Opening day is Thursday, and Rays fans have probably already scanned the team's 2018 home schedule for cool giveaways like bobbleheads, boogie boards and cowbells.
One thing you won't find on the Rays' summer calendar: Free concerts.
For the first season since 2006, the Rays will not host any free postgame concerts at Tropicana Field, a staple of their annual promotional schedule. The team hosted around 80 concerts from 2007 to 2017, including acts like Joan Jett, ZZ Top, Miranda Lambert, Calvin Harris, Ludacris, Weezer, the Beach Boys, LL Cool J, Carly Rae Jepsen, Dierks Bentley, Darius Rucker, Train, the Goo Goo Dolls … the list goes on and on.
Last year the postgame concert series dwindled to just two, Lauren Alaina and Sabrina Carpenter. And now, in 2018, there are none. Why?
Rays spokesman Craig Vanderkam said the decision to call off the concert series was related to the stress the shows, and the fans they drew out, put on the centerfield turf.
"It's an effort to try and protect the playing surface and minimize events that create excess traffic," he said.
Bobby Rossi, the executive vice president for entertainment at Ruth Eckerd Hall, which booked the Rays concert series, said the concert series didn't fit in with the team's plan for giveaways tied heavily to the team's 20th anniversary.
"They're not saying they don't want to do more concerts, or won't go back to it next year, but this year, it's all 20th-centric promotions," he said. "They said, 'If you get something cool that you know we'd like, please send it over; we can always add it to that weekend's activities.'"
Over more than a decade, attendance on concert days fluctuated, trending higher early in the series and not doing quite as much overall later on. But it was a definite success around the Rays' 2008 World Series season, and even later on, the shows still moved the needle on certain demographics like families and teens.
"These are the things in the dog days of summer that get people out there," Rossi said.
Eh, free Hawaiian shirts are nice, too.
— Jay Cridlin