'Boss, I won't be in today. Got a (Rays) fever.'

TAMPA — Here's a virgin workplace issue for bosses and employees in the Tampa Bay area: What to do about that first-ever Rays afternoon postseason game Thursday?

Relax the rules and let workers catch the 2:30 p.m. American League Division Series playoff game on the break room TV? Let them all out early and head for a sports bar?

Delynda Bennett, a 28-year-old project manager at Verizon in Tampa, knows the answer: "That's a big no," Bennett said while lining up for free barbecue at a Rays pep rally in downtown Tampa on Tuesday.

"But we'll sneak it in on the Internet," her pal and fellow Verizon project manager Mike Perretta, 40, piped in with a laugh.

Bennett figured her Verizon bosses would have this philosophy: "From a business standpoint, it's just not good business."

In many ways, the team's midweek afternoon playoff debut is similar to college basketball's March Madness, when workers mix their jobs with score updates.

Sports fanatic Linda Kinsey, an information specialist in St. Petersburg's marketing department, said she'll be working and watching: "I'll be busy at work and preoccupied with the game and have it on while we work."

After all, Kinsey said, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker wanted everyone in St. Petersburg to get behind the Rays.

At Progress Energy Florida's downtown St. Petersburg office, spokeswoman Suzanne Grant anticipated that some employees might be taking vacation days to catch the Thursday game.

"They'll be looking to see the score on their breaks and lunch breaks," Grant said.

Sometimes workers catch a break when the boss is a fan.

Like at the Tampa law office of Barry Cohen, where trial paralegal Marianne Santucci, 53, of Tampa will follow the Rays game Thursday. Cohen, Santucci said, is a Rays season ticket holder.

"If I said I wanted to go to the game, he'd let me go," Santucci said.

Added Santucci's law firm friend Sandi Cassel, 56, of Brandon: "You'll have to bring the TV to the lunchroom."

Rays radio play-by-play broadcaster Dave Wills said he hopes employers will loosen up a little for the sake of history.

"This doesn't happen every year," Wills said in what could be the baseball understatement of the year. "I suggest people bring radios to work and hope they get 1250 (AM) inside their buildings. Maybe their bosses will allow them to leave a couple hours earlier to enjoy the ball game."

Watching the game at work will be no problem for Krista Whiting, 20, of Tampa. She works at a Winghouse sports bar. "I'll be OK," she said.

Some wish Mayor Pam Iorio, who declared this past Friday to be Tampa Bay Rays day, would declare Thursday afternoon a Rays holiday.

"I think I'll be able to watch the Rays game," Bennett said, "only if the mayor said you can watch the game Thursday."

'Boss, I won't be in today. Got a (Rays) fever.' 09/30/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 2, 2008 10:42am]

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