Attention all Red Sox fans: It is possible to convert. You too can learn to root for the Rays.
Disagree? Take it up with Rays fan John Cena.
"The recent homestand against the Sox, the last game, I sat third-base side, which was entrenched in Red Sox Nation," said the wrestling superstar, who grew up in West Newbury, Mass., but now lives in Pasco County. "By the end of the night, they certainly did not hate the Rays, I'll put it to you that way."
The Rays don't have many celebrity fans — there's Dick Vitale, Bradenton band We the Kings, wrestlers Hulk Hogan and Brian "Nasty Boy" Knobbs — so to pluck a marquee name like Cena from Red Sox Nation is quite the coup.
Cena, a three-time WWE champ and move star (The Marine and the forthcoming 12 Rounds), recently underwent neck surgery to repair a ring injury — he said he'll be back in the ring by December — which means he's had plenty of downtime to watch the Rays' drive to the playoffs. He recently chatted with tbt* about his new favorite team.
So, Rays, Red Sox — have you made the transition official?
Oh, I absolutely have. I did an interview with MLB.com — I was going to throw the first pitch out at Fenway Park — and their first question was about my allegiance to the Red Sox. I told them, I can't answer anything about the Red Sox; I can talk about the history of the franchise, but I can't give an interview as a fan, because I'm a Rays fan. I said I had been living here since late 2002, early 2003, and I've watched the franchise grow. I like the way they operate. They focus on really securing their talent for a long period of time. They've got a great ballclub of young kids who honestly just want to win.
Give me your armchair quarterback analysis of this team right now.
If it's a one-run ball game heading to the eighth or ninth, my money's on the Rays. If they're down by one, if it's tied, if they're up by one, they just seem to find a way to win — and it's a different guy every night, which is the great thing. If you've got a different guy every night who can pull that hero card and just wreak havoc, it's great for chemistry. Anytime, anywhere, something can happen, and that's what's really exciting to watch about the Rays.
This is really a wrestling community. Hulk and Knobbs come to a lot of games. Edge lives around here. It makes sense that there'd be a little mini-community of celebrity wrestling Rays fans in Tampa Bay.
(laughs) Yeah. I'm still trying to get some more of my WWE guys to stop by. I don't want to say I'm lucky that I'm injured, but our schedule is so packed — 250 live shows a year and no offseason — that I very, very seldomly get to come to the ballpark. And ever since I got injured, this is the most I've been to the Trop in a couple of years.
What are the perks of being a celebrity fan?
I know when Hulk shows up, he usually goes to a luxury box. I always go and say hi to him, but I like watching the game in the stands, so I've sat everywhere in that ballpark, from left-field bleachers to right-field bleachers. I get to park close, I guess that's a plus. Besides that, I don't expect to be treated any differently or special by any means. The Rays' front office has done a great job of making sure that any time I spend there has been as low-key as possible. But they know me as a fan. They know that I love baseball. I just go and enjoy the game.
Are there many wrestling fans on the team?
Yeah, there are. As a matter of fact, per request of Jonny Gomes, I mailed the guys a bunch of "Hustle, Loyalty and Respect" wristbands. Those are words that I live by on WWE programming. And every once in a while on TV, I'll actually see a wristband, so that's pretty cool. Now that I go to a lot of the games and have a chance to see a lot of the guys, it's amazing how much of an effect you have on the team. It's a good mutual respect.
Didn't Gomes ref a match at the Trop last year after a game?
(laughs) Yeah, it was wrestling night at the Trop. And Gomes beat the hell out of everybody. Certainly, he's one of the most plugged in to WWE. It's always a pleasure to see him. And it's guys like that that I really am happy for, who have been with the ballclub a couple of years, and have been through the worst of times, and now are experiencing the best of times. That's a very good thing to see
Who'd make the best wrestler?
I would say Cliff Floyd. He's a big dude. I think he could do some damage.