As Tampa Bay Rays fans scrambled for playoff tickets Friday afternoon, a slower, more methodical preparation began inside Tropicana Field.
The postseason logo started as a plastic stencil. It became a series of white dashes, then a few formed letters, then a splash of crisp blue and red lines.
"This right here," field foreman Mike Deubel said, pointing toward the evolving shape, "says you're in the playoffs."
Deubel helped paint the Rays' first-ever team logo in 1998. Ten years later, he put a World Series version on the field. In 2010, he laid out a postseason logo, and sprayed down another in 2011.
This year, like the others, he stenciled in the letters and shaded them freehand with a spray-painting machine. The field isn't air-conditioned unless there's a game, and Deubel dripped sweat into the paint as he filled in the flags.
It took his three-man crew hours to finish two versions, along the first-and third-base lines. Without air conditioning, the field has little air flow so the paint would need to dry at least overnight.
Three of the logo's shades came in new from Major League Baseball. The reds and whites were left over from past games. All were collected a week before they knew for sure they'd need them.
"We kind of stuck it in a back room and didn't look at it," Deubel said.
Superstition kept him from touching the MLB stencil, too, until Friday morning.
Deubel usually works while the Rays play, so he never sees a game live. When he's finished, he goes home to his family. But he said it's impossible to be in this place without feeling like you're part of the team.
Claire Wiseman can be reached at (727) 893-8804 or [email protected]