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Rays fans traveling to Houston 'very excited’ for division series against Astros

“I think that our strengths are well-suited for the playoffs," said TJ Grzesikowski of St. Petersburg.

“I definitely planned for the long haul,” the 30-year-old USF St. Petersburg graduate student said.

Grzesikowski is among the Rays fans who will be making the trip to Houston for the division series against the Astros. He will be meeting two friends — former St. Petersburg residents Anna Costello and Marty Loftus, who now live in Denver — for Game 2 on Saturday. Another friend and displaced Rays fan will be traveling from Austin to meet the group before the game.

Grzesikowski said the affordable price of the flight — $165 round trip, using his airline credit card — made the excursion possible. The game ticket set him back another $280.

“I’m very excited,” Grzesikowski said. “I think that our strengths are well-suited for the playoffs.”

Grzesikowski expects to be wearing a white throwback jersey with a Blake Snell jersey shirt underneath when he takes his seat behind the Rays dugout on the third-base side of Minute Maid Park. He’ll have his headphones on, listening to the radio call as he takes in the action on the field.

He said he will consider returning to Houston for a possible Game 5 on Oct. 10, schedule and price permitting.

Grzesikowski, a lifelong St. Petersburg resident, has been a season-ticket holder for the past seven years. But his memories of the team go back much further than that.

He was 8 when the Rays played their first game at Tropicana Field in 1998. His favorite memories include watching Evan Longoria develop from a rookie into a perennial All-Star, David Price win the Cy Young Award, Matt Garza throw a no-hitter (Grzesikowski was there) and the Rays consistently produce top-flight pitchers.

He has acquired a number of memorabilia pieces at game-day auctions, including autographed photos of Longoria and signed balls from opening-day starters Price, Chris Archer and Alex Cobb. Bobblehead dolls and balls are displayed around his kitchen.

Grzesikowski said he will never forget Jose Lobaton’s walkoff home run into the rays tank during a postseason win over the Red Sox in 2013.

“That was probably the coolest moment,” he recalled. “To be able to ring a cowbell in front of Boston fans.”

Grzesikowski likes the Rays’ chances not only against the Astros, but of going deep into the playoffs. He said he thinks the recent return of pitchers such as Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell and Jose De Leon gives Tampa Bay an edge.

“The bullpen has been stellar all year," he said. "A different batter pops up every game. But the quality of the pitching throughout, especially September, has been unbelievable.”

TJ Grzesikowski, with his niece, Helen Rose Cedrez. [Courtesy of TJ Grzesikowski]
From left, Courtney Cedrez, TJ Grzesikowski and and Rik Cedrez. [Courtesy of TJ Grzesikowski]
TJ Grzesikowski is one of several Rays fans who will be making the trip to Houston for the division series against the Astros. [Courtesy of TJ Grzesikowski]
Some of the signed photos in TJ Grzesikowski's home. [Courtesy of TJ Grzesikowski]