By Sterling Pingree
Opening day evokes thoughts of spring and all the sensory items that go along with it. The crack of the bat, the smell of the grass, bright sunshine and in the northeast, the feeling that the snow will finally leave us alone with long warm summer days.
You get none of these feelings when your team opens the season in the saddest ballpark in baseball, Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field. And I almost specified Major League Baseball parks, but because I don’t believe there is a minor league team with a concrete bunker for a stadium, I think Tampa still takes the crown. (It should be noted that I have an affinity for the simplicity of minor league parks.)
The Trop is of another time and not in a good way. When Camden Yards opened in 1992, it was viewed as a throwback to the cathedrals of baseball’s golden years, when Ebbetts Field, the Polo Grounds and Connie Mack Stadium roamed the earth. Tropicana field is a throwback to the cookie cutter multi-sport monstrosities of the 1970’s like Three Rivers Stadium, Veterans Stadium and River Front Stadium. These “technological breakthroughs” were seen as the future because one structure could host baseball and football. The problem with these stadiums was that they could host both sports, but really didn’t do either sport justice. They were the store brand version of the great domes: Astrodome, Kingdome, Skydome and Metrodome.
Of those four, only Skydome (now Rogers Centre) is still open and that’s because they have a retractable roof. Rogers Centre opened in 1989, 9 years before Tropicana Field but feels more modern by a factor of 10, while the Trop feels like the Rays bought the lease from Marge Schott.
I guess what I’m saying is that, I feel robbed. I feel robbed of the warm feelings that opening day should bring and that’s not just because the bullpen blew a 4-run 8th inning lead. You get excited for the beginning of a new season and the chance to see that somewhere, there are blue skies and people outside in short sleeves. Instead, Red Sox fans got to see baseball played in a dark, dank basement of a ball field, where the crowd reacted like they were watching a 3rd grade Christmas pageant: struggling to stay awake and occasionally taking videos because they think it’s what they should do.
I want to enact a new rule, no team has to start their season in Tampa. All this would mean is that the Rays have to start the season on the road every year. They’ll still get a home opener, but they won’t have the chance to ruin any other fan base’s opening day holiday.
The Trop is sad, because it’s the last of a dying breed that nobody will be sad to see go extinct.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.