The Tampa Bay Rays will look to build on their seven-game winning streak as they continue their road trip tonight against the Toronto Blue Jays.
However, it won’t feel like a road trip for the players, as they returned to the Tampa area after their 10-1 win over the Orioles on Thursday in Baltimore. Confused? Let me explain.
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Like I said, the Tampa Bay Rays play the Toronto Blue Jays tonight on the road, but the Blue Jays have not been playing their home games in Toronto due to COVID-19 restrictions in Canada. The Blue Jays did the same last season, but they played their home games in Buffalo, NY, the home of their Triple-A affiliate.
Instead of Buffalo, the Jays opened the 2021 season in Dunedin, FL, their spring training home. They have spent the first two months of the season in sunny Florida, but will be moving back to Buffalo after one final series in May. And that series just happens to be against the Tampa Bay Rays.
So, Tampa Bay Rays players will get to sleep in their own beds, and prepare as they would for a home game. The only difference, driving just 22.1 miles north past Tropicana Field to play a road series against the Jays.
The Tampa Bay Rays are no stranger to playing regular-season games in spring training stadiums
Let’s refresh some memories, shall we? The Tampa Bay Rays have done this kind of thing before. Let’s go back to 2007, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
The Rays and Texas Rangers played series at Champion Stadium at the Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida in May of 2007. It was a home series for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and was scheduled in Orlando to try and grow the Rays, and MLB brand in central Florida.
May 15, 2007, was the first time a major league baseball game was played in the city of Orlando, won by the Devil Rays 4-3 thanks to a Brendan Harris walk-off RBI single.
The Tampa Bay Rays would double-down on their Orlando push, as they scheduled a second series in Orlando in 2008. However, this time as just the Tampa Bay Rays. The team dropped the “Devil Rays” name before the 2008 season.
The Rays played, you guessed it, the Toronto Blue Jays in that series in 2008, sweeping them. Between the two seasons, the Rays won all six games in Orlando, and still remain undefeated in the regular season in Orlando.
At the time the Wide World of Sports was home to the Atlanta Braves in spring training, as they spent 1998-2019 in Orlando for spring training.
The Tampa Bay Rays on the road at Tropicana Field?
Yes, you read that correctly. The Tampa Bay Rays have played road games at Tropicana Field, I was there to see it.
In April of 2015, the Rays were set to travel to Baltimore for an early-season series with the Orioles. However, the city of Baltimore was unable to host them. Baltimore was undergoing civil unrest due to the Baltimore Police handling of Freddie Gray Jr. Gray was arrested by Baltimore police, but sustained injuries in police custody, resulting in his death.
This sparked protests around the city of Baltimore for many days, which led to the Orioles/White Sox game that famously had no crowd. Which was a very odd sight, until we saw baseball in 2020.
After the Orioles and White Sox finished their series, the MLB decided to move the Rays/Orioles series to Tropicana Field, but the Orioles would serve as the home team.
The Orioles wore home jerseys in the series and batted in the bottom half of innings, but both teams had their walk-up music played.
Since it was scheduled to be an away series, the Tampa Bay Rays sold all tickets at the same price, as general admission. I got to the stadium very early and charged when the gates opened. I got seats in the second row by the home dugout, what a time.
The next installment of the Tampa Bay Rays playing games in unique places gets underway tonight at 7:37 PM EST from Dunedin. Anthony Kay is scheduled to get the start for the Jays, he carries a 7.24 ERA so far in 2021. He will be opposed by Rays ace, Tyler Glasnow.