Mar 19, 2012

Over before it began??

by @MandaGator

Amanda and Shopp
Amanda and Shopp
The highly anticipated 2012 MLB spring training season is in full swing all over Florida and Arizona. But Grapefruit League baseball means something special to fans of the Tampa Bay Rays who happen to live in Florida. March affords us the ability to see the boys under a bright sunny sky at a comfortable (to most) 80°F as opposed to the domed glory & chilled air of the Trop. If we so desire and funds permit, we can drive a couple hours to see them ready for the 2012 World Championship race in stadiums all over our beautiful state. Thus far this spring, I have managed to eek out 3 spring training games, each is a tale unto it's self so I'll give the abridged version and in the end y'all decide... is the Rays season over for me before it's begun??

The first game of my "spring training" was actually NOT the Rays but a short drive up the coast to Dunedin to see a Red Sox split squad face the Blue Jays. Those of you who follow me on Twitter (@MandaGator) are probably familiar with the "fanship" that developed last season between myself, Heather (@Rocky20106) and (former Rays) catcher Kelly Shoppach (@ShopHouse10) which resulted in Shopp sending Heather his jersey last November. And as baseball fans, you probably know that the dark side made him an irresistible offer which landed Shoppach in Bahstan. So on March 7th Heather & I enjoyed a lovely afternoon of ball and visiting with Shopp while donning our Rays gear, hoping for a Blue Jays win (sorry Shopp, can't bring myself to root Sox) but really, not caring much about the outcome. When the game ended in a 3-3 tie we were a little annoyed but not truly bothered as it was just good to be at the park!

The following game I managed was a dream day on March 9th when I was one of 8 included in the #Rays #CCTweetUp sponsored by the official promotion agency for gorgeous Charlotte Harbor And Islands (@CHGIFlorida ). After a top-down (the CAR not me!!) ride south with Rob (@5WA) in @purdyZ (his very comfy car) we enjoyed Rays Manager Joe Maddon's suggestion of Maddonini Chicken at River City Grill in downtown Punta Gorda (@RiverCityPG). As advised, it was DELISH and quite filling however a few minutes & short stroll away, our taste buds anticipated In Your Face Cupcakes (not on Twitter YET). To round out the afternoon we headed to Charlotte Sports Park to enjoy an afternoon of baseball.

To my delight the visiting team was my pre-Rays, childhood favorite Baltimore Orioles so I found myself in another win/win situation but sort of hoping the "home" team Rays would take it. I could go on about the food & beverages in Suite 5, the excellent company I found myself in, how great the walk around the field was, so many things were perfect I wondered if stars were aligning to spell out my name in a distant universe! Then came a scoreless 10th inning. Yes, the game ended in a draw!!

Of a guesstimated 40 (lifetime) spring training games, this was my third draw yet the second in one week. "Strange coincidence or dark omen?" ~ was the topic of conversation on March 13th as Heather and I set out for Sarasota to catch the Rays at the Orioles. Another win/win with amazing seats right behind home plate (thank you secret donor!!). I wore my Ripken jersey (til I got too hot), had a lovely conversation with Bird, saw some good ball BUT when the Orioles tied it up in the bottom of the ninth, I knew there was a problem. The scoreless tenth was a blur.

My immediate intent WAS two additional spring training games and attending Rays hosting the Yanks on opening day 2012 followed by as many games possible through October. Now I'm not so certain. Am I jinxed? THREE tied games in a week? Or do I keep the faith, can my 26-11 2011 record be beaten? Readers, I am bamboozled and seek your guidance! Please vote now! If necessary feel free to research the dilemma at any of the aforementioned ball parks and/or eating establishments!

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