What a hair-raising time at the Series
Yes, a wild ride down in Florida -- you had to see it to believe it
ST. PETERSBURG -- Before heading north for Philadelphia, it is time to drop a postcard into the hotel mail slot just like so many other visitors do here. The front of our card has palm trees and a Space Shuttle and an alligator and a sandy seashell and a water skier and a pink art-deco building and a blazing sun on it with the big block letters that say: "GREETINGS FROM FLORIDA."
Here is what it says on the back:
Dear Baseball Fans,
There was no weather but wish you were here.
We actually got to see a World Series hosted by the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Phillies won the first game and the Rays won the second one.
No matter who won either of them -- no matter what the tense situations and all the usual strategy and second-guessing and hero-goat analysis -- that singular thought constantly towered over everything else while we were here.
We kept looking at fans with "Rayhawk" haircuts, a patch of earthy blue down the middle, styled by 4-year-old children and 90-year-old snowbirds. We watched and heard them toll their cowbells. We saw them in customized Rays jerseys with names such as LONGORIA and UPTON and PENA and KAZMIR on the backs, and we heard their amazing stories of patience and resolve.
During one inning in the opener, we fed cownose stingrays in the Rays Touch Tank, and they were slimy and funny and then we washed our hands and ate a ballpark dog with mustard before going back to our seat.
We saw a lot of Carlos Ruiz and a lot of James Shields.
The Phillies went 1-for-28 with runners in scoring position. We wondered how that can happen in a World Series. Then we asked Shane Victorino about it after he finished off his burger on the sofa in the middle of the visitors' clubhouse, and he turned into Tony Robbins: "We've got to look at the positives. I don't want to look at negatives."
We stepped back and got to thinking that this is a 1-1 World Series and we just might be looking at a classic Fall Classic. Who's to say right now? It could become known as one of the coolest, most entertaining World Series we've seen in a long time or ever. Just dropping off this postcard here and now, it's still hard to imagine.
We asked Evan Longoria what he thought about that. He was taking one more question in front of his locker before bolting for a night's rest and then an 11 a.m. bus to the airport. We asked him if this just might be an incredibly entertaining World Series for the masses, for you guys all around the world who are following it on TV, online, via mobile, etc.
He smiled. We saw that Longo smile that girls swoon over.
"It's two teams who historically ..." he began, and then paused to think. "The Phillies are obviously far more historical, in general, but you have our [bad] history, and it's a couple of teams who can win both ways. Small ball, stealing bases. A lot of power. Both of these teams can win either way. It makes for an interesting series. No doubt."
We walked out and saw the sign right inside the front door of the Rays' clubhouse, painted in four languages: "ATTITUDE IS A DECISION." Manager Joe Maddon had that put there a while back, and we saw a lot of people who held Joe signs and wore Joeglasses while we were here.
We met lots of Phillies fans who could be found around the Tampa-St. Pete area and especially flocked near the Phillies' dugout during batting practice both nights. Many of them said they were able to get a complete travel package and ticket (especially through Stubhub.com) for less than what they'd pay to see a home game.
We believed them. It is going to be a wild, wild scene back up north in Philly. One of those fans told us he can't wait to "get the monkey off our back." Matt Garza and Jamie Moyer are going to be the starting pitchers in Game 3 at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, and we kind of wondered whether there has been a greater contrast in postseason history.
Those Philadelphia fans want to win a world championship in any sport so bad they can taste it right now. It is not going to be pretty if the Phillies are denied in this event. The Rays' fans can't get enough of this. It's like they sit around all day shaving each other's hair and spray-painting it blue. Honestly, it's true. Sometimes they work and go to school and stuff, but for the most part they just make Rayhawks.
We can't blame them.
Right now, it's obvious that this whole thing could go either way.
We saw the Tampa Bay Rays host a World Series. Maybe we will come back. If neither team sweeps the next three at Citizens Bank Park, then we certainly will. But for now, we have to drop this postcard off and head for the airport, and we really do wish you were here. You had to see it to believe it.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.