Rays fans enjoy a cheap date with the home team

$2 tickets a momentary respite from the glaring reality
Protestors who oppose the Rays' plans to split the season with Montreal walk past fans with their signs during Monday night's game against the Orioles at Tropicana Field. [JOSH SOLOMON   |   Times]
Protestors who oppose the Rays' plans to split the season with Montreal walk past fans with their signs during Monday night's game against the Orioles at Tropicana Field. [JOSH SOLOMON | Times]
Published July 2, 2019|Updated July 2, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — I stopped at the market Monday morning and bought a gallon of milk. It was $3.99. Then I stopped for gas. It was $2.57 a gallon.

Then I went to the Rays game for two bucks.

Tropicana Field was a bargain barn Monday night. It cost about 12 cents a half inning to watch the Rays beat the Orioles 6-3.

Related: MORE RAYS: Kiermaier leads way as Rays beat Orioles

That is why 20,000 people rocked the Trop as second-place Tampa Bay took on the worst-place Baltimore.

Who cared? It was good stuff.

Never mind that some paraded around the yard with handmade signs to protest Stu Sternberg and the idea of Montreal. One guy wore a brown paper bag over his head. Everybody was going on the cheap.

It is unsustainable of course. This is no baseball business model. The Rays know it and their fans have to know it. What’s next, dollar tickets? Everybody gets in for free? Bring your pets? Tenth person through the gates gets to make out the Rays lineup?

For conspiracy theorists, this is all part of the Rays ultra-secret plan to show baseball and Tampa Bay just what lengths they have to go to fill the Trop before converting to metric.

Well, all I know is that it was fun, the idea that we were paying five times less to get into a baseball game than we would have at the movies, that Rays-Orioles cost less Monday night than even a single carnival coupon ride operated by a one-armed guy. What a deal.

Related: MORE RAYS: After dazzling pitching debut, Brendan McKay gets to take his swings

I enjoyed my $2 peanuts too. Anytime you can deep dive into anything for half a game and it’s $2, that’s a good deal. I missed out on the $2 hot dogs and wasn’t going to wait for a $2 soft drink because the line was slightly longer than the TSA security queues at the airport.

Maybe Tampa Bay can’t keep the Rays. Maybe they already have one foot in the moving vans. Maybe these $2 tickets are a warning sign. But I can’t ever remember, in my life, sitting at a sporting event, the whole time thinking I was getting away with something.

Understand, I merely sat in a $2 seat that my boss had purchased. I entered the park with my baseball credential, like always, which means I need to recuse myself from any deep dive on the economics of attending baseball games in this modern age.

But I do know a deal when I see one, and I saw one all around the Trop on Monday night. People seemed happy. Everyone loves a bargain, and with it the sense that they were getting innings for free. We should have taken a group picture, so we can reflect on happier days once we are jilted.

That day is coming unless Sternberg pulls off the greatest upset in sports history. I’m not sure these $2 tickets were meant to mend fences so much as ease pain, but the pain will be back.

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Related: MORE RAYS: Three mayors, one owner: St. Pete's futile history with the Rays

All I know is that Rays against the Orioles would normally have drawn flies on a Monday night in July. Instead, people made noise and chomped on their $2 peanuts and sipped their $2 drinks and jumped and screamed when Kevin Kiermaier delivered a three-run homer to put the Rays ahead. There will be time for brown paper bags. But Monday there was life, the sounds of a baseball town, albeit one that is priced to go.

Contact Martin Fennelly at or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly