On April 6, the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays squared off against the New York Yankees on Opening Day. (The first Major League game I remember that I attended was when the D-Rays played against the Seattle Mariners, back when Tampa Bay still wore purple. Plus I played on the D-Rays in Babe Ruth—they will always be the Devil Rays to me.)
I was there at Tropicana Field on that fine Friday. But I won’t have a ticket stub to place in my shoebox of stubs that I have collected over the years. I work for a company that provides “event services” to venues, and one of our clients is The Trop.
My day started with checking in at 11:30 a.m. I am assigned to the group that checks bags at the Gate One, the main gate, but in the meantime I managed to check out the “162 Landing” exhibit. I highly recommend that you do too on your next venture to Tropicana. You may run into me, and if you try to bring in a Gatorade or Bud Ice, I’m going to tell you that only unsealed water is allowed but your sandwich is OK. 12:10 p.m.: gates open. 3:10 p.m.: first pitch.
I was still outside when the “2011 Wildcard Banner” was raised in left field and when Carlos Peña hit his grand slam in the bottom of the first, but I heard the crowd reaction emanating from inside. When word filtered outside of what happened, fans that were still filtering in and who have never said a word to each other in their lives started high fiving and hugging in joy, while the staff did the same, joining the fans in the excitement of the moment.
By the third inning I was moved to the left field seats, between sections 149 and 147. My task now was to stand at the wall during play stoppages and survey the crowd to make sure nobody was getting rowdy. I did have to get involved in an altercation during the sixth. During the eighth, my supervisor came by to inform me that after the final out, I was to proceed to the rotunda to make sure nobody left with any alcohol in tow.
Going into the bottom of the ninth, the Devil Rays were down by one, and then tied at six. Mariano Rivera was on the mound for the Yankees. Great, a hall of famer against us to close it out on Opening Day—it is going to be a long walk home. Miraculously, the bases were loaded and Peña was at the plate. Peña made contact and the ball landed directly in front of me. I knew that the base runner at third would score and glance in the direction of third.
Since the bottom of the ninth there was a dad in Yankees gear, watching the game in the stairwell with his son, who was in Rays’ attire. The son jumped for joy and the father had a smile of disappointment that his team lost, but he was elated that his son had fun at the ballpark. I rushed down the stairs and made my way to the rotunda.
As I checked that nobody was bringing any alcohol out of The Trop, I began to think. I was just apart of Major League Baseball. You won’t find my name on any public roster, but when I check in, it is there and I sign my name next to it. To most of you I am a faceless employee that you will soon forget. If I weren’t there, indubitably there would be someone else in my stead. My job is very rewarding; I get paid to be a part of putting on a superior performance everyday and to entertain the masses by being a part of the event itself. I look forward to spending the rest of my summer at Tropicana Field.