The only team that entered February games selling out every fixed seat for every spring-training matchup?
Not the Red Sox.
Not the Yankees.
It was the Tampa Bay Rays, who sold out every fixed seat at Charlotte County Sports Park well in advance of the team’s first game of 2009.
The Rays have kept up the high level of fan interest, drawing hordes of admirers throughout the Grapefruit League this spring. The Rays even sold out a game at McKechnie Field, where the Pittsburgh Pirates rarely sell out. Two records for Rays attendance at Dunedin Stadium, spring home of the Toronto Blue Jays, were set. Finally, the team also drew a large contingent of vocal fans to Steinbrenner Field for a Yankees match.
We saw some of that magic when we visited Charlotte County Sports Park to visit the ballpark and watch a workout; the place was thick with fans, and there was a buzz in the air the team never experienced at the Naimoli Complex.
The team caught a little flack for moving spring games to Charlotte County Sports Park from historic Al Lang Field, a great, historic facility. That, in turn, limited the team’s exposure in Tampa Bay to just seven games. But the move worked out for this spring, at least, as the absence was created even more of a buzz for the defending American League champions.