ST. PETERSBURG — Like most across the Tampa Bay area, Rays players and staff are concerned about what might happen this weekend with Hurricane Irma.
"I'm pretty (much) kind of panicking about it; I don't know what to do," centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier said. "A lot of things can happen with its path and all that, but Mother Nature is undefeated every time certain things like this happen. It's scary nonetheless."
With a weekend series scheduled in Boston, the Rays are making two hurricane-related changes:
• They pushed their departure back from postgame today until Thursday afternoon to allow more time for players and traveling staff to get their families situated or headed out of town.
• And they will pack for extra days in case they can't fly back to Tampa as planned on Sunday night and/or if next week's series against the Yankees needs to be relocated from the Trop.
Rays executives expect to talk extensively today with Major League Baseball officials about that scenario, with a decision expected by Friday.
The most logical option would be to play the games at Yankee Stadium as the home team, but while convenient, that would present a competitive disadvantage. The Rays visit Yankee Stadium Sept. 26-28, but it's unlikely they would seek to swap series given the revenue difference.
Another option would be to play at a neutral site, as the Astros and Rangers did at the Trop last week due to Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston. Available options in the northeast could include the Mets' Citi Field and the Orioles' Camden Yards.
Several Rays players said their immediate priority was getting their families headed either to their offseason homes or to stay with friends out of state. Some said they were packing up valuables and relocating their cars to safer ground.
"Everybody is thinking about it right now," said third baseman Evan Longoria, who owns a waterfront home. "Fingers crossed it doesn't hit us directly. The threat is definitely a lot more real being on the heels of what's happened in Houston. If that hadn't happened, maybe we wouldn't be scrambling as much to get our families out and get everything situated. … Hopefully everybody is taking the threat seriously."
"It's pretty scary," said rightfielder Steven Souza Jr., who rents a waterfront home. "It's all fresh in our minds from what happened in Houston and Harvey, so everybody is a little bit on edge. The (TV) news is doing a good job of making it pretty scary, the magnitude with which it could impact. … It's a scary time for the community, and hopefully it passes over."
The Rays will close their offices Thursday and Friday to allow staff to prepare. Though the roof was supposedly built to withstand 120 mph winds, the Trop is not considered safe enough to be used as a shelter, and it also could be subject to flooding/drainage issues. It could be used as a staging area for emergency vehicles and responders.
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Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.