1 Tropicana Drive, St. Petersburg, FL 33705
What you see: You're able to see many things that you don’t when you are there for a game. In the 90-minute tour, you meander throughout the stadium seeing many areas that are readily accessible on game day but many that are not.
The tour starts in the rotunda (which is modeled after New York’s Ebbets Field) but it doesn’t take long to get you where you really want to be — on the field. The turf is soft like the fake grass you get in an Easter basket. But underneath, you can see flecks of rubber that keeps the field springy and soft. On the warning track near the wall, there are larger pebbles underneath the turf so that players will know that they are getting closer to the wall. Well, at least the home team knows that.
What a view: A place you wouldn’t normally go on game day is the press box. This view is amazing. You get an awesome view of the entire field because, of course, these folks need to see everything that is going on. If the team makes it to the postseason, expect for the media corps to grow from about 60-70 media personnel to as many as 500 for the World Series.
Eye candy: Inside the visitors clubhouse, you can see the nice leather lounge chairs that players can relax in, flat panel TVs to watch, places to play cards an there’s even some exercise equipment to stay loose. But when kids go through here, they probably have their eyes on one thing — the candy. In addition to the sunflower seeds and bubble gum that you expect, there is gummy everything. And there’s also lots of chocolate.
Benched: From there, it’s time to check out the dugout to get a view of the field from the players and coaches perspectives. No wonder so many players actually stay on the steps or near the railing — when you sit down, it’s hard to see the field.
Must-see TV: Finally, you might think the command center for Rays Vision, the hugemondo screen in center field, would be in a gigantic room filled with lots of people. But the small team of folks who run the screen have their duties down to a science. They know when to make all the boards light up when there’s a homer or when to do an instant replay. The screen was added just before the 2007 season.
What you can see anytime: The tour does take you to places that you can readily see on game days: the Rays Touch Tank (which on the day we went had a net up to separate the males from the females because it was mating season and they can get a little aggressive); the Ted Williams Museum & Hitters Hall of Fame, which houses memorabilia from many players; and the Rays Team Store.
It’s a homerun: No matter how many times you’ve been on field at the Trop, nothing beats it. I’ve been on the field many times for kid events, a retirement party, a home show. But it’s still exciting to know that many of the Rays great young players and so many stars on other teams (Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, David Ortiz and Ichiro Suzuki) have played on this field. And it was Ted Williams who threw out the first pitch at the very first Rays game on March 31, 1998.
-- Sherry Robinson