So after watching bits and pieces of game 1 of the ALCS, I couldn't help but be proud of the growing Rays nation. Attendance has always been a struggle for the Rays for various reasons (terrible team, people don't care, early bird special) and many felt that the Rays would continue to draw poorly until they got a new stadium. The Juice Box (Tropicana Field) is a dump. There is nothing like field turf and catwalks to entice fans to see a game! Woooo! And it's not like the ghosts of Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco, Fred McGriff, Greg Vaughn, or Vinny Castilla were going to draw people to the Trop.
The only nights that the Rays would draw more than 10,000-15,000 were the dates when the Red Sox, Yankees, or Cubs were in town. To top it all off, probably 50-70% of the fans who attended these games rooted against the Rays. The Rays struggled to bring in anyone to average home games, but these three teams seemed to being in the entire state of Florida. Imagine that? The Rays were a road team even when they were at home. How terrible.
Well tonight, against the Red Sox in the ALCS, the Rays still did not draw a full house of Rays fans. However, from what I saw, the Rays had more fans on their side than anyone could have hoped even if there were roughly 30% Red Sox fans. The Trop was rockin' tonight even though the Rays ultimately lost. Fans were living and dying on every pitch and everyone seemed to throw their hands above their heads when Carl Crawford missed Kevin Youkilis's line drive. It's amazing what can happen when teams start to win.
My only hope is that some of these fans will actually stick around for 2009 instead of simply being posers, like most Marlins fans in 2003. (Note to fans: you are not a fan if you dessert your team after one good season!) This team is for real and has a tremendous chance to build something special in the land of retired folk. Tampa, stick by the Rays!