Sunday, April 21, 2013

April 21- Tampa Bay Rays



Today was a rather frustrating day. My Oakland Athletics unfortunately bit the dust against the Tampa Bay Rays for the third consecutive game at Tropicana Field; but overall, I was just happy to be there with my girlfriend Angie Kinderman (@sconnieangie) sitting by my side. For the first two games we walked hand-in-hand to the stadium from our hotel which sat about a mile or so away. In the seven months we’ve been together I still enjoy every second that I get just milling about, holding her hand and talking about nothingness that only matters to the two of us. As we got to the stadium we toured around the inside, seeing if there was anything of note to stop and look at. I had been to the Trop for a few games the previous season and knew what to expect; however, Angie hadn’t. I’ve always been a fan of getting to the games as the doors open to watch batting practice, but not for the reasons why most fans go. There’s an undying part of me that loves to analyze a team during times of practice. It helps me get a sense of how the tone and team mentality will affect that day’s game. Due to the fact that it was a road series for the A’s we were able to see them at work, forgetting about all of the little exhibits going on around the stadium. Every few minutes or so I asked Angie if she wanted to go check anything out. She kept saying no and that she was enjoying watching me react and talking to her about everything that was going on. Most people I know don’t really care for my in-depth knowledge of the game, but then again, most people I know aren’t exactly baseball fans. Angie is, and I love her deeply for her passion and willingness to learn more about it; however, being a good partner also means sacrificing one’s needs for another, and I didn’t want to neglect her from getting the full experience of the stadium.

One of the key things that any fan should check out is the Rays Touch Tank which sits in center field. I realize that anyone can go to Sea World or any other aquatic park to see the same thing, but there’s just something cool about actually having a display or show in honor of the mascot. While I agree that it would be kind of odd to have a touch tank for another other mascot in the league (Diamondbacks snake pit for example), just try to keep an open mind with this one because how often does one get to see any variety of sting ray in person? Anyway, Angie and I had been talking about it for the first two games, but she didn’t have a problem waiting until the final game of the series to go check it out. Once again, we got there as soon as the gates opened; however, unlike the first two games there was a massive crowd on account that it was a bobblehead day for Rays starting pitcher David Price’s dog Astro. Weird, I know. As we got in there was all ready a bit of a line forming, but it was only a 20 minute wait so no big deal. As we got to the top of the stairs one of the employees for the Rays served as the host and told everybody about the dos and don’ts about touching and feeding the rays. All vital information as to not have your hand gummed off. The host kept asking me if I ever played baseball, to which I said yes, but never professionally; which is true as I played halfway through high school before my accident. After the tutorial we headed in.

Angie had told me she worked with sting rays before, so most of what she should and shouldn’t do was old news to her. As the rays swam by she lowered he hand in to pet them. It was hands down one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen and captured on film.

I realize this is going to get me a stern talking to from her, but I don’t care. In that moment she reminded me of a little kid, full of wonder. I’m pretty sure she felt the same way about me as I try to pet them, and especially after three came surfacing at one time to seemingly bite my hand off. I don’t flinch often (ask David Price), but that time got me. We snapped the photo of me wearing the Rays hat before we bounced and we headed down to our seats to chill out before game time and talk about baseball. No matter how obscure and trivial our little moments and adventures seem, there’s no one I would rather spend my days doing those things with.

I picked this cap up off of the MLB.com Web site a few weeks ago, along with a slew of the 2012 Stars & Stripes caps. I’ve always been a big fan of themed team caps; however, not a lot of teams seem to do them anymore. This one in particular was one that I saw on a few other Web sites for months last season, but I never could bring myself to picking it up even though the color made it look awesome. My biggest complaint was that I thought it was a custom cap at the time. What I later came to realize is that it was the hat they wore it for one game last season on Earth Day; something I’m not sure how the hell I missed considering that I was in the MLB Fan Cave watching the game the day they were wearing it. Which only goes to prove, with as much as I do know about the history and numbers of baseball, there are still a lot of things I don’t know and/or pay close enough attention to. The date I marked on my cap is for that game as a constant reminder; however, there is another important bit of information that I totally screwed up on and wish I had marked on this cap instead.

4/22/12- The Rays are one of the few teams in MLB who celebrates Earth Day regularly. One of the important things they did was unveil the current version of the Rays Touch Tank, hence why I took the photo of me there. In most of the cases of the photos of me wearing the hat I always try to act out a face or pose or be in a location that has to do with the story and markings of or on the hat, just in case I had never clarified that. Anyway, one of the main purposes for the Touch Tank is to create awareness for the Florida Aquarium which is located in Tampa. I point this out because the Rays actually play in St. Petersburg in case you also didn’t know that. The other thing the Rays did for the promotion was for every bat broken during the game the Rays would plant an oyster ball. Now, I’m not sure what an oyster ball is, and every time I looked it up it kept referring me to Rocky Mountain Oysters (cow testicles). So if someone can help me with this one, it would be much appreciated.

Another important thing that should be known about the touch tank is that it also helps raise money for various charities in the Tampa Bay area. Proceeds from the sale of "ray food" (literally food you can buy to feed the rays) goes to the Florida Aquarium and the team's charitable foundation. Additionally, for every ball hit into the tank during a game by a Rays player, the Rays will donate $5,000 to charity with $2,500 going to the Florida Aquarium and $2,500 going to that player's charity of choice. It should be noted that the Rays, in their now 15-year existence have never knocked one in the tank during a game; however… only one time has it ever actually happened by an opposing player.

I must first note that you should scroll back up to look at the picture of Angie that I posted because it actually plays a huge role in the rest of this story. As some of you may know I love to write, but very few people also know that I love to take photos; the weirder and funnier, the better. At times I can actually take amazing photos if I want to, but in most cases I take them as quickly as possible to post as I have always been taught that the “in the moment” photos are key to being a photo journalist. The photo of Angie was taken quickly and she didn’t have a clue until I posted it on Instagram, which I also connect to my Twitter and Facebook account. I use the same user name as my Twitter handle (shakabrodie) and have quite a few MLB players following me (not bragging, it helps the story letting you know). One of my followers is current Chicago Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson. Jackson and I became chummy when he visited the Fan Cave last season while he was with the Washington Nationals. Once I got an Instagram account (after the Fan Cave) he and I started following each other and occasionally message each other on our photos. The thing about this photo is that he reminded me of this (sorry Edwin!)…

On June 24, 2007 the Los Angeles Dodgers visited Tampa for an interleague series versus the then Devil Rays. With Jackson on the mound for the Devil Rays, Dodgers outfielder Luis Gonzalez tagged the one and only game-time home run into the Touch Tank in the first inning with Rafael Furcal on base and two outs. Here’s a video with a very “X-Files”-esque soundtrack for some strange reason: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8-Q0BQrCwU
With that, I probably should have marked my cap up with that date; however, I felt that was more of a Dodgers accomplishment so I nixed it. I still wanted to tell you the story though because it’s one of those weird moments that seems like it occurred more often than it turns out. I also want to apologize to Edwin again based on what my response was to his.

Oh, and because I didn't mention it above, the Rays beat the Minnesota Twins 6-2 on 4/22/12.

UPDATE

For those of you who may have missed it (myself included), Detroit Tigers third baseman, and reigning American League MVP, Miguel Cabrera socked his 25th home run of the 2013 season off of Jeremy Hellickon at The Trop on 6/30/13. Where did it land? In the Rays Touch Tank. Cabrera became only the second player in MLB history to achieve the feat during a game. Here's the video in case you missed it: Splash!!! The other thing that I need to point out is that Angie, not me, was the first person to point this out. Not really sure how I missed hearing about it; nonetheless, I don't know what I'd do without this wonderful, baseball-loving woman by my side.

UPDATE #2

I can't believe this happened while I was watching it, as opposed to catching a clip of it on YouTube or ESPN, but Rays catcher Jose Lobaton just became: the first Rays player, third person ever, only person to do it in the postseason and the only person to knock a walk-off shot into the Rays tank on 10/7/13 off of Koji Uehara of the Boston Red Sox. Uehara, you know, the guy who had only given up nine earned runs in 75 appearances prior to that moment. Splash!!! Crazy!!!

UPDATE #3

5/27/15: Today I was stuck at work, and unfortunately I missed out on Nelson Cruz becoming the fourth player in MLB history to knock a baseball into the Touch Tank. In typical Cruz fashion, dude pal came up clutch when his team needed a dinger the most. In the top of the ninth inning Rays' reliever Brad Boxberger came in after starter Chris Archer pitched eight innings of spectacular baseball. Boxberger punched out the first two batters (Mike Zunino and Austin Jackson) and then proceeded to walk Seth Smith and Robinson Cano. With two on and two outs, Cruz proceeded to bring the rain to an unsuspecting group of manta rays. Splash!!! The Rays would not have an answer in the bottom of the inning and the Seattle Mariners went on to win 3-0. Easily the best part of that moment was hearing Root Sports Northwest commentator, Aaron Goldsmith, belt out one of the greatest sound bytes of the last decade, "We've got a floater here in Tampa!" Well done Cruz! And well done Aaron.

5 comments:

  1. Nice job. I'm not sure how long the tank has been there. I don't believe its been to long. I don't remember it during the Rays opening season, in 1998. I need to get back there to see the tank and watch some baseball. Go Tigers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I couldn't find an exact date on when the tank first opened. I searched a lot of Web sites to find that info with no luck. Based on photos I've seen from the past it looks way better now.

      Delete
  2. Fun fact that Angie may have mentioned to you already: Feeding stingrays at Sea World was one of her favorite parts of a long-ago vacation to Florida (mine too) and she and I actually both used to have stingray stuffed animals as a souvenir of that visit. (I wonder where those things ended up.)

    Sincerely, your girlfriend's sister
    (apologies if this comment is creepy)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nope, not creepy at all. :D She did tell me about that, but I think I misheard her say that she worked with sting rays. I'll have to go back and edit to make sure I didn't screw that up.

      She didn't tell me about the stuffed stink rays, I'll have to ask her about that when she gets home.

      Thanks!

      Delete
  3. +$3,624 profit last week!

    Get 5 Star verified winning bets on MLB, NHL, NBA and NFL + Anti-Vegas Smart Money Signals!

    ReplyDelete