Honestly, walking from the sticky humidity of a toasty Florida day into air conditioning may be the single most gratifying feeling in life (right ahead of a solid lap dance). Walking into air conditioning and discovering a baseball stadium though is kind of weird. It feels unnatural. Even in attending the fourth Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays game of my life tonight (7/28), baseball indoors still doesn't feel right.
I don't think the air conditioning is all that weird, actually, it would be unbearable to sit through a game in the dog days of August without it. The strangest part of experiencing a game at Tropicana Field is the feeling I get of being in an unfinished basement. It is cold. There is concrete everywhere. Sometimes there is random carpeting on the ground. There are creepy old drunk dudes... wait, you don't have that in your basement? Oh, whoops.
Then there is the entire atmosphere of a game at the Trop. A game there is unlike anything else I have ever experienced. The fans are not knowledgeable about baseball the way St. Louis fans are (people didn't know to cheer during pivotal moments unless the beat of a Queen song was bumping). The fans aren't hilariously drunk and don't know every player on their team inside in and out like those in Chicago. And actually, everything has changed since the first time I went to a Tampa Bay game back in 2004, when the crowd was filled with bored families and old timers who were dropped off by their retirement homes. It felt like the highly touted Bingo game at the county fair.
In fact, the atmosphere at a Rays game today most closely compares to a hockey game. The fans are screaming like it is the only form of communication they know. Tons of people have wigs and facial paint. Even more are pounding on cowbells all game long.
In addition to the change overall feeling, the crowd has completely changed. I can know safely categorize every Rays fan at Tropicana into one of these three categories:
1. One of those original old people. Most of them are cute little grandmas banging on cowbells attached to there walkers who forget every six minutes why they are there exactly.
2. Families. But instead of them being bored the way they were four years ago, they actually care about the team and its super awesome bandwagon.
3. Characters straight out of a Carl Hiaasen book.
Of course, having the Yankees in town added a different flavor to the game since all of the retired folks from Florida came in to see their beloved "Best Team Money Can Buy." Taking all of this in, I sat down in my brand new "BEAT NEW YORK" shirt in front of George Costanza's parents and had these observations throughout the game:
- Tonight was the first time every seeing the Yankees in person. Even though I hate them and what they stand for, there is still an aura about them. Seeing them in their classic uniforms during warm ups, all I could think was, "Wow, it's the Yankees." I guess all of that gloating and fellating classic baseball writers have done over time about this feeling is true. There is simply something about them that exudes greatness and makes you stop for a second. The most similar feeling I could think of was seeing a Bentley or Ferrari drive past. You just can't up help but feel impressed to some degree.
- CC Sabathia is fucking huge. And he wears his clothes so fucking baggy. You could probably make an eight-man tent out of them. I have never seen anyone that tall and fat in my entire life.
- This was not the first time seeing A-Rod. I went to a Mariners/White Sox game back in 1999 when Seattle had that team that no one under the age of 15 could hate. Griffey. The Big Unit. A-Rod when he was cool and fun to watch. Jay Buhner. Edgar Martinez. They were sweet. In fact, I used to enjoy A-Rod so much back in the day that I named my dog after him. That was how much I enjoyed watching him and Junior play. Seeing him again and feeling so much different about him was strange. I felt grown up. Also, I determined he might be the most hated man in the history of baseball. Everyone makes fun of him. The entire stadium was filled with jeers to extent I have never heard whenever he came up to bat. The PA system played Madonna. Then, he made a throwing error and the entire crowd was giving them every one-liner they could. It seems that unfortunately A-Rod is bearing the entire brunt of all the anger baseball fans feel over the steroid era. I know this isn't something you thought you would hear on this website, but I feel sorry for him. I really do.
- How do I not have a huge man crush on Ben Zobrist yet? He is from the 309, has a higher slugging percentage than Longoria, and bats clean up for the potent Rays offense. He's such a bad ass. I guess my new man crush is now official.
- You cannot truly appreciate how fast Carl Crawford is until you see him play. He hit a triple tonight in which he literally walked to first because he thought it would be caught. Then, all of sudden he appeared on third. Unreal. Also, he has the most hood walk up music in the history of baseball.
- Rays games are really fun. I feel like the Veecks run them or something. They know how to entertain.
- My free Jason Bartlett t-shirt is super badass.
- Yankees fans act exactly the way you would expect them. I really don't need to write anymore because I'm sure you know what I mean. Every stereotype is true.
On Friday, I will be attending the Rays/Royals game. There is a Flo Rida concert after the game. Awesome.