For the price of a pretzel at a Devil Rays game, you can have a shot at two tickets to the first two games of the 1998 World Series, compliments of American League umpire Rich Garcia. And, at the same time, he says, "You might be saving a high school senior from something terrible."
Garcia, a Clearwater resident who umpired the Rays' inaugural game at Tropicana Field, has donated the World Series tickets as part of a fund-raiser to support the June 3 Countryside High School senior class party. It is an event staged annually since 1990 to provide what Garcia called "a drug-free, alcohol-free celebration for the graduating class."
The chances, $3 apiece or two for $5, are sponsored by Aabco Mortgage Loans and Investments Inc. of St. Petersburg, with all proceeds going to the party, and are being sold at various Clearwater sites. For information, call 725-4278 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The tickets' retail value would be about $50 each, though the exact price will depend on the teams that make it into the Series.
"You read stories every year about graduates who go out partying and accidents happening involving drinking and driving or drug use, terrible things that destroy lives," Garcia said. "We don't want that to ever happen to any of our kids."
Each senior pays an $8 admission, which doesn't cover the cost of renting the Long Center, games and decorations and providing food, prizes and souvenir T-shirts. About 75 percent of the graduating class generally attends. "For the amount of money spent," chairwoman Joyce Theil said, "we might be saving a life."
"The party runs from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. and no one is allowed in after 10 p.m., and they can't leave and come back in," Theil added. "And if anyone wants to leave before the end, we call their parents to let them know their children are leaving. If the kids want to go party somewhere else, at least their parents will know about it."