Part 6: Tropicana Field
When I was a wee lad, there were a handful of parks that were almost exactly alike, and a whole bunch more that didn’t stray too far from the basic template – fully enclosed fields, with symmetrical walls (often with the stupid yellow line four inches from the top of the fence) and, often, covered with turf. The National League was swimming in these. They were called cookie cutters, a nickname not bestowed with fondness.
Tropicana Field is the opposite of those sterile ashtrays, at least compared with its peers. It’s the last traditional fixed dome left, and one of just two parks with the fake stuff on the floor. It’s got the catwalks that come into play. Nothing else in the sport is like it. It’s also the only current ballpark built on spec, constructed in hope of landing a major league team, which it did eight years after it was built.
Alas, just being different isn’t enough, as the Trop is generally regarded as the league’s worst venue, by quite some margin.
Still, even crappy ballparks deserve a good name (do they?). So, let’s give the fans of Tampa-St. Pete something they can be proud of when they stay as far away from the park as possible on game nights.
But if finding a great name for this crappy venue doesn’t excite you, let’s consider this an opportunity to find a suitable name for its eventual replacement.
Capacity: 42,735 (naked), 31,042 (with tarp).
Name: Tropicana Field, 1998-present. Stadium was also known as Florida Suncoast Dome and Thunderdome (non-Mad Max version) before being occupied by Rays.
Other ballparks used by club in its current city: None
Distinctive Features: The aforementioned catwalks, the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame, the Ray-filled Touch Tank beyond the right-centerfield fence, the dank.
Ballpark Highlights: In 1999, Wade Boggs became the first player to homer for his 3,000th hit.
In 2005, cheapskate owner Vince Naimoli had a Mets scout ejected from the ballpark for using his private bathroom.
After a decade of futility, the newly christened Rays played their first home playoff game, a 6-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox en route to their lone World Series appearance. The game was punctuated by Evan Longoria homers on his first two postseason plate appearances and the appearance of those godforsaken cowbells.
In 2011, the Rays rallied from a 7-0 deficit against the New York Yankees, capped by Dan Johnson’s walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth. The victory completed an improbable final-month comeback to claim the AL wild card over the Chicken and Beer Red Sox.