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Phillies ties land Clearwater in hot water with Tampa Bay Rays fans

A “Go Phillies” sign along the Courtney Campbell Parkway in Clearwater.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

A “Go Phillies” sign along the Courtney Campbell Parkway in Clearwater.

CLEARWATER — The city is getting bombarded by angry e-mails and phone calls from Tampa Bay Rays fans who mistakenly think the city is taking sides against the local team because Clearwater is the longtime spring training home of the Phillies.

Not true, say city 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:

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

• 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!"

And:

"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."

Meanwhile, officials are scratching their heads. For one thing, the city didn't host a rally. The Phillies, who operate Bright House Networks Field, opened up their ballpark Wednesday night and showed Game 1 of the World Series on the Jumbotron. About 1,100 people showed up, more of them Rays fans than Phillies fans, the team said. The team has been holding happy hour on Wednesday nights at the stadium's Frenchy's Tiki Bar for years.

And the city's "Go Rays" and "Go Phillies" signs were posted along the causeway 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 can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4160.

Phillies ties land Clearwater in hot water with Tampa Bay Rays fans 10/23/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 30, 2008 7:30pm]
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