?).
Now to the game. Blue Jays lead off man, Curtis Granderson, one of my favorite players, got them off to a good start with a double to center. Two sac flies later and he’d scored the first run. When the Rays changed pitchers to start the third, lefty Granderson was replaced by a righty to face the new left-handed pitcher.
Three former Mariners played in the game, two for the Jays: journeyman first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales and pitcher J. A. Happ. Happ didn’t have his good stuff (just like in Seattle) and took the loss with a ball/strike ratio close to 50/50. Morales made an error on what should have been a double play to allow a run.
The Rays ex-M’s fortunes were better, with Chris Miller belting a two run homer in the 8th to put the game away at 6-2.
I’ve been puzzling for a while over the custom, after a strikeout, of the catcher throwing the ball “around the horn” before getting it back to the pitcher. Most often, it goes from catcher to third to short to second and back to third, who throws it to the pitcher. Occasionally the catcher will go the other way to first, second, short and third. It is always the third baseman to delivers it back to the pitcher. Some say this got started as a way for players to demonstrate their ball handling skills. It just seems to be a strange artifact in today’s game.
And then there was food. The Trop features the usual variety at the usual big league prices. There was one variation – a stand that featured Indian style script and one dish called “chicken tikka,” which I took to be the Indian staple, though I didn’t try it. I also didn’t see any obviously Indian fans. I should have had the tikka, because the mac and cheese I did have was terrible. All (old) mac and very little cheese. Saved only by some hot sauce and dill relish from the condiment table.