10/13/10 2:20 AM ET
Rays fans squeeze into and around Trop
Tickets hard to come by; business booms in nearby Ferg's
By Chris Girandola / Special to MLB.com
People held signs reading, "I Need Tickets," along the sidewalks outside Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill, as opposed to the plethora of people begging for buyers last week.
The demand for tickets mirrored the demand for parking spots, as the stadium lot filled up with excited tailgaters hours before the doors opened at 5 p.m. ET.
"Look at all these people," St. Petersburg resident Deb Curtis said. "This is the way it should always be."
With 41,845 packing the Trop beyond regular-season capacity -- because of the tarps being removed on the upper-deck seats -- the place to be outside the stadium was Ferg's, the go-to watering hole before, during and after Rays games since the team debuted in 1998. Situated just an Evan Longoria home run distance from the Trop -- or in Game 5's case, an Ian Kinsler dinger -- the bar with outside and indoor seating was packed Tuesday, with a majority of fans decked out in blue, plaid or in the traditional sense.
"The excitement level is so much more tonight than it was for Game 1 and 2," said Michelle Kleinmetz, a bartender at Ferg's. "The day games had a different vibe than this game. There were tons of people walking the street last time trying to get rid of their tickets, and people were all down because of the way the Rays lost. Tonight, you could just feel the energy with people getting here early in preparation for the game."
Throughout the night, though, groans from the Rays fans outnumbered any sounds of glee, as the Rangers built an early lead on their way to a 5-1 victory.
Amongst the sea of blue, a lone Rangers fan decked out in red screamed, "Go Dallas, Go Dallas" following Kinsler's two-run homer in the ninth inning. Stacie Grubbs, a Dallas native who has lived in St. Petersburg for two years, reveled in the fact her hometown team was on the verge of winning its first playoff series.
"I don't care [if people heckle me]," said Grubbs, who attended Game 4 in Arlington. "I got on a plane on the way back here with my Rangers gear on, and this guy said to me, 'Don't even try sitting here with that shirt on.' I just laughed and told him to enjoy sitting next to a fan of a winning team."
When B.J. Upton's popout in the ninth inning settled into Elvis Andrus' glove, many fans at Ferg's had already begun their trek back to their car. Despite the disappointment, two of those Rays fans, Bill Georgiou and John Weimerskirk, tossed plenty of praise towards the home town team.
"There's been a lot of negative talk about what [Rays manager Joe] Maddon did with the lineup and the way they finished the season, but I think it's been an amazing run," said Georgiou, 41, a business owner from St. Petersburg. "We're proud of what they've been able to do over these past few years, and we think they will surprise people next year."
Not as excited were longtime season-ticket holders, Bob Hoskins, 69, and son Rob, 46, who were both dressed in Rays jerseys with blue and starburst yellow paint on their faces.
"I'm the most disappointed in the lineup," said Rob, who has been a season-ticker holder ever since attending the first game in franchise history with his father. "I just don't understand why Maddon would not play John Jaso and Matt Joyce after they were such an integral part in us winning in Texas. The way Maddon has managed with his righty-lefty matchup has been infuriating and may cause us to change our mind about being season-ticket holders anymore."
While a majority of Rays fans voiced displeasure over Maddon's lineup, the owner of Ferg's admired the throng of people in and around his establishment.
"There have probably been about 20,000 people to pass through here at some point today," said Mark Ferguson, who created the bar back when the Trop was known as the Florida Suncoast Dome and housed the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team. "The people have been amazing, and this crowd tops the amount of people here for when the team was in the World Series back in 2008. Despite the loss, the energy around this place has been amazing all day long."
One of the happy ones was Blake Fanning, 27, a Wells Fargo underwriter from Tempe, Arizona, who has been a Rangers fan his whole life. Fanning attended all five games in the ALDS, and he stood proudly in his red Rangers polo shirt while Rays fans heckled him and other Texas fans along the sidewalk outside Ferg's.
"I've been going to Rangers Spring Training games in Arizona, and this is a long time coming," Fanning said. "The crowd was actually a lot better tonight than it was for Game 1 and 2. Then, Tampa Bay's fans got all down on the team and, especially after Game 2, talked pretty negatively about their prospects of winning the series. They had a pretty spirited crowd tonight, though, and for the most part, kept it positive. But it was awesome being able to celebrate our first win in a series."
Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.