This is a post I wrote for Jay Busbee's Sports Gone South website. That site is now closed, so I figured I would put the post here.
With Jay on a weeklong pilgrimage, I have once again been summoned to tug your heartstrings, be still your heart, and get you all doey-eyed for a bunch of men running around playing a modernized game of rounders. This time however, instead of trying to win you over to the dark side of those hated New York Mets, I’m going to stay a bit more regional. Today, I am going to make you love the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Admittedly, in the first ten years of the team’s history there hasn’t been much to love about the Devil Rays. Horrible ownership, atrocious personnel, embarrassing off-field incidents, and home games in a dungeonesque former hockey arena quickly made the Devil Rays the biggest American League joke this side of Kansas City. Two recent events however, have ushered in an era of optimism in the organization. Although some players have been known to still “act the fool”, new ownership direction in 2005 and the fleecing of the New York Mets to acquire ace Scott Kazmir have given hope to the fine denizens of the Tampa Bay area.
So without further ado, I present to you five good reasons why you should fall madly in love with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
They are not the Yankees or the Red Sox
Due to Tampa Bay’s proximity to the Atlantic Coast, the Devil Rays have been mired in the American League East since their inception. Unfortunately, this division has been the stomping ground of two of the most evil empires in sports: the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. These two teams, with their astronomical payrolls and ESPN exposure, are the Goliaths of the baseball landscape. So who better to topple these juggernauts than the newest, most up-start ballclub in the division? Hey, if the Osceola Rangers can topple the Yankee invaders in 1862 , why can’t the Devil Rays 145 years later?
Faster than a speeding bullet, more range than a locomotive, and able to leap and rob opponents of home runs, Carl Crawford is the face of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. At only 25 years old, Crawford is already the Devil Rays franchise leader in hits, runs, singles, and sacrifices. He has also led the American League in triples each of the last three years and stolen bases three out of the last four
years. Didn’t know that? You would if you bled Devil Rays green.
The Arms Surplus
James Shields, Andy Sonnanstine, Jason Hammel, Jeff Niemann, David Price, and the aforementioned Scott Kazmir. These names and several others represent the future of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitching rotation. And the future looks bright. With any luck, the Devil Rays’ young guns could be the next Glavine, Smoltz, Avery, Mercker, and Millwood. Or at least the next Willis, Johnson, Olson, Sanchez, and Nolasco.
Although more famous as an elephant graveyard for retirees nationwide, the Tampa Bay area is also well-known its cornucopia of gorgeous women. Think Miami, without the pretentiousness. From the Original Hooters in Clearwater to the University of South Florida to Tampa’s bevy of adult entertainment establishments, proverbial “eye-candy” are everywhere. Even at Tropicana Field. You never know, you might even spot area resident and Florida State Cowgirl Jenn Sterger.
Warmer than the former Leningrad
Even though they are known as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Tampa Bay professional baseball club actually plays its games across the bay in St. Petersburg. According to World Travels.com, the average temperature in St. Pete, Florida is at least 40 degrees warmer than the average temperature in St. Pete, Russia . So when deciding between the Devil Rays and the St. Petersburg Spartak of the Russian Basketball League, remember, sunshine, beaches, and bikini-clad women beat parkas, blizzards, and frostbite any day of the week. And usually twice on Sundays.