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Home opener festivities under way



ST. PETERSBURG -– The 10th Devil Rays opening day started Friday much like the first in 1998.
Lots of excitement. Measured expectations.

Yes, there’s a new flower garden, fresh paint and a bigger rightfield video scoreboard.
“But they should have spent that money on a relief pitcher,” said an almost grumpy Al Willis, picking up his season tickets.

The Rays new owners oozed goodwill last year offering perks like free parking. But that charm has now dulled under the intense pressure of the win column.

A sellout crowd of more than 38,000 was expected Friday. Thousands of fans had already made their way to Tropicana Field hours before the 7 p.m. game. Some fired up their grills and tapped a beer keg. Some searched for extra tickets. One group from Valrico painted their chests --- G-O-D-E-V-I-L-R-A-Y-S-!-!-!

“Anything can happen,” said Kevin Hug, a middle school geography teacher who took the day off to get ready for the game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Hug, a converted Chicago Cubs fans, knows a thing or two about being patient. The Cubs haven’t one a World Series since 1908. So to Hug, the Rays 9-year drought seems almost trite.

-- AARON SHAROCKMAN, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:31am]


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