Random Chance

By Robbie Knopf

My dad and I were making arrangements for our trip. One of the final tasks was to get tickets for the Rays-Red Sox game on Saturday night at the Red Sox’ brand new spring training stadium, JetBlue Park at Fenway South in Ft. Myers, FL. We get tickets diagonally behind the Rays dugout in the bottom level. We order the tickets, and then we immediately find out that the tickets won’t arrive until Friday. Our plane down to Ft. Myers was on Thursday. But we called customer service for the website and got the tickets to arrive on Tuesday. We were nervous that the tickets weren’t going to work out, but we stuck with them and we got our tickets well in time for our flight.

On Saturday night, we get in our car and drive towards the stadium, which was just a few minutes away. We get inside and our first impression is how similar Jetblue Park is to Fenway. The turnstiles look right out of Fenway and then we arrive in the field section and see that the entire stadium looks like Fenway. It was especially pertinent since my dad and I had driven up to Boston for a Rays-Red Sox series at Fenway in August and had Fenway fresh in our minds. We walk by the foul pole, reminiscing about the Peske Pole where we sat at Fenway. We look out towards the Green Monster and see it there, same as we were used to, with one notable change: there were seats in the middle of the monster. Later we found out there was a screen in front of them, and that screen made the ball drop straight down if a ball was hit off the screen. Otherwise, you could take a picture  and out of context, it’s hard to reason out that the stadium isn’t Fenway.

JetBlue had a very retro look (a lot of the stadium amenities were recycled from Fenway) and it was a nice place to watch a ballgame. And that’s completely excluding what happened next.

My dad and I sit down in our seats, which were the first row just a few feet from the Rays dugout, and all of a sudden someone from our row shouts out my dad’s name. He walks over, shakes my dad’s hand, shakes mind, and my dad remembers him. Here’s one of the Rays owners, and he happened to be my dad’s former boss on Wall Street. We talk, he and my dad catch up on several years worth of time, and then he and I start chatting and I tell him about some of things I’m doing at RCG. Eventually, he returns to his seat to sit with his kids. But a few minutes later, he returned to the vacant seats next to ours meet another Rays executive. I got to talk to him as well, and then I took a picture with the owner and the other executive. On his way out of the stadium, the owner invited my dad and I to play baseball with him on one of the Rays practice fields the next day.

On Saturday night, the Rays lost 5-0 and in the middle of the game, it started raining. But needless to say I had quite a day. You go to a ballgame and you never know what happens. You get tickets and you’re right next to someone you know by complete coincidence. What were the odds of that happening? Following that game, I had just one spring training game left before flying back up. But my spring training experience had just started to kick into high gear.