Lightening and thunder in rapid succession. Rain that lashed at the body if you were unfortunate enough to be outside. Howling winds. Waves lapping at the shore.
And I was in Tampa, not to help rewrite the Republican national platform, but for something much more consequential: to catch a baseball game.
In most cities it would have been a wasted opportunity. But the Tampa Bay Rays play in St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field, one of the few remaining domes still hosting major league baseball on a daily basis. And for this night, I was glad to have a roof over my head when Ray’s ace David Price threw that first pitch right on schedule.
Tampa Bay was #14 on my journey to visit all 30 major league ballparks. It promised to be a special night. The Rays were on a hot streak, winning five games to close the gap with the first-place Yankees to four games. Their ace – and Murfreesboro, Tennessee native – David Price was on the mound throwing serious heat and going for a MLB-leading 17th win. The hapless Kansas City Royals were the opponent and although they had the first pick in the 2006 draft (Luke Hochevar) to go against the first pick in the 2007 draft (Price), it still looked like a mismatch.
But he was matched – or perhaps bettered – by Hochevar. Throwing a steady diet of 77 mph curveballs that had the Rays flailing all night, he also threw 8 scoreless innings and gave up only one hustle double that did no harm. Rays star Evan Longoria looked so helpless that on a grounder to short, he trotted down to first, eliciting a few “run it out” calls from fans (including yours truly). Yes, he is recovering from a partially torn hamstring, but I would rather not see players on the field if they can’t go all out.
The game flew by (for an American League game) and shortly past the two-hour mark the game headed into extra innings. The 100 mph heat from the Royals’ Kevin Herrera looked – no doubt – much more formidable following Hochevar’s junk than the 100 mph pitches from Fernando Rodney, who was only besting Price by 2-3 mph on his best stuff. A Rays error in the top of the tenth allowed the Royals to score the winning run, and it was all over.
It was your classic pitchers duel, and ESPN told just how impressive a feat it was for both pitchers:
Tuesday, there was a pitcher’s duel between David Price of the Rays and Luke Hochevar of the Royals. Price allowed no runs and three hits, with 8 strikeouts in 8 innings Hochevar allowed no runs and one hit with 10 strikeouts in eight innings. This is the 2nd game in the Live Ball Era (since 1920) in which each starting pitcher went at least 8 innings, allowed no runs, 3 hits or fewer, and struck out at least 8. The other came in The Year of the Pitcher– August 26, 1968 between the Twins and Senators. The pitchers that day were Jim Perry for the Twins (who won 215 MLB games over his career) and Frank Bertaina (who finished with 19 career wins) for the Senators
The disappointment of the evening – besides the general dated feeling of Tropicana Field (hey, the 70s ended a long time ago) – was with the crowd. With two aces on the mound and the Rays hot on the heels of the Yankees in a pennant race, the stadium looked and felt two-thirds empty. The morning stat sheets tells me the announced attendance was 10,877 – or 30.2% of capacity. There wasn’t a lot of energy in the stadium, and it sure didn’t feel like other parks I’ve been in (Boston, Philly, Washington) where the homestanding team is right in the thick of the race. Hell, I was wearing my customary Washington Nationals cap (in honor of Stephen Strasburg’s big win over Atlanta last evening – Go Nats!) and Andrew and I were actually shown on the big screen TV – totally destroying his thesis that you had to wear Rays gear to make the show.
But baseball is still baseball, no matter the crowd, and we had a great time knocking off stadium #14 on my bucket list. Here’s what remains, and a final photo of David Price from Tropicana Field.
- Arizona Diamondbacks – Chase Field
- Cincinnati Reds – Great American Ball Park
- Chicago White Sox – US Cellular Field
- Cleveland Indians – Jacobs Field
- Detroit Tigers – Comerica Park
- Houston Astros- Minute Maid Park
- Los Angeles Angels – Angel Stadium
- Los Angeles Dodgers – Dodger Stadium
- Miami Marlins – Marlins Park
- Minnesota Twins – Target Field
- New York Mets – Citi Field
- New York Yankees – Yankee Stadium (I know – how can I not have made it to Yankee stadium yet?! Just goes to show I’ve never been a big Yankees fan)
- Pittsburgh Pirates – PNC Park
- San Diego Padres – Petco Par
- Texas Rangers – Texas Stadium
- Toronto Blue Jays – Rogers Centre
More to come…