Afternoon Delight With the Rays

While you were at work, I spent Wednesday afternoon at the ball park.

A little afternoon delight never hurt anybody, but to my dismay, my worst fears have been confirmed: As you might suspect at  a nooner ballgame in June, it is indeed … summer camp day. Bright side? It's the only way Red Sox fans aren’t the majority here when Boston is in town. Instead yelling, screaming baseball-unaware children are.

Certainly, I am not against the indoctrination of young children when it comes to our beloved national pastime. After all, I too fell victim to its unclenching grasp at a young age, and I vividly remember coming to this very place in 1998 as child and becoming a (Devil) Rays fan myself.

Rays coach Kevin Cash also praised the young ones and their loud noise after the game, saying they helped overpower the cheering of the visiting Boston fans, and hey, who couldn't be happy about that?

“The energy and crowd was pretty cool with all the kids out there,” Cash said. “They drowned out some of those other fans.”

But there I was, on a Wednesday afternoon, getting paid to go to a ball game. What could be better? Oh, of course: all the free hot dogs, popcorn and soda my baseball-loving self can handle. Life is good in the press box. Except for one thing: the lack of booze, which I found surprising. I guess all the veteran journalists show up loaded. (Editor's note: Rookie mistake, O’Hara!)

The Rays are in the midst of a trying time and I had the perfect view of it: Stadium issues and the debate on whether they will leave the pristine streets of St. Pete for a faraway land, or even Tampa, where they may want to play out in the 95º heat instead of the unnatural but more comfortable 72º inside the Dome. They are also on a streak — they've lost the past 12 of 13 games.

Facing the Red Sox for the final game of the three-game series turned out to be a victory bigger than anyone could imagine. Sure, we only scored four runs, far fewer than our 13-run win Monday. But Matt More threw a stunning seven innings, giving up only three hits and two walks and shut the offensive-heavy Sox down.

The game also marked the return of Brandon Guyer, who just came off the 15-day disabled list, only to hit a home run and drive in another run. Cash said it was a last-second decision to start him in the game.

“Shows how smart I am,” Cash said.

I wondered if any of the children in attendance on camp day are old enough to remember David Price when he was a Rays ace. Price was the starting pitcher for Boston Wednesday and faced his old club for the first time as a member of the Red Sox. His contract is valid through seven years. What’s it worth, you ask? A staggering $217 million dollars. For seven years. That’s more than the GDP of Malawi. (OK, maybe not —Though the poorest nation in the world, it still has a GDP of over $1 billion, but you get the picture.)

But Cash was correct. Those kids were loud and proud and drowned out those Sox fans well. Cheers to them.

And next time, I’m bringing my own beer.