Fortunately, Tampa Bay runneth over with sports bars where fans can clink mugs together as their home team makes history. Not surprisingly, many bar owners admit they've never planned a big Rays bash before — but they're still hoping thirsty fans will come out in droves to watch the playoffs. Here are a few notable Rays hangouts around Tampa Bay.
This Ybor City game hall, bar and restaurant offers something for every sports player, baseball included. Gameworks is hosting Rays Watch parties during every game at its Hopscotch Lounge with food and drink specials. Watch the pros, then hit the arcade to test your own skills on video games like Slugger's Alley. Anyone who shows up in Rays clothing gets a free one-hour game card, courtesy of general manager Martin Mann. 1600 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City. (813) 241-9675, gameworks.com.
Rock -n- Sports Bar & Grille
The timing couldn't be better. This Ybor City bar and restaurant recently added a new sound system and another big-screen projection TV. Watch the games inside or go outdoors, where tables, fans and more TVs offer al fresco viewing overlooking Centro Ybor's plaza. Near the bathroom, co-owner Dean Del Riccio installed a "wall of champions" featuring photos of the Buccaneers and Lightning and a plaque that reads "Future Champions —- Tampa Bay Devil Rays." (Oh, yeah — they went there with "Devil.") Two-for-one draft beers and well drinks during happy hour give fans even more to celebrate. 1600 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City. (813) 242-6220.
Baseball has been a big deal at St. Pete's iconic 44-year-old greasy burger-and-sammich joint since before Tampa Bay had a team, but crowds still pick up during Rays games. They've added some extra Rays posters to the baseball memorabilia that normally lines their walls, and plan to show the game around the bar, as always. 3500 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 521-1314.
This restaurant chain sponsored a bunch of Rays watch parties throughout the regular season and donated a lot of food for the lunchtime rally in downtown Tampa last Tuesday. The restaurants aren't planning anything specific for the playoff games but likely will be swarming with Rays fans wanting spicy wings and home-run swings. 2693 Gulf to Bay Blvd., Clearwater, (727) 712-1930; 136 Brandon Town Center Drive, Brandon. (813) 655-3400, smokeybones.com.
Prime Time Sports Grill
Tucked away in a strip mall on Dale Mabry Highway, Prime Time Sports Grill isn't at all discreet about its passion for sports. Forty-eight TVs, including 11 big screens, fill the walls. Portable speakers on each table allow patrons to hear a particular TV, although all ears will be on the Rays games during the playoffs. Ask for the special: a pitcher of beer and 20 wings for $17.95. 14404 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. (813) 908-0780, primetimesportsgrill.com.
The Rec Room
Housed next to Grille 121 in BayWalk, in the former home of Martini Bar, is a new sports bar called the Rec Room that'll be hosting Rays watch parties during the playoffs. A corporate partner of the Rays, it has 11 plasma-screen TVs, a Nintendo Wii and games like bowling, darts and Pac-Man. 121 Second Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 822-4413.
The Press Box
No local listing of sports bars would be complete without a mention of this bar. Sports fans of all stripes migrate here. Don't expect much by way of Rays' mania. (They've never made it this far.) But you'll certainly be in the company of fans who love to cheer for the home team. 222 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. (813) 876-3528, pressboxsports.com.
Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill
Ah, yes, Ferg's, the be-all and end-all of Rays bars in Tampa Bay, thanks largely to its walking-distance proximity to Tropicana Field. This place will be packed before, during and after playoff games, and should the Rays go on to win the World Series … look out. When the Rays clinched a playoff spot on Sept. 20, the bartenders at Ferg's created a drink called Rays Victory Punch, consisting of vodka and blue Gatorade. Yeah, we know … but even that tastes sweet when you're surrounded by like-minded fans. 1320 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 822-4562, fergsonline.com.
AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES