Saturday, May 31, 2008

Are Pigs Flying?

Florida Baseball is still on fire! The Marlins and Devil Rays are serious contenders and we are almost to June. I like it.

When I went to college in the Sunshine State I found the place to be chock-full of baseball fans. However, most were Braves or Yankees fans. Being spoiled by having a home team with a tradition as I was growing up with the Los Angeles Dodgers, I found this puzzling. Sure, 75% of the people I met in Tampa were from other places, but the even the natives didn’t appreciate the Devil Rays. Most of them really hated their stadium as well. I was told that it was mostly due to the roof. To me, in a place that had severe thunderstorms nearly every afternoon in the summer, the roof made sense.

Then I became very close to someone who played baseball their entire lives in the area. Growing up, they didn’t have a team but were in love with the sport. He grew up rooting for Dodgers, Yankees, and Cubs players before finally actually playing in the farm systems of the Yankees and Cubs. Being that Florida is the sunny place it is, it is inundated with spring facilities and minor league teams for some of the biggest in baseball. Like California and Texas, it is also a breeding ground for some of the best athletes in professional sports.

At any rate, I understood a bit of the reluctance to accept the Rays. Going to a game at the Trop is actually quite fun if you ask me. Since the team didn’t have a gigantic following, it was relatively easy to get nice seats for a nice price. I never had a bad time there. I was probably more of a fan than many locals. The Rays were easy to like as far as I was concerned and never posed a threat to my Dodgers. And no, if the Dodgers came for an inter-league game I did not go to the stadium in my Dodgers jersey. I especially wouldn’t do that in the Rays’ stadium since they had a hard time getting home fans already. Why add insult to injury?

What really baffled me was the Marlins low attendance numbers. Here was a team that was not that far removed from winning a World Series and Floridians outright refused to support them. I never did figure that out.

Here we are in the 2008 season and both teams are doing well. What is especially interesting is that the beginning of the season had the Marlins at the lowest total salary in baseball. The Devil Rays didn’t have an enormous budget either. As I write this, the Marlins are at .566 with a 30-23 record and just a half game back from the Phillies. Even more impressive, the Rays are at .600, 33-22, and a full game ahead of the Red Sox. They’ve won 7 of their last 10 games and have swept teams like the Angels earlier in the season.

Maybe Florida baseball will start to get the respect it deserves. In a sports-loving state like Florida, it should.


Lindsay said...

Apryl, that mascot video is hilarious. Haha.

Apryl DeLancey said...

I thought so too! Go Raymond!