If you’re a Major League Baseball fan, you know by now that the Tampa Bay Rays don’t often field great attendance numbers. The Rays have occupied Tropicana Field since the team’s inception in 1998 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Often, ‘the Trop’ is panned for its overall quality. It’s routinely referred to as the worst stadium in MLB and increasing the scope of North American sports too. One of its few plusses is that it at least provides air conditioning to its patrons in the tropics of Florida.
But A/C isn’t enough to draw people into the building in droves. Tampa Bay has fought a battle since the team arrived. They have typically made their dwelling in the basement for MLB attendance year after year after year. That trend persisted yet again in 2023 and seeped into the MLB Postseason. On Wednesday, the Rays did not field a large crowd at Tropicana Field for Game 2 of the American League Wild Card Series against the visiting Texas Rangers.
Veteran broadcaster Sean McDonough, no stranger to MLB broadcasts, called the game on ABC between the Rangers and Rays. McDonough acknowledged the sparse crowd at Tropicana Field. Though, he didn’t quite refer to them as a “crowd.”
“And on to third goes Seager. And some BOOS starting to come down from the group. I’m not sure we could call it a crowd. The group here at the Trop.”
"Some boos starting to come down from the group. I'm not sure we can call it a crowd. The group here at the Trop."- Sean McDonough ⚾️☠️?️ pic.twitter.com/xsg0CWFwxP
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) October 4, 2023
Well, the Rays fans at the game were quite displeased with what they were seeing. Deservedly so. The Rays got off to a ridiculous start to the season, and now, all they have to show for it is a Wild Card Round appearance in which they were swept. So all the boos were earned in this case.
So here’s where things get tricky. Is McDonough right for the slam? It’s low-hanging fruit, for sure. Rays fan jokes have been said throughout the marketplace for over two decades. The stadium jokes – and the stadium itself – compound the issues as well. So, with the Rays down on their luck, they were on the receiving end of a putdown. But it’s not like it’s any of the fans’ fault either for the current circumstances. There’s probably few Rays fans who would say they ‘want’ to go to Tropicana Field for a game. It’s a challenging problem for them, but not one apparently that lets them avoid jokes.
If the Rays and their ownership created a team that not only played in a more state-of-the-art stadium, and if everyone wasn’t so onto their game for roster strategy, then they might have a better relationship with their fans. The trouble the Rays and other teams who absorb insults for their fans showing up – or not showing up in most cases – face is that perception is all that it takes. If the Rays go on and get a new stadium, and they draw a bigger crowd, then they can go on a nice little victory lap.
Sean McDonough saw an opening, and he took it. The Rays and their crowd issues – whether it’s how they’re referred to, the actual size, or the stadium where they’re housed – will continue until something gives there.