Take Me Out To The Ball Game – Tampa Bay Style!

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Day 28 Miami to Tampa, Florida

To be honest, Jasmine was not very excited about the plan today. I don’t know of any woman who would want to leave behind Miami Beach for a baseball game. This whole thing started a couple of days ago when I looked at the Tampa Bay Devil Rays schedule and discovered that we would be able to catch one of their home games. In reality we were already headed for the Tampa Bay area and I am just kidding about Jasmine being upset. We left Ft. Lauderdale at about 11am in the morning on our way northwest towards St. Petersburg.

The drive brought us onto I-75 which runs east to west across the southern portion of Florida. The road’s nickname is Alligator Alley, but unfortunately we didn’t see any gators this time. At about 1pm we decided to stop for lunch in Naples which is the southernmost major city on Florida’s gulf coast. The reason I mention this is because we finally got to eat at Cracker Barrel. We tried to do this once before on a Sunday morning in Dallas, but the wait was almost an hour. I had always heard that Cracker Barrel serves great greasy southern food so I said why not.

For some reason, even with the smell of grease all around, I felt like a salad. Jasmine did have a little grease though. She ordered biscuits, gravy and sausage which was very tasty. We decided a while ago that we wanted to eat at Cracker Barrel at least once. I guess it is one more item checked off of our list.

We arrived in St. Petersburg at about 4pm. This gave us about an hour to rest at the hotel before heading off to the baseball game. When we walked into the hotel we were very pleased with the quality we got for our money. It is among the best budget hotels we have stayed at on the trip so far. After about an hour of rest, we hurried over to the stadium.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays play in Tropicana Field which is an oddly shaped indoor stadium in St. Petersburg. For those who are not familiar, the term “Tampa Bay” really refers to an area that encompasses the cities of Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg. All three of these cities surround the actual Tampa Bay. The game tonight was an interleague matchup between the Devil Rays and their cross state rivals from Miami, the Florida Marlins. When we arrived at Tropicana Field I was delighted to hear that tonight was also “Legends of Wrestling Night”. This meant that they were having three wrestling matches after the game featuring WWF wrestlers from the late eighties and early nineties. These were the guys I watched “wrestle” when I was five to ten years old. The lineup included such superstar wrestlers as: Rick Steiner, The Nasty Brothers & Brutus the Barber Beefcake.

In the actual baseball game, the Florida Marlins went out to a very large lead early. With the home team down, the place was very quiet. The first five innings were very boring because of this fact, but eventually the Devil Rays woke up and made a game of it. Tropicana Field is not the warmest of places to see a ball game (the interior sort of feels like a warehouse), but there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Since the stadium was no where close to full we were able to move from our cheap upper deck seats, down to field level on the third base line. By the ninth inning we were only a few rows up off of the field, right next to the visitor’s dugout. When the game ended Jasmine wanted to go, but I told her we needed to stick around for the wrestling. I promised that she wouldn’t be disappointed.

Before the actual wrestling began, the mascots got into the action with a little match of their own. With the preshow completed, it wasn’t long before the actual wrestling matches started. The show that the “wrestlers” put on is tremendous. I think that for the entire fifty minutes the three matches were going on, the smile never came off of my face. They pulled all of the wacky and zany stunts that I remember from my childhood. There was the referee getting distracted, the fight with the commissioner and even the chairs to the head. We even saw a disputed result where a wrestler took someone out of the audience and gave him a “beat down” because he lost the match. Shawn Reece was glad that he wasn’t taken and beaten up. Speaking of Shawn Reece, he really got into the whole thing. He was convined that everything going on was real. When it was over, Jasmine admitted that watching these old out of shape showmen do their thing was entertaining after all. We finally left Tropicana Field at 11pm and headed back to the hotel to call it a night. Tomorrow we lay on the beach!

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The Coomer Family


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