More cowbell!

Sunday, August 16, 2009–Rays 5, Blue Jays 2

After leaving Miami, we took a little detour to the Seminole Reservation, where dad had heard about a multi-million dollar museum and cultural center in the middle of the Everglades. The Seminoles have a pretty good deal, an offshoot of their tribal lands is in Hollywood, right in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area, so they have the only casino in Florida that isn’t on a boat or in the middle of a swamp. This Florida twist on tribal politics was probably the most fascinating thing about our trip.

We also spent a day at the Ringling complex in Sarasota. This consists of several museums in one large property right on the bay. The one that was a real eye-opener for me was the circus miniature collection. An artist had made a life’s work of creating figurines of circus performers and animals and then putting them together into a diorama showing a day in the life of one of the big traveling circuses from the turn-of the 20th-century. And far more than just showing life under the big top, this diorama also depicts other less glamorous aspects of circus life, the mess tent, makeshift changing areas, and the small (or maybe not so small) army of workers whose job it was to get everything off the train and into the air.

So, how big is this diorama of 3″ tall people? The walkway around it could easily accommodate a hundred people. Also on the complex grounds was a display of historical circus artifacts, as well as the Ringlings’ personal collection of art. I don’t know much about art, I just know what I like, so after cruising the collection, I wanted to check out the miniatures again before it was time to carry on up the coast. We got to St. Pete Beach midday and found a 50s style efficiencies hotel with the back porch looking out onto the gulf. We were cheerfully informed the next morning that we had slept through a tropical storm.

As ratty as the dome looks from the outside (and it looks ratty even when you first see it from the southern side of the bay), we were impressed with how nicely everything was kept up inside the Trop. With the large numbers of concessions stands that were actually open, the friendly greeters and ushers and the well-lit concourses, everything the Rays were presenting before the game to their guests gave it a much more Major League feel than three days earlier in the half empty shell of the football stadium in Miami. It also helped that the stadium was, not full, but not embarrassingly empty. The one thing I’ll probably never forget–for “only” $4, I had the chance to try a completely different kind of ballpark food: boiled peanuts. They are slimy and salty and quite possibly the most vile thing I’ve ever tasted.

Part of the pregame routine included a video on proper cowbell etiquette (ring the bell when Rays pitchers have 2 strikes on a batter, when the Rays score, or if they flash “More Cowbell!” on the video board), presented tounge-in-cheek in the style of a 1950s PSA filmstrip. It was great fun for us tourists, but I’m not sure Rays fans needed instructions. The effect of the cowbells in the dome brought a whole different level of energy to the game, and–because the Rays fans were so well versed on when to use them–not nearly as distracting as I feared it may be.

The game: It’s amazing how quick I lose track of the details. Of course, I bought myself a cowbell and rang it at all the appropriate times, and while there was a lot that seemed cowbell-worthy at the time, looking over the scorecard doesn’t show that much. The Rays beat the Blue Jays 5-2, and while I remember Greg Zaun’s 8th inning grand slam, but not  that it was a 1-1 tie from the middle innings on, with not much by way of baserunners or scoring threats until the Rays loaded the bases for the former Blue Jay. The Rays have a lot of sponsor-givaway promotions, such as free pizza if the Rays strike out ten opponent batters (and in the ninth, with nine Ks in the book, when Aaron Hill had two strikes on him, the crowd started chanting “Pi-zza, pi-zza!”). For this game, we could have used our ticket stubs for free pizza, ice cream, donuts, and maybe even a car wash.

Check out the scorecard.

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