Chewbacca Mom at the Trop: The Force Visits Rays

Chewbacca Mom steps out of mini-van and onto the mound.

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Major League Baseball spans three seasons of the year — spring, summer and fall — for those teams lucky enough or good enough to see the postseason. Sadly, our beloved Rays, while more used to the autumn colors than its former outfit the Devil Rays, often don’t stay competitive for long enough. Fortunately, as a step outside Tropicana Field would indicate, game sixty between the Rays and the Houston Astros took place in the thick of summer where there’s optimism in the dugout even at the bottom of the AL East.

June 11 was Star Wars night at the Trop. Candace Payne, aka Chewbacca Mom, America’s most recent internet darling, made an appearance at the pregame. Candace's two children and husband accompanied her. Even after weeks of airtime and over 100 million views to date, media swarmed around “Chewbacca Mom” like her video had gone viral yesterday. I was impressed with how she handled the microphones and cameras. My hunch is that after national television appearances, and quick-pitch stardom, dealing with a few antsy photographers is almost batting practice for her at this point.\\<\/iframe\>

Chewbacca Mom, as the back of her Rays jersey read, hiked up to the mound to throw out the first pitch. With the same kinetic likability seen in her videos, she performed an exaggerated wind-up (think Popeye pitching) and let loose a perfect strike. Even without the mask, Candace Payne played up the crowd like a star.

The game proved to be a tight contest, with what would be called “quality outings” from Chris Archer and Houston’s Mike Fiers. The pitchers made it a game of their own with few hits and fewer runners in scoring position. The scoring in the game was largely off solo home runs, with Longoria hitting his team-leading fifteenth and Brad Miller joining in to give the Rays a 2-1 lead. In the top of the seventh, Carlos Gomez of the Astro’s responded with his own solo act, squaring things up with a shot to dead-center. The ‘Stros would follow up in the eighth scoring off a wild pitch from Erasmo Ramirez, and, Luis Valbuena added another homer in the ninth to put Houston up 4-2 for the bottom half of the inning.

It was put up or shut up time for the Rays, who were desperate to capitalize on game one’s victory and make up ground in the AL East. Sam Harris, Houston’s closer, suffered from poor command early and worked his way in a no-out, bases-loaded jam. The stadium was fueled with hope and Steven Souza’s sacrifice fly meant the Rays were within one run of tying the game. Desmond Jennings stepped up to the plate, thousands behind him, including Chewbacca Mom” cheering him on. Jennings connected with Harris’ pitch and sent the ball straight to the second baseman for a game-ending double play. The Rays dropped to 28-32 with players, fans, Siths and internet sensations leaving the gates disappointed.

May the force be with you, Candace. Thanks for the pitch.  


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