How to create a Tampa Bay Rays stadium vibe from quarantine
Stephanie Hayes | From overpriced beer to annoying conversations, bring Tropicana Field to your own home.
Sorry, you can't go to Tropicana Field. But here are some ideas to get that feeling at home.
Sorry, you can't go to Tropicana Field. But here are some ideas to get that feeling at home. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published July 21, 2020|Updated July 21, 2020

Baseball fans, your favorite summer sport is “back.” “Back” must remain confined in quotation marks, the way we are trapped in a nightmare from which we may never wake. Anyway, play ball!

The Tampa Bay Rays season opens Friday without fans present due to the coronavirus. Because playing sports in a quiet stadium is like listening to everyone chew crudité at a party with no music, crowd noises and tunes will be piped into Tropicana Field. For the low price of $60, you can even have a cutout of yourself installed in the stadium seats. I am 100 percent serious.

While our standees enjoy things in “person,” we humans must recreate the ol’ ballpark feeling at home. Honestly, learning to enjoy this team from a distance might be good practice, am I right?

Here are tips for achieving that authentic ballpark experience from your living room:

Buy a six-pack, then throw four of the beers in the garbage to get those great stadium prices.

Scatter peanut shells, popcorn bags, ketchup cups, Dippin’ Dots helmets and empty aluminum bottles all over the floor. Walk sideways like a crab while dodging them on the way to the bathroom.

Speaking of the bathroom, get the entire family — except for one person — to line up at the door between innings. Send the lone person to another bathroom, so she can return and smugly say, “There’s no line over there.”

At the start of the game, do a giveaway with things lying around the house, from a HoMedics foot spa to Gasparilla beads to socks with no partners. Explain that it will be valuable one day.

Dress the dog like Raymond. Dress the cat like DJ Kitty. Do not, under any circumstances, dress anyone like Stinger, who is soulless behind the eyes.

Pool your money for a 50/50 raffle. No one wins.

Make sure at least one person is wearing a jersey for a team not playing.

Don’t let the change of scenery stop you from cheering. Open the door and shout: “Ji-Man Choi, Ji-Man Choi, Ji-Man Choi!” Shout it to the heavens! Ring the cowbell! When that guy who called the non-emergency line on your holiday party sticks his head out the door, quickly duck back inside.

Have a Tijuana Flats coupon on hand in case of a win. Always forget to actually bring the coupon to Tijuana Flats. Get all the way there and say, “Didn’t we have a coupon from the Rays game? Oh well, next time.” Repeat until the taco offer is expired.

When the game gets boring, get up and make another plate of gloopy nachos in the kitchen. This will ensure the Rays get a grand slam you miss.

Scream at your spouse to bring you a hard seltzer. Present a credit card. Spouse replies that he only takes cash.

Position two family members who claim to love baseball, but do not love baseball, behind you within earshot. They will talk about absolutely anything except the game. Crane your neck passive aggressively and hunch forward on your knees. Grumble.

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Using your phone, discreetly check the scores for the team you actually care about from the town where you grew up.

Complain about watching baseball inside and make broad proclamations about the location and style of Tropicana Field. Go outside. Realize the heat index is 104 degrees. Come back inside.

Related: Read more columns from Stephanie Hayes