You could forgive fans of American League teams other than the Rays for thinking that the Tampa nine was short on fan support. Whenever their squad visited the Trop, they were greeted by yards of empty seats and the faint pinging of a lone cowbell somewhere in the distance. It was a shock, then, to see October roll around and crowds full of lusty Rays rooters pushing their team deeper into the playoffs.
Prepare to see more of them during the next home game. The team will be making 5,762 more seats available for the next home playoff game, be it Game 6 of the ALCS or Game 1 of the World Series. They'll make room by removing tarps covering the upper reaches of the stadium. Tickets will be made available today to those who won a ticket lottery and any leftovers will be made available to the general public on Thursday.
While anyone not named Christopher Walken likely shudders at the notion of the exponential growth in cowbell noise that these new fans will make, I think it's a great thing. Unlike the curmudgeonly Rick Reilly, I feel the surge in support for the Rays is nothing but a good thing for the team, town and game. While more than a few are only hopping on the Rays express because they're good, many more will continue following the team in 2009 and beyond. More baseball fans is good for baseball, plain and simple, and there's nothing like an October run to mint fans for life.