1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Rays

Rays fans overcome roadblocks, pack the Trop for Game 3

Despite traffic and an early start, the crowd of 32,251 combine with the Rays’ big hits to produce an electric atmosphere.
Tampa Bay Rays fans cheer in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros in Game 3 of the American League Division Series Monday, Oct. 7, 2019 in St. Petersburg. [DOUGLAS CLIFFORD | Times]
Published Oct. 8
Updated Oct. 8

ST. PETERSBURG — It took the first two innings of action and a bucket of Rays runs, but 32,251 baseball fans came through Monday to fill Tropicana Field for Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Astros.

“The crowd was tremendous,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “Thank the bay area fans. It was awesome.”

The Rays were buried in a 2-0 hole in the series. The deficit, along with an inconveniently scheduled 1:05 p.m. first pitch, did little to set Rays fans up for success.

Despite the hurdles, the crowd persisted.

Dasean Thomas, a 25-year-old Rays fan from St. Petersburg, said city traffic made it difficult to get to the ballpark on time. It took him 30 minutes to drive the short 13 blocks to Tropicana Field. Thomas couldn’t get into the Trop until nearly 2 p.m. Closed parking lots presented another roadblock, delaying fans’ entry into the ballpark by as much as 45 minutes.

The Rays announced rosters and opening lineups to a warm, but not yet electric, crowd 20 minutes ahead of first pitch.

Fans waved yellow rally towels, which they were handed as they walked in the gates, and Charlie Morton gave them something to cheer for right away when he got Astros outfielder George Springer to ground out on the first pitch of the game.

Through the first inning, fans slowly filtered into the stadium. Still, the Trop needed a spark.

Kevin Kiermaier helped with a three-run home run in the second inning, but it was Ji-Man Choi who really ignited a playoff atmosphere.

With his solo shot in the third inning, Choi gave the Rays a 4-1 lead and sent a nearly-full Trop into a frenzy.

“Seeing everyone with the towels and every fan through every pitch, it was insane,” Kiermaier said. “That’s something that I’ve never experienced before.”

William Tilford, 27, made the two-hour drive from his home in St. Cloud to attend his sixth Rays game of the season. Seated in Section 324, Tilford was thankful to have the upper deck of the Trop re-opened.

“It’s really nice to actually see people here,” Tilford said.

Tilford normally sits in the rightfield corner of the lower bowl. On Monday, he opted for the $40 seats.

“Especially for the playoffs, I’m really happy with my seats,” he said.

Fans came from across Tampa Bay for playoff baseball, but very few faced a longer commute than the Byrds. The family of four made a 13-hour drive from Robbins, Tenn., to vacation at St. Pete Beach, and they were lucky to have their fall break overlap with ALDS action.

“Our plan was to do a tour (of Tropicana Field) because I wasn’t sure there would be a game,” said Joni Byrd, who took in the playoff atmosphere with husband Wade and sons Jackson and Jacob.

As the Rays poured it on, the crowd got louder. Chants of “Ji-Man Choi” broke out every time the first baseman stepped up to the plate. The roar of cowbells took over until Colin Poche recorded the last out in a 10-3 win.

Even outfielder Tommy Pham, who has spoken out about the Rays’ regular-season attendance woes in the past, couldn’t help but grin when asked what he thought about Monday’s turnout.

“(It’s) about time.”


  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston talks to reporters after an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. The Saints won 31-24. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) BUTCH DILL  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay: What’s next for the Bucs, Astros-National World Series preview, the Lightning’s short-circuit start
  2. Davey Martinez gained valuable experience as a coach behind Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay. But when Maddon exited, the Rays bypassed him for a "new voice," Kevin Cash. Tampa Bay Times
    After failing to land a half-dozen manager jobs, including with the Rays, Martinez and Nats ended up a good match.
  3. Jose Altuve prepares to be mobbed by his teammates at home plate as Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman leaves the field after giving up a walkoff two-run homer to the Astros second baseman in the ninth inning to win Game 6 of the AL Championship Series 6-4 on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. The Astros win the series 4-2 and advance to the World Series to play the Washington Nationals. MATT SLOCUM  |  AP
    New York ties the ALCS Game 6 in the top of the ninth with a two-run HR before the diminutive second baseman wins it with a blast off Aroldis Chapman, putting Houston in the World Series.
  4. In 1968, slugger Frank Howard, known as the "Washington Monument," proved to be one of the few bright spots for the Washington Senators. AP
    The Nationals’ improbable postseason run rekindles memories of the woeful Washington Senators
  5. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash, on left, along with Erik Neander, center, senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager, and Chaim Bloom, senior vice president of baseball operations, address the media during a press conference at Tropicana Field Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Rays Tales: Research now, action to come as Rays get caught up after playoff run. Plus, TV rating info and rumblings.
  6. The Astros’ George Springer signals foul, but the delirious crowd in the rightfield stands at Yankee Stadium knows better as the ball hit by Aaron Hicks caroms off the foul pole for a three-run homer in the first inning of Game 5 of the AL Championship Series on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. FRANK FRANKLIN II  |  AP
    After falling behind 1-0 in the top of the first, New York slugs two home runs in the bottom half of the inning and cuts the series lead to 3-2. Game 6 is tonight in Houston.
  7. An emotional CC Sabathia is helped off the field during the eighth inning in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series against the Astros on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. The 39-year-old left-hander injures his pitching shoulder and is taken off the Yankees' postseason roster, thus ending his 19-year major-league career. MATT SLOCUM  |  AP
    The 39-year-old left-hander is taken off New York’s playoff roster, thus ending his 19-year big-league career.
  8. Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn (17) and right wing Luke Witkowski (28) celebrate with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) after the Lightning defeated the Boston Bruins 4-3 in a shootout in an NHL hockey game Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) ELISE AMENDOLA  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay: There was bad news Thursday in the Tampa Bay penalty box, for USF’s Blake Barnett, for the Yankees and the NFL’s reigning MVP.
  9. Astros manager A.J. Hinch answers questions during a news conference before Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. FRANK FRANKLIN II  |  AP
    A.J. Finch calls the accusations, including one of his team signaling by whistling, a “joke.”
  10. Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez raises the NLCS trophy after Game 4 of the baseball National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Washington. The Nationals won 7-4 to win the series 4-0. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) JEFF ROBERSON  |  AP
    They’re easy to like, familiar-looking and also connected to Montreal. Most importantly, they’re not the Astros or Yankees.