Orlando to Tropicana Field and Back in 18 Innings

By Peter M. Gordon

It’s a two hour drive to Tropicana Field from where I live in Orlando. Traffic is usually very heavy through downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg. Therefore I don’t go to a lot of Rays games – it’s much easier to stay home and watch on television. My wife and I took advantage of a half-price discount offer to purchase tickets for the game on Friday, 9/20. (This is a fan blog. I don’t get press passes.) Little did I realize, when my neighbor in section 216 jokingly said to me, “It’s a great night for baseball. Let’s play two,” he was predicting the way the game would turn out.

This was originally going to be a piece about the fan experience at the Trop, but I will cover that in another post. I will say, though, that one great thing about seeing a game at Tropicana Field is sharing the experience with thousands of Rays fans. It’s great sitting with a group of people who understand what it means when Jose Molina hits a double, tags up and goes to third on a sac fly, and scores on another. Being a Rays fan can be a lonely experience, and going to the Trop, with so many fans wearing Rays gear, lets you know you’re not alone.

We screamed and yelled at the beginning of the game when the Rays went ahead (but again left too many on base) and despaired as David Price lost effectiveness and the bullpen gave up the go ahead runs. We thrilled when the Rays tied it up, but were frustrated as the Rays kept failing to get hits at key moments and the game kept going. And going. And going. So many players came in that my scorecard blew up. After midnight, faced with the same two hour drive, and knowing our dog had not been let out, we left, planning to listen to the game on the radio. As we walked to our car the police officer holding up traffic asked if anyone was still left in there. and said, “The Rays are batting in the bottom of the 13th.

In the car we couldn’t get the Rays radio station. Either their signal or my radio had problems. As we drove back through Central Florida my wife accessed the Fancast app on my phone and narrated the pitch by pitch action through the 14th and beyond. When we lost cell phone service in rural Florida my wife called our son, who we knew was watching the game in Ohio, and had him talk us through the action until we got Fancast back. We arrived home in time to see DeJesus drive in Jennings to win the longest game in Rays history.

The lesson here is that modern communications always gives you some way to get the score. We started in person, but once we left the stadium we used phone, wi-fi, television, and even talking to people, to follow the game. But there’s still no substitute for the joy of sharing the game and the triumph with other Rays fans. That’s the reason to go to Tropicana Field any chance you get. Just book a hotel room in case of extra innings.

Sep 20, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings (8) is congratulated by second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) and teammates after he scored the game winning run during the eighteenth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 in eighteen inning. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports