Ex-Rays OF Mallex Smith: “I’m going to enjoy fans in the stands”

Traded to Seattle, Smith is latest to weigh in on lack of support at Tropicana Field
Mallex Smith said he was looking forward to playing in front of bigger crowds in Seattle than he saw in Tampa Bay. [RUSSELL HARTNESS | Twitter]
Mallex Smith said he was looking forward to playing in front of bigger crowds in Seattle than he saw in Tampa Bay. [RUSSELL HARTNESS | Twitter]
Published Jan. 25, 2019|Updated Jan. 25, 2019

OF Mallex Smith’s introduction to Seattle on Thursday included a parting shot at the lack of support his former Rays teammates receive at Tropicana Field.

Traded by the Rays in November, Smith was asked during a pre-spring media session with two other new Seattle players what he most excited about in coming to the Mariners.

"I don’t know about these guys and where they played before this,'' Smith said, "but I’m going to enjoy fans in the stands, That’s a big one for me. I’m going to be excited about that. I’m looking forward to those seats filled.''

Smith, a Florida native, enjoyed his time with the Rays, who gave him the opportunity to play much of 2017 and all of last season in the majors, and to have a 2018 breakout performance in which he hit .296 with 10 triples, 40 steals and a .773 OPS.

But his comments are similar to what OF Tommy Pham, who came to Tampa Bay in a July 31 trade from St, Louis, said in December about the lack of fan support.

“It sucks going from playing in front of a great fan base to a team with really no fan base at all,” Pham told MLB Radio on SiriusXM from the Dominican Republic, where he was playing winter ball. “St. Louis, they’re one of the few teams to where day in and day out they have 40,000 fans at every game, and that’s something that I miss. Because even out here in the Dominican they have a strong fan base with the team I’m playing for. Their fans are very supportive, they’re loud, and the Rays, they just don’t have that.”

Further, he doesn’t think from what he saw in two months it will get better without a significant change.

“Do I think something has to happen, whether it be a new ballpark or maybe a new city? I think so,” Pham said. “If you have a team that’s going to be winning 90-plus games, competing in that division, and you don’t have any fan support, then that’s a huge problem.”

Smith may not see the kind of full-house support he is hoping for. While the Rays were last in the American League (and 29th in the majors) in averaging 14,259 fans per game, the Mariners were only in the middle of the pack, drawing an average of 28,389 to what is now known as T-Mobile Park after a name change from Safeco Field.

Smith also joked about staying longer in Seattle than when he was traded there by Atlanta in January 2017 and then immediately flipped to the Rays.

"Initial thought (on the trade), (GM) Jerry (DiPoto) is going to flip me again,'' Smith said. "But I was happy to be back. I actually get to suit up as a Mariner, hopefully this time. Jerry, don’t do it again, please.

"But overall just excited about the obstacles that lay ahead. I know we haven’t been to the playoffs in a long time. So I’m excited about actually helping us get into the playoffs and changing the culture, getting to meet my new teammates, and having fun on the baseball field.”