April 2, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; The Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays line up on during the national anthem during opening day at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Rays Fans Define Disinterest

The Tampa Bay Rays have a problem.

It’s one that goes far beyond the fact that they are 7.5 games behind the Red Sox for the AL East lead entering a crucial three game series.  A series that is so important to the Rays, THE WILD CARD LEADER, that their fans can’t even fathom to show up to support them at Tropicana Field.

April 2, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon (70) and teammates line up on the first base line during the national anthem during opening day against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As I turned on the TV tonight to watch game one and NESN was introducing Rays star lefty David Price, the camera pulled out to show a stadium that is three quarters empty, including the lower bowl.

It’s an absolute disgrace that this Rays team, which has been competitive every year since 2008, is not well supported by their fan base in the heat of a pennant race.

They are 44-26 at home, just came off a tough 3-7 road trip to the west coast and now the face the Red Sox, where they still have a chance to get back in the division race. These games don’t get any bigger.

The team is filled with young talent such as Price, Evan Longoria, Wil Myers, Chris Archer and Ben Zobrist, yet the fans stay home.  If I were a Rays player I’d be outraged.

What more must this team do to get fans to come out?  Apparently they have to actually make the playoffs because the last time I noticed the Trop was near full was during the 2008 ALCS won by the Rays in seven games over the Red Sox.  I’m sure you all remember that series for how annoying the Rays fans were with their stupid cow bells.

But at least they showed up.

I know Tropicana Field doesn’t exactly scream baseball and tradition.  Its ground rules are a train wreck and a decided disadvantage for any visiting team.

It also looks like a mausoleum on television.  But so did the old Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the former home of the Minnesota Twins.

It didn’t stop Minnesotans from packing the place every night rooting on the Twins, especially during their World Series runs in 1987 and 1991.  The fan support there gave the Twins a decided home field advantage and was a big reason for those two championships.

There is talk from time to time that baseball cannot make it in Florida and that fan interest just isn’t there.  Whenever the word contraction is brought up Tampa Bay, along with Miami and Oakland are often mentioned as possibilities.

I don’t know about those other cities, but if Tampa Bay loses the Rays to contraction it will be for one reason and one reason only- lack of support.  If a team is well run, has a good manager, is perennially good and no one shows up the city should lose its team.

Reporter John Tomase of the Boston Herald was complaining about the passion level of Red Sox fans a few weeks ago and I strongly disagreed with him.  He should have thought about Tampa and its fans so he could see firsthand genuine disinterest.

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Tags: Fan Support Tampa Bay Rays

  • stephenepeterson

    Rays dead last in the majors in average attendance at 18,719 per game filling up just 54.9% of the park. Pathetic.

    • Michael Macaulay-Birks

      I live in Orlando and go over for most of the Sox games, and other games of interest….Rays fans are the worst in the league and are actually offended when 15,000 Sox fans fill their crap stadium (the place feels like the inside of a microwave)….much respect for JM and the Rays, but their fans suck…a winning team deserves better

  • Rick M.

    The worse field in baseball. Been there once and that was it. Seems the entire area is transplants and they could care less about the Rays. A new stadium would be a waste of dollars.

    Team value? TB is dead last according to Forbes.

    • Michael Macaulay-Birks

      If they moved the stadium to the east side of Tampa, they’d draw considerably more “fans”…that would make it a short drive for we Orlando folk (2.2 million residents in the metro area)…the average age of St. Pete residents is 59.9 years old, Tampa is closer to 42 years old

      • Rick M.

        That age grouping. Know what I call them? Youngsters! LOL!

        Do you think that Orlando would be a better fix for a park?

        • Michael Macaulay-Birks

          they talked about that in 1999 when Disney built the Braves spring facility, in fact that park is expandable to 38,000 to accommodate a larger crowd. I think they ultimately decided an outdoor location was a bad idea due to the daily thunderstorms that routinely last well past 7pm

          • Rick M.

            Little baseball trivia. In the movie “Major League” they show a model of a stadium. The model they used was “The Trop.”

          • Michael Macaulay-Birks

            I did not know that, lol….funny thing is it was a soccer/concert venue back then

  • Andrew

    Hey Paul, You know absoultely nothing about the situation down here in Tampa. You also clearly have not done any research since you think the last time it sold out was in 2008 during the ALCS. Your journalism is a joke and I am disgusted that I came across this. Do yourself a favor and check out how the overall market of Tampa has been during the 1990′s and during the 2000′s. Once the economy picks itself up, Tampa will again become a sustainable market. It is a shame that a great ballclub must deal with an empty stadium and such idiotic criticism.

    It is even laughable to compare the Minnesota Twins to the Tampa Bay organization that has existed for 15 years.

    Tampa struggled to build its own brand in a town full of rival fans. I can go on and on about the business moves that have been made and the difference that has been made. The biggest issue now is the Trop & it’s location. If you had any sort of brain you would actually do your homework rather than putting out trash. You have no future as a sports writer because there is no solidified content in here just a bunch of opinions.

    I’m sick of typing this but I would love to destroy you in an one-on-one open argument.

    One last thing, if you really think there is a lack of support, then why are the Rays top three in TV ratings for all of the MLB markets.

    • Michael Macaulay-Birks

      name 1 game that has sold out since the 2008 ALCS (which I was there for, and there were a ton of upper deck seats empty)

      • Rick M.

        You beat me to market share. Numbers are derived from potential viewers.

        I am no fan of Fenway….that is another story. But Tropicana Field? What were they thinking?

        They call that type of fan base the “Houdini base” since it disappears (that is actually an term used by some ad agencies). The team is a good product. They have great management top to bottom. Friedman has done a great job. They play in Boston you see very few TB fans.

        • Michael Macaulay-Birks

          it was built for the Tampa Bay Rowdies (soccer)

          • Andrew
          • Michael Macaulay-Birks

            I don’t need to Andrew, I was there….there were swaths of open seats….it’s called “ticket brokers”, like stub hub etc….the same reason Boston’s “sellout streak” was BS also

          • Andrew

            Mike… I was there too and the Stadium was packed. Do you even know who they were playing? If you go to ESPN.com you can check who they played and the attendance, which they base off the number of tickets that were scanned in.

          • Andrew

            Also Michael, You are right about the TV ratings but you also point to the fact that even though it is a smaller market, the people of tampa are stil INTERESTED. you missed my point entirely. A blog is a form of journalism and his blog is absolute garbage. Your opinions of Rays fans are absolute garbage. The Rays have the worst stadium to ever grace any MLB ball club and you blame the fans for not wanting to spend 2 hours there. You should keep your opinion to yourself before you make yourself look like a fool.

            I don’t care to which games you have been to. I have been to as many games as I possibly can but at the same time I need to focus on other things in life. If the Rays had a stadium with a better location that was actually halfway decent, it would be 50x more appealing to go to.

          • Michael Macaulay-Birks

            If I lived closer, I’d have a ticket package…good baseball is good baseball in a crappy stadium, Fenway Park or the sandlot down the street….but I’ll give you this, if they built a new place by the fairgrounds I’d go to 50 instead of 25, and so would the ton of rays fans I live among

          • Andrew

            Thank you for proving one of my points. Also how do you feel about the economy in Tampa and how it has affected not only the Rays, not only the Bucs, not only the housing market….must I go on? Unfortunately for the Rays, Bucs, Lightning and a lot of businesses right now in Tampa.people are more concerned about saving a buck rather than enjoying a ballgame at a stadium that is an hour and a half drive both way, when they can watch the game on their couch.

    • Paul Prims

      Andrew- this is a blog not an investigative news site. I am asked to put up opinions. I would be happy to do any research needed if this was an investigative piece. But it isn’t. It’s an opinion and I’m not the only one that has it. I am not an economist either. I’m quite sure all the factual market information you reference bears itself out. But the bottom line is there is nobody in the stands for PLAYOFF picture influenced games. Why is that exactly? If it’s the economy so be it but when the visiting Red Sox fans are louder than the home fans there is an issue with fan interest. The answer to the last question seems to be that they are top 3 because everyone is staying away from the stadium. Eventually the fans are going to have to show up in person or Friedman and Co. will be looking for a new home.

    • Rick M.

      Andrew….I admire your passion and support for your team. Fans tend to be critical of their team but, likewise, defend their turf when some one from the outside looks in. As Paul has already explained it is an opinion piece. I cannot really be critical of what he stated. I have seen it and heard it many times on a national level by respected journalist and commentators.

      The ones who suffer in situations like this are the true, passionate fans of the team. Eventually the Rays will probably move on leaving a void. I have been there before.

      The Andrews of the fan base – loyal, supportive, active – they are the ones that the other more casual or disinterested leave behind.

      I have no idea how to remedy the situation. Personally, I doubt a new ballpark will have a significant impact. But I do know the Rays make a profit. They are solid financially. Their farm system is among the best. The management team is exceptional.