Ten things to love about The Trop
From cowbells to cow-nosed rays, domed stadium has it all
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays "absolutely need a new ballpark," Major League Baseball president Bob DuPuy said before Game 1 of the 104th World Series on Wednesday night. No question about it. Once the Twins leave the Metrodome after next season, Tropicana Field will be the only fixed-dome MLB facility left standing, so ultimately it's got to go.
But right now is not the time. Right now, the world is focused on this place, where the Phillies are playing the Rays to decide on a World Series champion. So while it is fashionable to kick The Trop around and be Captain Obvious in pointing out that it's not Camden Yards, it is the home to greatness, and we set out to find 10 Things To Love About The Trop.
Here they are, and it was actually a lot of fun looking for them:
1. "JOE AND MARILYN." There are three lower-level mezzanine shop areas, called "Left Field Street," "Center Field Street" and "Right Field Street." A long wall of Right Field Street is painted in splashy cartoon-book style, and when you come to the giant portrayal of Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe side-by-side, it takes your breath away as you munch on your hot dog.
"Joe meets Marilyn Monroe on a blind date in 1952 and their marriage in 1954 is the culmination of a courtship that captivates the nation," an inscription on the mural notes. "The relationship is loving, yet complex, and their marriage lasts only nine months. They reconnect in 1961, when she joins him in St. Petersburg and the two enjoy time at North Reddington Beach. At the time of her death in 1962, it is rumored that they are planning to remarry. For the next twenty years, he has red roses delivered three times a week to her grave."
2. Red, white and blue bunting is on the facades. Nothing is more important. It means your team is playing in the World Series.
3. Rays Touch Tank. It is over the right-center-field wall, with netting covering most of the tank. Inside are 20 cow-nosed rays. They are soft and slimy to touch, and for $4 you get food to hold in your hand so you can be swarmed with ticklish stingray lips.
There are seven Rays rules on the wall next to the tank, and here are two of them:
"Please touch Rays gently with two fingers only. It is best to touch the wings of the Rays rather than the middle portion [head, spine, and tail]."
"The Rays may need to take a 'time out' when the interpreter determines that they need a brief rest."
4. Cowbells and noise. It is irrepressibly loud, "Blue Oyster Cult" loud. They were selling "official" blue and yellow cowbells for $5 before the game throughout the stadium, each featuring the Rays logo. When everyone rings their cowbells at the same time, it is just indescribably bonkers. The players like that, and that means it is uniquely successful, even if you are a purist who likes a more serene setting.
5. Free parking if there are four or more in your vehicle. Compare that goose egg to $50 or $60 outside some Major League ballparks.
6. The $7 turkey legs behind Section 112.
7. "It's a constant 72 degrees, and it's a comfortable park," said Rays fan Larry Simeone, 56, of Palmetto, Fla. His wife, Marilynn, added: "We're never rained out." It just so happens that perhaps the most perfect weather on the entire planet earth on Wednesday night was that of St. Petersburg. Oh, for no roof in Game 1. But alas, we are on a mission here to find 10 things to love and not bemoan, so the list goes on.
8. Citrus Burst scent. As part of the experience at Tropicana Field, Austin, Texas-based DMX Inc., a leader in sensory branding, is providing the signature scent that baseball fans smelled as they entered for Game 1. The Rays' home field is thought to be the first Major League Baseball stadium to use scents in this way.
The Rays just started testing the Citrus Burst scent and may roll out other DMX scents during the 2009 season. DMX worked with Darcy Raymond, vice president of branding and fan experience for the club, and Eric Weisberg, the team's manager of customer service and stadium experience, on the Citrus Burst project.
9. We just checked the MLB.com Shop cap collection, and there is an authentic 59FIFTY Rays blue cap that you can order now or for the holidays. But if you want to see that same model one-story tall, then just look up, because it's perched high atop the giant scoreboard in center field, under the catwalks (which didn't make our list).
10. The bases are 90 feet apart, the pitcher's mound is 60 feet and six inches from home plate, The Trop is sold out, fans want to be here, the two best teams in Major League Baseball are playing here to decide the best, and it is presently the center of the baseball universe. You can't get much better than that.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.