When watching Tampa Bay Rays games on TV, your first thought is always: Tropicana Field is hideous. You’re not wrong, but you’re not right. The stadium, because of the roof and catwalk, is declared to be in a battle with Oakland’s O.co Coliseum for the distinction of the “worst stadium in the MLB”. I had the pleasure of seeing the Jays play the Rays at the Trop a couple of weeks ago, and I thought I’d share my thoughts on the stadium with you. Unfortunately for all the Jays fans that got to see the games in St. Petersburg, which their were a lot of because the Jays Spring Training home is only a half hour away in Dunedin, the Blue Jays got treated like any team made up of AAA players would. They lost all 3 games, and were outscored 14-4, which isn’t so surprising given the injuries they have had and how well the Rays have been playing. Now for that review:
The one good think about Tropicana Field, other than that baseball is being played there, is that it gives off a baseball feel. Coming from Toronto, where the Blue Jays play their home games at the Rogers Centre, formerly known as the Skydome, that isn’t something I am accustomed to. When you walk into the Skydome, you see a baseball diamond inside of a Concrete Building. But in St. Pete, you walk into the Trop, and feel like there is a building surrounding the diamond. That is a very key element in your experience at any domed stadium; you should feel like you are watching a game in a park, not inside some gigantic building. Tropicana Field definitely has its lows but unlike the Rogers Centre, you feel like you’re at a baseball game.
Earlier this season, on May 21st, when the Blue Jays were playing in Tampa, Colby Rasmus looked like a complete fool in center field. Rays CF B.J Upton hit a towering shot to Rasmus in center, but the ball was not hit far. Rasmus settled under it, and all of a sudden the ball landed 20 feet in front of him. The ball hit the infamous catwalk and was thus ruled a home run.
Nothing of this sort happened this time around when I was there, but the catwalks still do damage to the stadium’s reputation. You walk into the stands and can’t help to think about them. They are so low down from the roof itself that the odds of it possibly interfering with play are very good. In my opinion, and chances are you all agree with me, something clearly needs to be done with he catwalks. There are two options. The first idea would be to redesign the current roof so the catwalks can be father away from the diamond itself. This is probably the cheapest option and can likely be done very easily. The second option would be too take off the current roof and add a new one, whether it is retractable or not. The new roof would then need to be like other stadiums across the county in which the catwalks are close to the ceiling, and do not interfere with the game at any time. A retractable roof would be ideal because it would allow for some open air games, but like in Miami, it would barely be open because of the weather in Florida during the summer months, so a permanent roof like the one on right now could also work.
"“For all the abuse Naimoli heaped on local businesses, government, and the media, Devil rays fans remained mostly unaffected-until the team implemented Draconian policies at the Trop”"
That was an excerpt from Jonah Keri’s “The Extra 2%”. The book was the story of how Andrew Friedman and company turned the Rays from into a playoff contender from a cellar dweller by having that “extra 2%”. You may have noticed that it was speaking about how not fan friendly the Trop was back before Friedman and Owner Stuart Sternberg took over. Well I have some news for you: it still is. Here are three stories from my time at the Trop.
- Before the second game of the series I went to batting practice to see if I can get some baseballs. Apparently, at the Trop, you’re not allowed to sit/stand in the front row of the outfield seats unless you have a ticket for them. So 1 and half hours before the game starts, when nobody is at the stadium, you have to be in the second row or above. If the reason for this is that they don’t want fans too get a ball or two, nothing is stopping a player to throw one to somebody in the second row. This is just a pointless rule that’s only effect is a bad one, as it is one part that makes the fan experience as bad as it is.
- I was sitting in my seat before the 1st game of the series when Kelly Johnson came out of the dugout to sign autographs for fans. A security guard quickly rushes over to Kelly and tells him that he can’t sign, just as he finishes putting his John Hancock on a ball. Kelly said okay and went to warm up. Unbelievable. If Kelly wants to sign, he can sign. Why can a security guard tell him what he is allowed to do? Ridiculous in my opinion. At least Johnson didn’t ruin any more collectibles with his signature…
- Cheering Etiquette? Yup, that’s a thing in Tampa. Before the game starts a video is played on the main screen telling the fans when they should cheer. Seriously. I’m not joking. What is wrong in Tampa? If the fans want to cheer, they are allowed to cheer; don’t tell them when they can cheer and when not to. If you want to tell them to do the wave at the proper time (which is never in my opinion, but for those who like the wave it is when the home team is batting) then go ahead. But to tell the fans to cheer only when a batter gets on base, when a run scores, or when the scoreboard prompts you too, is offensive in my opinion.
All I’m saying is that there are reason fans don’t show up to Rays games.
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