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Late Night with the Rays is the best show on TV

Late-night baseball is one of the most underrated things in all of sports, Tom Jones writes.
Johnny Field is congratulated by teammates after he hit a solo home run against the Oakland Athletics in the top of the eighth inning Wednesday at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum in Oakland, [Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images]
Johnny Field is congratulated by teammates after he hit a solo home run against the Oakland Athletics in the top of the eighth inning Wednesday at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum in Oakland, [Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images]
Published May 31, 2018

Rays Up has turned into Stays Up this week.

The Rays are on the west coast, playing a bunch of games that don't come on until 10 o'clock at night.

It has been awesome.

Late-night baseball is one of the most underrated things in all of sports.

Most evenings, we all have so much going on — work, family, chores — that often we can't settle into a Rays game until the third or fourth inning.

But late-night baseball on TV is different.

You're finished cleaning up from dinner. All the chores are done. The kids are in bed. The house is quiet.

You're finally set to put your feet up and relax. You grab the remote and that's about the time you remember, "Oh, hey, the Rays have a late game!''

And it's then, for one of the rare times during the summer, that you get excited, actually excited, to watch just a regular old baseball game on television.

Because baseball is an every day sport, it's easy to take it for granted, and we do take it for granted. We rarely go out of our way to watch a specific regular-season game. For many of us, baseball comes and goes throughout the evening and throughout the summer.

We put the game on as background while we do other things around the house. Or we watch an inning or two, flip over to watch the Final Jeopardy question then switch back for a few batters. We channel surf, but return to the game as our home base every few minutes.

I've personally been known to watch a Rays game, the movie Step Brothers and back-to-back episodes of Law & Order all pretty much at the same time. And that's not even counting catching a few minutes of Cops, Parking Wars, animals chasing each other on National Geographic and making a quick dash to the store because we're out of milk.

But late-night baseball is different. We lock in on late-night games. We appreciate late-night games. We enjoy baseball more than other times of the year because it's the focal point of our night and not just a small part of it.

There's a sense of pride in watching late-night baseball. It takes endurance. It takes commitment. It's an investment that comes with a price that we gladly pay.

We know we're going to feel like a slug in the morning. We know we're going to need an extra cup of coffee to get going. We are going to be useless for half the day.

But we don't care. We stay up and watch, uninterrupted and completely engaged.

We wouldn't be able to do it all summer. It's a good thing the Rays only travel out west a couple of times a year. But those times are special, especially with the way the Rays are playing right now.

What Tampa Bay is doing is stunning.

You don't know who is pitching from one inning to the next. You don't know who is in the lineup from one night to the next. The more they make trades for the future the better they get in the present. How this team is above .500 is a mystery.

There were predictions that this team would lose 100 games and that was after the season was underway. Folks were looking up to see what the Rays all-time record was for most losses in a season. And while they were at it, they looked up the major league record, too.

When this team started 1-8, it was an embarrassment around here and a laughingstock everywhere else.

Now it might be the best story in baseball.

Maybe it won't last. Maybe they'll wake up one day and realize that this goofy pitching thing isn't supposed to work, that this mish-mash lineup isn't supposed to hit.

But maybe it will last.

Maybe we'll have more crazy nights like Tuesday when the Rays hit back-to-back-to-back home runs after the team hit a grand total of two homers in the previous six games.

Maybe we'll have more crazy late nights like Wednesday when some dude who has had two Tommy John surgeries and hadn't pitched in a major-league game in nearly two years tossed six innings of no-hit ball.

You're liable to see anything with this team, and that's the fun part. This is a fun team. They're never dull. They're never boring. Whether they win or lose, the Rays are quite entertaining.

They're worth watching.

Especially late at night.

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