Clearwater getting grief from misinformed fans

23

October

The city of Clearwater is getting hammered by nasty e-mails and phone calls from Rays fans who think the city is taking sides against the Rays because it's the longtime spring training home of the Phillies.

Not true, say Clearwater officials and employees, many of whom are wearing Rays gear to work these days.

The callers and e-mailers, whose fury is being stoked by sports talk radio, are mad about two things:

1. They're under the mistaken impression that the city is hosting Phillies rallies at the team's Clearwater ballpark, Bright House Networks Field.

2. The city put up a "Go Phillies" sign at the Clearwater end of the Courtney Campbell Parkway. It's near a "Go Rays" sign.

Here's a sampling of comments:

"I am appalled at your hosting a rally for our Rays opponents ... what a bonehead decision. You should be ashamed!"

"I for one will make every effort to avoid doing business within the city of Clearwater limits. Your city is an embarrassment to this entire area."

City officials are scratching their heads. For one thing, Clearwater didn't host a rally. The Phillies, who operate Bright House Field, opened up the ballpark Wednesday night and showed the game on the Jumbotron. More Rays fans than Phillies fans showed up to watch. The team has been holding happy hour on Wednesday nights at the stadium's tiki bar for years.

And the "Go Rays" and "Go Phillies" signs were there before the playoffs even started. Clearwater has a 62-year relationship with the Phillies.

"People need to keep everything in perspective. This is only a game," said Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, who got a blue Mohawk on Wednesday to show his support for the Rays. He's tired of the city's receptionists getting profanity-laced phone calls. "Nobody should be rude to a bunch of people who are just doing their jobs."

Mike Brassfield, Times Staff Writer

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[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:42am]

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