That’s what I felt walking in to the Rays game against the Red Sox on Monday night at Tropicana Field.
The home team is in the throes of a playoff fight in the final week of the season and there was no crowd in sight.
Parking was a breeze, super close to the stadium.
There was no line at security. Frankly, they looked happy to have a bag to inspect.
Inside, it seemed like half of the concession stands were closed, including a favorite craft beer spot in the outfield sections.
Most surprising? When I went to the ladies room, I was the only one there. At a professional sporting event, I had the ladies restroom to myself.
The stadium had the feel of the closing days of a record-losing season, rather than the buzz and excitement of one of the most exciting stories in baseball.
Walking around, it was empty. Bleak. Grim.
Announced attendance was 8,779, but looking around, it felt like I could count the fans. And yell loud enough from the outfield for someone behind home plate to hear me. I’m guessing maybe half that many people were on hand for the thrilling, come-from-behind 7-4 victory.
This lifelong baseball fan has rooted for the Rays since the beginning, regularly coming to games with my daughters, friends and family. I’m not there all the time, but this week it counts.
So there I was watching Rays right fielder Avisail Garcia between pitches, pausing to take off his hat, look back at the outfield stands, and then look at the field. I imagined him thinking, “Do our fans even care?”
I saw Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts make a monster throw from the rightfield corner to throw Garcia out at third base. He smiled after, and I imagined him wishing that had happened at Fenway Park, in front of a raucous hometown crowd.
I tweeted a photo of the empty stands Monday night and people from all over reacted, suggesting it proves the team needs to move.
That’s kind of hard to argue.
There was other chatter on social media, fans attacking me and others for tweeting about low attendance. Like it was an opinion, not a blatantly obvious fact.
And maybe that’s one of the biggest problems here. If the Rays fan base can’t acknowledge the problem, where are we?
If the Rays can’t draw the support of Tampa Bay during this playoff push, how is this a home for baseball? What’s our excuse?
How can we whine over the idea of splitting a season with Montreal? Or totally leaving?
Can you imagine another market where the fan base just doesn’t show up?
If the Rays make the playoffs, the team is committed to opening the upper deck for fans. Will they come?
All we ask is for a winning team. Here we have a really exciting, talented, fun one to watch. Did you see Ji-Man Choi’s three-run homer to turn the momentum Monday night? How about Brandon Lowe’s rocket shot or Willy Adames’ 20th homer? All in one inning.
There are two home games left.
Will you be there?
Or have you written them off, as gone, goodbye?
That would be a shame.