Nobody's perfect. That fact extends to my own baseball fandom more than I'd like to admit sometimes.
You see, I'm not a lifelong fan of any Major League Baseball team and still, here I am, writing about baseball.
My first MLB team was none other than the New York Yankees. As is the case with most current Rays fans, Tampa Bay's team didn't exist when I was born. I was a third grader when Major League Baseball added the Rays and the Diamondbacks to the league in 1998.
I may have embraced the Rays earlier in my life if not for the events of the late spring of 1998. That year, my dad coached the Class 3A Florida Air Academy Falcons to a State Championship. The tournament was played on Legends (now Steinbrenner) Field in Tampa. The fond memories that were made during that week of my life are viewed through a Navy and white filter.
As I grew older, I continued to follow the Yankees. Yet, keeping score for the high school team my dad coached and then following the Seminoles while I was a student at Florida State pushed New York's team to the back burner.
In 2008, I watched with the rest of the Major League Baseball fans across the country as the Rays dropped the Devil and the monkey off their back. I could feel myself falling for them, and heartily cheered for Tampa Bay when they faced the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. As a Yankees fan, it just felt right to be on the side that wasn't behind the BoSox. I remember being disappointed when the Rays fell to the Phillies in the World Series.
I graduated from Florida State University in May of 2009. I moved to Tampa in September of that same year. My family expected me to continue to side against my sister, the Rays fan, when the Yankees came to town. For a while, I kept that relatively good-natured feud going if only for the sake of our sibling rivalry.
But the longer I lived in Tampa, the less I could ignore that fact that the Rays were becoming "my" team. Fast forward to November of 2011 and I am a Rays fan through and through.
It's one of the best relationships I've ever entered into.
If you recently became a resident of the Suncoast, or are simply searching for a new team to follow, consider these factors:
---In the AL East, the Rays are considered an underdog when they're matched up with the huge history and big budgets of the Yankees and Red Sox. Most folks, myself included, think it's a lot of fun to see the little guy win.
---They are managed by the supremely progressive Joe Maddon. You may not agree with, or understand, all of the moves he makes, but I truly believe he has his players' backs and is a driving force in the game of baseball today. Need some proof? He was named the AL Manager of the Year in 2008 and in 2011.
---Because of their limited payroll, the Rays consistently develop young talent. As a Tampa Bay fan, you can catch some of the future legends of MLB as they make their debuts. I look forward to the day when I can say, "I saw him when…" The youthful exuberance, and inexperience, of the team year after year keeps things interesting.
---The Rays are a light-hearted group. From haircuts like the Rayhawk to sport jackets like the BRaysers to themed away trips (Miami Vice, anyone?), this team is not one that takes itself too seriously. While this way of baseball might not fly in other markets, it fits the laid-back Florida beachgoer stereotype brilliantly. It is a game, after all.
Sure, we need a new stadium. Sure, the attendance isn't what the team deserves. Still, whenever I travel around the state, I spot Rays gear.
This team has earned their fans with a unique blend of baseball and if you give them an honest try, I believe you'll at least come away with a genuine respect for Tampa Bay's team.
Or, you might fall for them head over heels like I did. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Sarah Tyson is the lead Tampa Bay Rays Reporter for Aerys Sports the only online sports network run entirely by women. You can catch up with her on Cowbell Clankers her Aerys Sports site that is devoted to the Rays, or follow her on Twitter where she's known as @SarahSeesSports