Thursday, September 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

More cowbell has consequences at Tropicana Field

ST. PETERSBURG — Attention, Rays fans: There is cowbell etiquette at Tropicana Field, and it is enforced.

It was those bells, ringing loud and proud, that got Dave Wearing, 59, and his family of avid Rays fans ejected from Tropicana Field three weeks ago.

For every game they attend, the Flex Pack holders bring their gear — Rays hats and wristbands, license plates and car magnets, even a $120 corn hole set bearing the baseball team's logo.

And they've been uninterruptedly ringing their cowbells for years.

But on May 24, the night the Rays beat the Red Sox in extra innings, the family learned the hard way that the traditional noisemakers sold at the Trop come with rules — ones that got them kicked out.

"We didn't even get to see them win the game," Wearing said.

Wearing, his wife, their daughter, her boyfriend and a family friend had arrived for the game early to tailgate, as they always do.

Later, they found their seats in right field, among a sea of Boston fans. In the first inning, the Sox scored five runs, and the Boston fan base responded accordingly.

"These Red Sox fans around us were really giving us the business," Wearing said.

Then the Rays began a slow comeback, and with each run or admirable play, Wearing and his family clanged their bells, in the same fashion they always have.

First, an usher came by and asked the family to ring the bells a little less — they were disturbing the fans around them. Then came warning No. 2, a couple of innings later, when the usher handed the group a piece of paper explaining the Trop's guidelines for cowbell etiquette.

It read, "Ring your cowbells when the following occurs: A Rays pitcher has two strikes against a batter. A Rays player reaches base or scores a run. Prompted by our RaysVision scoreboard."

The same instructions are announced in a video before each game, but Jordan Bailey, the boyfriend of Wearing's daughter, Ali, said the family usually enters after it plays.

Bailey, who turns 32 today, said he has rung a cowbell at probably 75 games and never before been told how to do it. He said he has never seen the video.

At that May 24 game, Bailey voiced his objections, and soon a couple of police officers escorted him to a holding area. He refused to show them his ID and was belligerent, Rays spokesman Rick Vaughn said, which got him banned for the season.

"It was more about his behavior than anything else," Vaughn said. "He was banned for the season because of his disrespect for everyone involved."

The rest of the group was asked to leave the game, too.

"I just thought, 'Hey, this is really unfair,' " Wearing said. "No punches were thrown. No beverages were thrown. All we were doing was ringing our cowbells."

The Wearings have decided they won't attend any more games this season, even though they still have six games remaining on their Flex Packs.

"We're not going to go back if Jordan can't go," Wearing said.

Bailey has tried to get his ban lifted but was denied. Now he's attempting to get the money he paid for his Flex Pack refunded.

Bailey said his frustration lies in the lack of communication between those who sell the cowbells and those who regulate their ringing.

For the rest of the season, these fans will watch their Rays from home, where they're free to ring their cowbells whenever they want.

Katie Mettler can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8913. Follow her on Twitter @kemettler.

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