As a 5-year-old growing up in St. Pete, I was a die-hard baseball fan. I cheered for all of the teams that had local spring training ties. I can still tell you the starting lineup for the 1980 world champion Phillies. And the ‘86 Mets.
All that changed when the Rays came to town. I took my 8-year-old daughter to the airport to cheer on the Rays when they made it to the ALCS in 2008. Even after moving to Polk County, we’d make the trek over a few times a year, and we watched over half the games on TV.
And I understood when the Rays had to cut salaries to continue to contend. I hated to see Zobrist go. Even more so, to have to bid goodbye to Price. But I got it. We had to buy low and sell high. And it all made sense as part of a bigger plan.
But this simply doesn’t. The Rays need to develop generations of fans. Kids who grow up cheering on a team will raise the next generation to do the same. And the Rays were getting there.
Today, a friend shared a picture on social media of her daughter getting an autograph by Evan. Her daughter is the same age as mine was when we made the trip to the airport. Her mom is a Cubs fan but was raising her daughter to cheer on the Rays. After today, her daughter said she doesn’t want to go back to a Rays game. Mom said she might become a Cubs fan herself.
It hurts. And it doesn’t make sense. Even when it seems to, it really doesn’t.
— J.J. Gawlowicz, Winter Haven
What Jeter and company failed to grasp on the east coast of football land is that fans actually need a reason to come and cheer. I say that because Longoria provided just that and more for this franchise. He and his family were supportive community members engaged in a variety of projects outside the lines that appeared to be more than agent-driven tax write-offs.
It’s important to consider the emotional well being of fans and their loyalties in relation to their entertainment budgets. If baseball becomes nothing but metrics, then the game will become less inclusive for those seeking escape from the struggles of their daily lives. That includes pay, health care, mortgages, child-care expenses, etc.
At the end of the day this is supposed to be about winning and fun. I suspect it will be a while until the fans can rekindle the fun inside the moldy, beaten-down Trop.
— Bruce Reznick, New York
The Rays were a better manager and a few bullpen arms away from being a playoff team last season. Now they are in self-declared rebuild, and I expect a few more stars to leave soon. However, since the Rays front office proved it doesn’t care about us fans, I will opt not to drive from Orlando to support this team.
— Steve Thomas, Orlando
I think it was a good idea to move Longoria since he is 32 and declining. What’s terrible about the deal is we got another injured key player (Christian Arroyo) in return. Is this Matt Duffy Part 2?
— Jerry O’Grady, Sarasota