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Rays' World Series run helping to keep fans’ spirits high during difficult time

Some followers of the team plan to make the trip to Texas, while others will cheer from home.
Larry Burrows, right, and his wife, Diane, will fly to Arlington, Texas, for the World Series on Monday afternoon with their dog, Benji. The Burrows don't have tickets, but they hope to get their hands on some before Game 1 on Tuesday.
Larry Burrows, right, and his wife, Diane, will fly to Arlington, Texas, for the World Series on Monday afternoon with their dog, Benji. The Burrows don't have tickets, but they hope to get their hands on some before Game 1 on Tuesday.
Published Oct. 19, 2020|Updated Oct. 20, 2020

Larry Burrows has been an avid baseball fan since 1972, growing up in Sacramento, Calif., cheering for the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants. Before the Madeira Beach resident became a Rays fan — or knew who they’d be facing in the World Series — he was certain how he felt about the Dodgers.

“I like absolutely zero about the Dodgers, coming from California," Burrows, 62, said. “That’s like the equivalent of Rays-Yankees."

Burrows and his wife, Diane, flew to Arlington, Texas, with their dog, Benji — a nine-month-old black lab retriever — Monday afternoon for the World Series between the Dodgers and Rays.

The Burrows don’t have tickets to the series, but they’re hopeful they’ll get some once they arrive in Texas. It would be Larry’s 10th World Series game and Benji’s first Rays game.

“There’s nothing like the tension of a playoff game,” Larry said.

“When that first pitch is thrown until the game is over, it’s non-stop tension, and I enjoy it — that every pitch is important. Every time a runner gets on base, it could end your dreams, their dreams. And there’s just nothing like it. I love it."

Related: Rays World Series schedule, information

Larry fondly remembers attending Games 6 and 7 of the 2016 World Series, when the Cubs beat the Indians in Cleveland to win their first title since 1908.

“It’s amazing,” Larry said. “I hope to see the same for the Rays.”

The Burrows have made a habit of watching television from the patio by their pool.

“We sit out there and watched Netflix all summer,” Larry said. “It’s so nice to have something real that’s taking place.”

Related: After a day of rest, Rays have work to do for World Series

The Burrows haven’t just watched the Rays, either. They’ve been keeping tabs on other teams, too — especially the Dodgers.

Larry views the Dodgers as a good team with plenty of quality hitters. But after watching the National League Championship Series against the Braves, he believes the Rays' pitching staff can “keep that hitting under control.”

“I don’t know that (the Dodgers have) seen quite the same competition,” Larry continued. “I know once you get on that field, it’s what you do. One mistake will end it.”

Related: The world may not believe it, but passionate Rays fans do exist

Tampa residents and Rays season ticket holders Justin Pegg and his wife, Meraya, plan to celebrate their 12th wedding anniversary in Texas.

The couple plans to drive to New Orleans on Saturday, spend the night, then continue on to Arlington Sunday morning, just in time for Game 5.

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Justin Pegg poses for a photo with his wife, Meraya, during a Rays game at Tropicana Field in 2014. The Tampa couple will celebrate its 12th wedding anniversary by attending Game 5 of the World Series in Arlington, Texas.
Justin Pegg poses for a photo with his wife, Meraya, during a Rays game at Tropicana Field in 2014. The Tampa couple will celebrate its 12th wedding anniversary by attending Game 5 of the World Series in Arlington, Texas. [ Courtesy of Justin Pegg ]

This year will mark Pegg’s second World Series. He attended Game 1 of the 2008 Series, when the Rays faced the Phillies, watching from the party deck at Tropicana Field. This time, he’ll have a view from behind home plate on the second level of Globe Life Field.

“With COVID, the baseball season in general has been the highlight of my nights,” Pegg, 40, said. “This postseason is bittersweet. On one hand, I am overjoyed in their success. On the other, I am sad I cannot experience it at the Trop.”

Meanwhile, Benjamin Corson and his grandfather, David Paczkowski, plan to make the most of the World Series from home. Baseball has always been an important part of their tight bond.

Paczkowski, 78 of Lutz was a Rays season ticket holder for nearly 20 years and regularly took his his family to games. He only gave up the tickets when Corson, now 25, left his Tampa home to attend Florida State.

The two saw ex-Ray Edwin Jackson pitch a no-hitter against his former team as a member of the Diamondbacks in 2010. Paczkowski also attended Game 1 of the 2008 World Series. (Corson was too young to stay out that late on a school night).

Benjamin Corson, left, plans to watch the World Series with his brother, Josh, middle, and grandfather, Dave Paczkowski, right. Benjamin Corson and Paczkowski have enjoyed watching baseball together for the past 20 years.
Benjamin Corson, left, plans to watch the World Series with his brother, Josh, middle, and grandfather, Dave Paczkowski, right. Benjamin Corson and Paczkowski have enjoyed watching baseball together for the past 20 years. [ Benjamin Corson ]

They’ve enjoyed talking about the similarities and differences between this year’s Rays and the 2008 version.

Paczkowski believes both teams lacked superstar-like power but made up for it wit great pitching and defense and breakout performances from rookies (Evan Longoria then, and Randy Arozarena now). Most importantly, he said, both rosters included career journeymen who became favorites in Tampa Bay.

The two have watched this year’s postseason from Paczkowski’s living room, when Corson’s work schedule permits. It’s been a welcome respite for Paczkowski, who was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer earlier this year.

“Watching the Rays make a run to the World Series from his living room has kept his spirits high and allowed us to spend our quality sports time together even amid a pandemic,” Corson said. “While we will be watching at his house, I know we will get to a game next year cancer-free and as World Series champs.”

Here’s how some other Rays fans plan to watch the World Series:

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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