Tampa Bay Rays: Talking with the Baseball Brit after his trip to Tampa
By Austin Reimann
I was recently afforded the opportunity to speak with Joey Mellows aka the “Baseball Brit” about his journey and his short time in Tampa Bay! Below is our conversation about his journey, minor league baseball, and the Tampa Bay Rays:
Chances are that you have probably heard of him, seen him, or even bumped into him… His name is Joey Mellows and he recently garnered the attention of the baseball world after announcing that he was quitting his job of more than 10 years to share the game of baseball with the British people.
Mellows, who is now known as the “Baseball Brit”, is spending his life savings on a year-long baseball journey, one that will span every MLB stadium, and countless other MiLB stadiums. By the end of his time across the pond he will have attended 162 games.
Boasting over 20,000 followers on Twitter, Mellows has quickly made a name for himself as he attempts to spread the game of baseball across Europe while showcasing the many baseball venues he attends.
The attention has landed him appearances on MLB Network and most recently, the Braves pregame set:
Mellows recently made his way to the Tampa Bay area to soak up some Florida sun and some Tampa Bay Rays baseball. Tropicana Field was just one of his most recent stops on a journey that will span the entirety of the Major League Baseball season. He was nice enough to answer a few questions that I had about his time in Tampa and the rest of the country.
I know you have been incredibly busy, but how have you enjoyed your time in the states so far?
Without meaning to be insensitive to anyone, it has been an amazing and incredible time. I mean watching baseball every day is something that I’m sure a lot of people wish they could do. I wake up each morning super excited for the game that evening, it gives me a focus.
And, in between that time I really enjoy seeing more of your country. It is so big and different in the various parts that I travel to. The only common theme is that the people are really kind. I have heard that baseball is dying and stuff, but the people who I talk to are just so passionate about the sport.
You only recently started this journey across the country, but you have already seen some of the most iconic stadiums in baseball, which one has been your favorite?
I think my best ballpark experience was in Fayetteville, North Carolina (which plays home to the Woodpeckers). It was their first ever home game. That was just so special to the community, there were over 6,000 people in the sold-out ballpark. You could see the impact it could have on the economy. And, you know the top brass were there from the Houston Astros because it is their A-Advanced affiliate and I just thought, “This is really what baseball is about!”
Speaking of minor league baseball, what are your thoughts on it? How have you enjoyed the time you have spent at minor league games?
So, I got a chance to go to a few minor league games last summer and I loved it. You can tell, it is more about the community and the town or city that it’s in. It is what brings people together and stuff. They’ve got all these wacky kinds of promotions. You’ve got dollar beer night and dollar dog night and I’m all for that, that’s awesome.
Minor league baseball is interesting—I’ve got to be careful of what I say—but they aren’t always about winning. They are about getting a top prospect at least 4 innings this game and that this guy gets “x” number of at-bats instead of another prospect who is coming up. So, I find that aspect of minor league baseball really interesting, that it isn’t about the win but more so about the practice.
Having already watched some of the best players in baseball including Bryce Harper and Mike Trout along with being fortunate enough to attend some great games including a pair of Red Sox/Yankees games, what has been your favorite moment to this point? Also, what are your thoughts on baseball in the British media?
That is super difficult, I guess it would be Red Sox/Yankees on the Wednesday. It was my favorite moment because MLB London were over and a lot of British journalists were there.
I was at the winter meetings and I was the only British person there. I was surprised that I was the only British accent there. So, finally you know this is a great moment! Finally, people will begin to hear about baseball in the national media.
That’s where I really think we have to improve (on baseball in the British media) . We have to get the word out more, in our national press and on television. We’ve got this new show on ESPN called “Caps Off”. We are all just trying to do our part to make sure that more people come across baseball.
But, it’s not just me. There are people back in the UK already, the “Bat Flips and Nerds” and “Absolute Bunts” podcasts and all the team accounts are just trying to get the word out there.
And that’s why it is my favorite moment because the big boys were there from our media and I just thought, “Yeah, here we go, we’re going to do this now!”
In your opinion, how recently has baseball taken hold in the UK?
I’ve got into trouble before for answering this question in ways that people don’t like. Because, I haven’t lived in the UK since 2014 and that is when I discovered baseball, over in Asia. So, I’m not really the best person to ask about how well baseball has caught on in the UK because I simply haven’t lived there. I don’t have access to the UK television channels so I don’t really know about the coverage.
From what I have been told, baseball is far more established in other European countries like the Netherlands and Italy. There are a lot more people who care about baseball, baseball is played more, funded more. In the UK, there are baseball teams, and knowledgeable baseball fans, but I don’t exactly know the level of interest.
Now, let’s discuss your time around the Tampa Bay area… Tropicana Field is largely considered the worst stadium in Major League baseball, what was your impression of “The Trop”?
When I came here, you know you hear about how it is one of the worst ballparks in the country and you hear about balls getting stuck in the roof, but I get “weirded” out by people who wouldn’t go to a baseball game because of the ballpark. Like, what’s that about? You are there to watch baseball.
The Rays are leading the AL East at the minute with the Yankees and Red Sox in the same division. They are experimenting with different ways to approach baseball. Using the opener to win games, and they are at the forefront of analytics and that excites the hell out of me. So, I don’t care what the ballpark looks like…I’m there to watch an exciting team.
I actually quite liked it. The dome doesn’t scare me at all. I get it, you have a lot of thunderstorms here and there would be a lot of rain-outs if it didn’t have a dome.
Is it pretty? No.
Do you get a good view? Yes.
How have you liked the Florida weather and the surrounding area?
Well mate, first off, I’ve worn shorts the whole trip. When I am at a major league ballpark I try to stay downtown so I can get a feel not only for the ballpark but also for the area.
This is just bliss, your weather is just perfect. And that’s what is great about Tropicana Field, it is 72 degrees every time.
You bumped into Billy Hamilton after one of the Rays games against the Kansas City Royals, how did that happen?
(After the game) I popped into a bar and randomly bumped into Billy Hamilton. There were loads of people at the bar area so I just went to the back and ordered some food and also in the back was Billy Hamilton.
After I turned my TV onto MLB Network, Billy Hamilton just started looking across at my table the whole time. So, when he left I just said, “Excuse me Mr. Hamilton, would it be okay to take a picture with you?”
And then I think I embarrassed myself by saying, “You are a fantasy legend!”, and I just absolutely embarrassed myself. He was super sweet and it just so happened that I bumped into him while I was trying gumbo for the first time.
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You have mentioned that you don’t want this trip to be about you but rather promoting baseball to fans in the UK, with that being said do you have anything you wanted to say to those fans?
If it is at all possible… really promote the TB Rays UK twitter account and make this about baseball and Rays fans in the UK. I’m trying to put myself to the side and make this more about promoting baseball than me.
I would like to once again extend my thanks to Joey for taking the time to answer my request for an interview and to then take time out of his busy schedule to talk some baseball. I hope you enjoyed learning about the “Baseball Brit”!