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TRUE BLUE FANS GLAD TO SHOW TRUE COLORS

You know you're a baseball fan when you are willing to apply body paint to your half-dressed guy pal in public.

Jeff Cluff, 18, of Dunedin, Stephen Barnes, 19, of Clearwater, and Ian Parham, 18, of Dunedin stood outside their car on Sixth Avenue S on Friday afternoon and took turns painting their bare chests blue. The teenagers said they started doing body paint last year.

"They were losing then," said Cluff. "It's much cooler now that they are winning."

Fearless nation: Before the game, Bruce O'Kieffe and his son, Patrick, walked fearlessly down Central Avenue in full Red Sox gear: hats, T-shirts and jerseys.

Aren't they worried about Rays fans? "Depends on how drunk they are," said Patrick, 17.

Bruce, 46, said he's worn his Red Sox gear to Rays game since he moved to Weeki Wachee two years ago from Maryland. "It's America," he said. "You can root for who you want."

Official flag: Red Sox Nation? How about Rays City Hall?

Before the game Friday, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker hung a donated Rays flag below the U.S. flag at City Hall with council members Leslie Curran and Jamie Bennett looking on.

"For 80 years we've played spring baseball in St. Petersburg. For 10 years, we've played summer baseball in St. Petersburg. I really like fall baseball in St. Petersburg," Baker quipped.

ticket strategy: Fans who showed up without tickets could find a ticket in the designated scalper area outside Tropicana Field between Gates 5 and 6. The going price: Between $100 and $200 each. But if the Rays win, scalpers were already planning their second-day pricing strategy: $125 to $300 a ticket.

But one fan, Sharon Miller, 54, was willing to gamble even more for the first game. She said she paid $450 to see her Red Sox win. "I like the Rays, but come on, it's the Red Sox," she said.

official perk: So here's another option if you can't afford a ticket: Get elected.

As part of St. Petersburg's agreement for Tropicana Field, the city has access to 26 tickets. Mayor Baker's office this week contacted Pinellas County Commission Chairman Bob Stewart, who helped the city land a major league team. Among those to enjoy the perk: Stewart, Commissioners Ronnie Duncan and Karen Seel, County Attorney Jim Bennett and Assistant County Administrator Elithia Stanfield.

"What you would call a perk," he said, "I would call a recognition of support in the past."

rayhawk kid returns: Remember the Bradenton seventh-grader who got an in-school suspension for sporting a RayHawk at school? His family is moving back to St. Petersburg this weekend, so Zachary Sharpleswill return to his old school, Meadowlawn Middle, the Bradenton Herald reports.

"My old school is pretty cool," he said. And they don't mind RayHawks.

police presence: St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon said he had 50 percent more staff working at Tropicana Field.

"The Red Sox have been here. It's always a challenge," Harmon said. Among the ranks: bomb-sniffing dogs and officers looking for fraud in ticket sales and knock-off merchandise.

KEEPING THEM BUSY: A protest organized by the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, which drew about 20 people protesting the police shooting of Javon Dawson. Inside, security kept an eye on celebrities, including rapper Lil Wayne, retired Buccaneers fullback Mike Alstott and American Idol runner up David Archuleta, who was scheduled to sing God Bless America.

NO TICKET FOR TONIGHT: No problem, head to The Pier.

Elite Mobile Advertising will provide a big screen for fans to watch the game in the Waterside Courtyard area. Picnic tables and folding chairs will be set up, but fans are encouraged to bring their own chairs.

Game time is 8:07 p.m., but fans arriving from 1-4 p.m. can get a free Mohawk haircut from the Aveda Institute. And if all that's not enough to lure you, a drum circle will run from 5-7 p.m.

Cristina Silva, Curtis Krueger, Stephanie Garry and Will Van Sant contributed to this report.

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