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Tampa Bay Rays fan vignettes from Game 1 against the Texas Rangers

Waiting it out

. Bethany Keen, 12, arrived at the front porch of the Renaissance Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg on Wednesday morning armed with a royal blue Sharpie, her notebook of baseball cards, two fresh balls and an endearing smile. She was out to get some autographs.

But not just anybody's.

"I want Nolan Ryan on a ball," she said. "I could have asked some other players, but I didn't want security to say, 'Hey you can't get autographs' and make me leave. Then I would miss the opportunity to get the two guys I really want." Besides Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher and now Rangers part owner, she wanted Rangers rookie of the year candidate and closer Neftali Feliz.

Now, Bethany is a Rays fan, but because she has all their autographs from batting practices, she often stops by the Vinoy with her dad before games to enhance her collection of visiting players.

Keen debated if she would ask Rangers pitcher Cliff Lee, who started and won Game 1, for his autograph if he passed by. "He's pitching today, so he has to be focused. You wouldn't want to distract him or anything," she said.

In two years she has gotten many autographed pictures and more than 200 signed balls. But sometimes the opportunity just isn't there. "I don't know if Nolan Ryan is even here," she said. "It's the ALDS. Why wouldn't he be here?"

Familiar face

. St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster walked into the city's suite with the Rays down 3-0. "Don't get me started," he said when asked about the game.

He spent 90 minutes in the morning with TV journalist Bryant Gumbel, who's doing a segment for his HBO Real Sports show about pro baseball in Miami and St. Petersburg.

"It was a very lengthy interview," Foster said. "(Gumbel) had a lot of numbers. I'm not sure he's a fan of how they did it in Miami."

That city is using public financing for a new stadium.

Foster said he hadn't stopped by the suite of Rays owner Stu Sternberg. "No, we're both busy. I'm working today, and he's got a team to run."

As Foster waited for a hot dog in the fifth inning, the Rays were down 5-0. "I'm getting nervous, but the Rays can come back," he said.

And then his mood brightened. On TBS's coverage was an aerial shot of downtown St. Petersburg. "There you go, the money shot. Isn't that beautiful? That's going out to the world," he said.

Yes, it's a school day, but …

. Charlene Siders, a 33-year-old customer service manager from Tampa, wanted to do something nice for her son Jacob, 9. He recently suffered a concussion in an accident, she said, but he's fine.

She pulled him out of his fourth-grade classes so they could see their first postseason game. "It's a mom thing," said Siders, who's a fan. "I love it."

Portraits in plaid

. It wasn't exactly a sea of blue plaid in the stands, but plenty of fans seemed to embrace the new Rays fashion popularized by manager Joe Maddon.

Allison Brady of Palm Harbor and her 13-year old son, Aiden, love the Rays and love the plaid, she said, so they went "plaid shopping" the other day. She found a plaid top for herself and plaid shorts for Aiden.

"My husband asked, 'What are we trying to do, give the other team seizures?' " she said.

BRaysers to be sold at Saks

. Now you can own a blue plaid BRayser sports coat.

The team is finalizing details to sell authentic BRaysers at Saks Fifth Avenue in Tampa's International Plaza by this weekend, Rays senior vice president Mark Fernandez said.

"The look took off right away. It's essentially the new 9=8," said Fernandez, referring to the Rays' 2008 postseason slogan.

Fernandez said each jacket will be custom-made through Julia Alarcon, the New York-based designer who calls Tampa home and who made the team's blazers.

The jackets, the idea of manager Joe Maddon, will sell for around $300.

The Rays first wore the BRaysers — blue and white plaid blazers with the team's sunburst logo on the left chest — on their seven-day trip to California in August.

Official Major League Baseball apparel including Rays caps with plaid bills and playoff shirts with plaid lettering are popular items at Tropicana Field and the Rays' team store in downtown Tampa.

"MLB was actually an even more enthusiast about it than us," Fernandez said.

Where's B.K.?

. Remember B.K. Jackson, the Tampa saxophonist who blew the crowd away in the 2008 playoffs with his spirited rendition of the national anthem? He is now a student at Florida A&M in Tallahassee and isn't available for Games 1 and 2 of this series. The Rays said it is possible Jackson could play before a weekend home playoff game, if they have one. Jazz musician Les Sabler and bay area vocalist Marshall Gillon performed the national anthem Wednesday. Today, Amanda Puyot, 14, from St. Petersburg High will sing.

Change of heart

. Dean Staples, 79, is one fan who has a long history with the Trop. As a St. Petersburg City Council member, he was one of three votes against dedicating sales tax money for the stadium's construction in the 1980s. "I'm the only one who voted against it who is still alive," he said between bites of a footlong hot dog. He objected to the Trop because it diverted money from city services. "It was a tough call," Staples said. "But we made it work."

Now, he said, he's a big fan of the Trop.

He has been following the latest round of stadium intrigue. This time he thinks a stadium is vital.

"It should stay in Pinellas," he said.

Surgery will be delayed …

. Count Dr. Ernie Rehnke as a critic of the game's daytime start time. "It's a disservice to the best team in the American League," he said. "They did this because of the Yankees."

A season-ticket holder, Rehnke, who works at Palms of Pasadena Hospital in St. Petersburg, has one of the best seats. He and wife Linda sit behind home plate in what appear to be dark leather seats.

"I think they are pleather," he said. "But they are comfortable."

Rehnke had to work after the game. A patient flown in from another state was set for abdominal surgery.

"They know about this and that I'm a big sports fan," he said. "They're fine with it, especially if the Rays win."

Tampa Bay Rays fan vignettes from Game 1 against the Texas Rangers 10/07/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 7, 2010 1:32am]

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