ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are getting an early start on the 2023 season, moving up the launch of single-game ticket sales several months to Dec. 2 and the first-pitch time for most of their weekday home games to 6:40 p.m.
The team experimented with the 6:40 starts (rather than the traditional 7:10) for 16 Monday-Thursday games during the early and late parts of last season when school was in session. It felt it worked well enough for fans, staff and players that it will start 42 games, including all Friday home dates, at the earlier time this season.
Though some Tampa-based fans complained publicly that the earlier starts were inconvenient, chief business officer Bill Walsh said the Rays did extensive surveys of ticket buyers, with “thousands of responses ” floating everything from late-afternoon to 7:10 starts, and found the slightly earlier window was favored.
“We had a lot of responses from Hillsborough and Pinellas (counties), and even on the Hillsborough side there was a clear majority of folks that wanted the games to be a bit earlier,” he said. “So, that’s what we’ve tried to accommodate.”
The Rays ultimately picked 6:40 over 6:10, thinking that some of the on-field rules changes also will lead to earlier finishes. “We’ll give it a shot,” Walsh said. “It’s hopefully gonna get folks out of here a little bit earlier during the week, which is something that we understand was really important to everybody.”
Another change is that all Saturday home games will begin at 4:10. Last year, they switched between 1:10, 4:10 and 6:10. Sunday home games will start at 1:10 or 1:40. Eight other weekday games will start at 12:10 or 1:10, two holiday games at 4:10, the March 30 opener vs. Detroit at 3:10. See raysbaseball.com/schedule for the full list.
In past seasons, single-game tickets were not available until February. Walsh said the Rays decided to try the earlier on-sale date for several reasons.
Those include providing the opportunity to purchase individual-game tickets as holiday gifts rather than ticket packages or gift cards and knowing some fans will target specific matchups under the new schedule format (such as visits by the Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers and Phillies, and both Yankees series falling on weekends). Also, there is an industry trend to start sales earlier to avoid competing in January with football playoffs.
The Rays will make a second ticket push in February around the time of their FanFest by releasing the schedule of giveaways, promotions and special events, many of which will be tied to celebrating their 25th anniversary season. Walsh said additional ticket plans will be made available then, as well.
General sales to the general public will start Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. via the MLB Ballpark app and raysbaseball.com. Prior to that, the Rays will have their usual series of presales for season members, spring training season ticket holders, corporate partners and subscribers to the Rays Insider newsletters.
Contract deadline Friday
The Rays have to decide by Friday at 6 p.m. whether to tender contracts to their 14 arbitration-eligible players (or negotiate a 2023 salary), then seek to trade any they don’t or allow them to become free agents. They also will have more clarity on what players they may be able to add.
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