Monday, December 14, 2015

Card # 100!! 1999 Topps Tropicana Field

For card #100, I chose to make one that showcases my love for my local Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays without having to choose a player. The only time I've really seen cards of stadiums in Topps sets are in some of those team exclusive sets sold at ballparks from I believe 2008 to the present. I am going to try to give all the '98 Devil Rays a card in the '99 Topps set, so why not throw a stadium card in the bunch too?

I have attended many Devil Ray games, it's probably getting close to 50. I would go to close to 5 a year for a while, and even though I haven't been there since 2013, I will always remember some great times there.

In '98, the teams first season, I went to an early April game as my first one ever. They played the Oakland A's, and I'll never forget it. I saw one of my favorite players, Rafael Bournigal, come in as a defensive replacement in the 9th. Raffy lived in Lakeland in the offseason (my hometown), and I met him at the local YMCA and he gave me a ride home once (more on that in an upcoming post). I also  saw Ricky Henderson play in that game, a legend who changed the game. After the game, I went down to the dugouts to try to get autographs. As pitcher Kenny Rogers was there, and he had family nearby so he was talking to them. I had a '94 Pinnacle Museum card of Kenny and right as I was about to hand it to him, a lady comes over and says she doesn't have that card and wanted to trade something for it. She turned out to be Kenny's mom, and had a bunch of his cards in her purse, so I traded my card for a '90 Upper Deck one and got it signed. Then, Kurt Abbott was sitting in the stands talking to some people. That is still the first and only time I've seen a big leaguer in the stands chatting with people after the game. He signed a card for me too.

I saw Rays pitcher Tony Saunders throw a no-hitter against the Orioles in '99 for 6 innings. The first hitter in the 7th, Mike Bordick, singled up the middle, breaking it up. That was the only hit he and the bullpen would allow.

I went to Opening Day in 2009, and saw the Rays raise their 2008 AL Championship banner while the New York Bankee$ had to sit and watch. The Rays scored like 19 runs that game, and it got so bad that Nick Swisher, the Yankees outfielder had to come in and pitch.

I've seen great players play there, like Ichiro, Cal Ripken, Ivan Rodriguez, I almost saw Barry Bonds play there, but the 1 game of that series that I went to he took off because he went to a funeral.

I saw Ripken play in his final season, and he was spectacular, signing autographs during batting practice for almost an hour.

So as you can see, I have a ton of great memories (and not so great, like seeing Dennis Springer and Esteban Yan giving up homer after homer) at Tropicana Field. I wish the Rays could take the stadium and move it to Orlando or some city that is a good city and not a run down area. It isn't the most beautiful stadium, but it was like a second home to me since 1998, and for that reason, it is card # 100 in my custom set.

I just finished my last softall game of the season tonight. We only won 1 game this year, and played the only team we beat in the first round of the playoffs. It was a close game, and we were down by 2 going into the top of the last inning. 2 players were on with 0 out and we had cut the lead to 1 when I came up. I am far from an athlete, and I was basically learning the ropes this season as I hadn't played softball in about 10 years, and that only for a game or 2. I walked earlier in the game, but had been like 1 for my last 20 up to that point. I ended up singling to left and bringing the tying run home. I thought the ball was caught and a runner was being thrown out at 2nd or 3rd, but apparently it got through. We won that game, and got to play 10 minutes after our first one. These guys were pretty good, but we kept them at bay. James, our pitcher was on fire, getting all kinds of called strikes, and ended up striking out 3 hitters. The game was knotted 5-5 and I don't remember how many outs there were, but a guy singled just over our shortstop's head, bringing a runner to 3rd. We kind of screwed around getting the ball to the pitcher, and after stopping at 3rd, the runner raced towards home. I was catching, and didn't get a throw. We tied the game again later, but I grounded out with a runner at 1st in the 7th. From there, we led off the Away half with a runner on 2nd (the last out of the previous inning, who was me) and 0 outs. Bill, our 2nd baseman popped out to shallow right, John, our centerfielder flew out to center, and I tagged up, making it to 3rd. Then Paul, our leftfielder, grounded out to end our half. We got 1 out in the bottom half of the inning, but the runner scored and we lost in walkoff fashion. It was a heck of a game, and I'm glad it wasn't a blowout. So now my church-league softball season is over and Monday nights are free again, so I'll have another day where I can make customs and post them. I ended up hitting .310 for the season (9 for 29, all singles), 5 runs, 7 RBIs, 1 walk, 0 strikeouts, and a few nice catches in RF. Can't wait for next season.

Thanks for checking out my blog and enduring some of my Rays memories and softball update. Hope you enjoyed the first 100 cards in my set.


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