The home of the Tampa Bay Rays, Tropicana Field, has been turned into a time-travel machine. At least, it was for one night. and may continue tonight.
The player responsible for bringing back the atmosphere of 1950s New York baseball — when the New York Yankees, New York Giants, and Brooklyn Dodgers electrified the city’s baseball fans — is Randy Arozarena.
Arozarena, perhaps the leading candidate to become the 2021 AL Rookie of the Year, first entered the public consciousness through his postseason play of 2020, when he had 10 home runs in 18 games against the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, and Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 26-year-old outfielder did it again Thursday night in the Rays’ 5-0 blanking of the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALDS. First, Arozarena brought back memories of Willie Mays by scoring from first base on Wander Franco’s double in the first inning.
The fleet Arozarena wanted to remind the hometown crowd that he not only had the speed of a young Mays, but he also had the power, as he showed with a fifth-inning home run.
Randy Arozarena steals home for the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of the ALDS
Arozarena was not finished. He also sought to conjure up memories of Jackie Robinson, which he did by successfully stealing home in the seventh inning.
It was not part of a double steal, or a missed sacrifice, or any other such combination. It was a straight steal of home that was brilliantly executed by Arozarena.
Arozarena took advantage of the defensive shift the Red Sox were deploying against left-handed hitting Brandon Lowe. Third baseman Rafael Devers was too far away to hold Arozarena at third, so Arozarena was able to stray down the line towards home.
Southpaw pitcher Josh Taylor had his back to Arozarena and threw the ball to home too late to catch Arozarena, who had already made his break towards the plate and scored easily. The play conjured memories of Jackie Robinson’s steal of home in the 1955 World Series against the Yankees.
Looking ahead, we may continue to go back in time.
Looking toward Rays’ ALDS Game 2 vs. Red Sox
Tonight, another rookie takes the mound for the Rays, as Shane Baz succeeds Game 1 starter and winner Shane McClanahan.
It was not the post-season, but the 1955 Dodgers had a young Sandy Koufax pitching for them, still yet to find his groove. The Yankees had the 1954 Rookie f the Year in pitcher Bob Grim.
The Rays are looking for Baz and McClanahan to continue the Rays tradition of strong pitching. Boston will send veteran Chris Sale to the mound tonight. That will set up an interesting matchup with Arozarena, who is one for five, with four strikeouts, lifetime against Sale.
Friday night presents another opportunity for fans to provide the proper support for the Rays, and to also possibly capture some historic memories.