In a 6-6 game against Minnesota in the top of the ninth inning with runners on the corners and two outs on Thursday, the Twins? Jason Kubel lofted a popup that was supposed to be caught by Tampa Bay shortstop Jason Bartlett for the final out of the inning.
Instead, the ball clanked off a metal catwalk attached to Tropicana Field?s dome roof and fell into the infield as an RBI single for Kubel. The Twins ended up beating the Rays 8-6 in a crucial game for both teams.
“It pretty much can’t happen any place but here,” Maddon told reporters after the loss. “I know it works both ways, but to lose a game in a pennant situation like that because of a roof indicates why there’s a crying need for a new ballpark.”
The Rays, who have the second-best record in baseball and are leading the AL wild card race by a wide margin, have an average attendance of just 22,500 per home game, putting them ninth out of 14 AL teams. In 2008, when they made their first trip to the postseason in franchise history, the Rays averaged a mere 22,370 per game, 12th in the league.
The lack of fans showing up for the games probably has little to do with a disinterest in baseball. Like any losing team, the Rays? attendance suffered from 1999 to 2007 (Tampa Bay debuted in 1998 and averaged a franchise-high 30,942 fans per game), dropping to as low as 13,070 fans per game in 2003. But once Tampa Bay started winning, more fans started to come — even if the attendance still wasn?t very high.
The problems with attendance can be attributed to many variables, including economic factors, but one stark reason is the sheer dump that is Tropicana Field.
One of the few pure domes left in baseball, Tropicana Field is the antithesis of what a baseball-viewing experience in Florida should be — fun in the sun.
The Rays have already seen what a new stadium can do for attendance, thanks to its inaugural season in 1998. A beautiful new park, combined with the exciting talent that Tampa Bay can put on the field, would bring more enthusiasm about baseball in Central Florida than ever before.