I made a Trip to the Trop. Speakers, Stained Turf, Shitty Stadium.

- Max Martin

 

When my lady friend asked me to accompany her to Florida to visit her grandmother I had one stipulation (the same one I always do). I needed a weekend with the Yankees. So as we made the trek to Tampa I was excited to finally check out the often discussed and discounted Tropicana field. Growing up listening to The voice of the Yankees John Sterling its hard not to find yourself biased against the circus-style dome. With sarcastic remarks about the field and the catwalks, disparaging comments about the bullpens on the field, and perhaps his favorite gripe, the piped in fan sounds. As he described the clap sound effect during Saturday’s game, “It’s like getting hit in the face repeatedly with a hammer, after it stops, you feel pretty great.” But all that aside I was still pretty excited. It was an opportunity to visit a Major Leauge Stadium after all and see the Yankees continue to roll…

Well, even though the baseball didn’t go our way it was still an interesting trip. For the most part, it did meet the pretty low expectation, but I thought id break it down piece by piece anyway, so here are my grades for Tropicana Field.

 

FANS: D

Originally, I considered putting N/A because after our entire day at the stadium I’d say we saw 65-70% Yankee fans, but this speaks to the issue with Tampa fans. There just aren’t that many of them.

The fans we did meet were really nice, I think we got thanked for coming 10 times by the end of the day. As the gentleman behind us put it, “thank god you are here we need the attendance.”  While everyone was very nice this isn’t what I want from a visitor experience. Yankee fans don’t need decency, we thrive on disdain. And when I’m a few brews in #99 jersey with no name on the back I want a “fuck you” not a “glad you’re here”. It just didn’t feel competitive.

Finally, the fans are not loud. Every “Lets go Yankees” chant went unchecked. In a game where the Yankees were beat 2-1 with little offense on the away side, Yankee fans outcheered the Rays at least 3-1. Tampa’s catchphrase for this season is “RaysUp” and I can’t help but think that this is a literal call for action for the 50% of fans who seemed to be asleep. While the fans at the game aren’t great it doesn’t help that not many fans are coming. Packed Yankee games notwithstanding, the Rays are 29th in attendance protected from last place only by their south Florida cohorts the Miami Marlins.

So, because nobody comes, and those that do are too nice and quiet, and I had trouble actually finding Rays fans they get a D.

 

FIELD: D-

Perhaps the most evident problem is the playing field in Tampa. It truly is a gimmicky mess. I decided I’d give a top 5 of my least favorite parts of this field.

5. Bullpens: It’s pretty simple. Don’t put bullpens on the field. It’s not that hard, you have millions of dollars to build a stadium and no fans so you have all the space in the world. It looks silly and is an injury nightmare I don’t understand why any major league team still has bullpens on the field. Additionally, there’s not much room in foul territory so when a ball is hit over that way its hard to avoid.

4. Roof: We are designing a baseball field, what color should the backdrop to flyballs be? White right? WRONG. Why in the world would they make the roof the same exact color as a baseball? I’m sure its difficult for the players because as a fan watching the game its similarly difficult not to lose every flyball off the bat. It seems like a pretty obvious mistake that could have been avoided but has yet to be fixed.

3. Turf: This very well could have been higher on the list, but apparently they replaced the gross looking stained turf they used to have. Yet, it still is full of weird lines and stains. The typically dark on TV Tropicana seems to be lighter this season and in person, but it doesn’t help the look of the outfield turf.

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Who spilled something… over the entire outfield?

2&1: Catwalks: Whyyyyyyy. Why in the world are their huge circular pieces of metal in the field of play at Tropicana? AND SPEAKERS. I started writing this before Clint Frazier’s 335 foot bomb to shortstop on Saturday but man what a fucking joke.

 

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Again, how was this problem not realized during the design phase? It is a joke to me that this problem persists and has not been addressed. It is a beautiful part of this game that every field is different. But that has to do with the length and the height of walls. You can’t just add in obstacles whenever you want. If the Yankees had a 30-foot hole in the shallow left, or if the Red Sox had a minefield in the triangle in center people would be more upset. This is how I think we should protest the ridiculousness that is the catwalks. The worst part is if it hits off the catwalk it’s in play! This is a joke.

 

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Not only do you have to catch a pop fly against a white backdrop, but it might bounce around of the metal track as well!

 

FAN EXPERIENCE: C-

The food and drink at the Trop isn’t bad. They have your normal concession offerings as well as a pretty cool deal where the souvenir cup comes with free refills for the whole game. The biggest problem is the number of options. Throughout the stadium, from what I could see, they only have 4 different options for a quick bite. The sad thing was as you walked around much of the potential space that could be used for sales was boarded up, abandoned and left empty. It was a pretty depressing state of affairs. There are only 30 major league stadiums, but this one at points throughout the concourse looked more like a shopping mall that has gone out of business. The biggest issue with my fan experience is that a facility that usually has around 14,000 guests wasn’t staffed well enough to accommodate all of the Yankee fans. So some lines were pretty inexcusably long. But, what they did they did pretty well, and compared with some other aspects of the day, I’d say my fan experience was the strongest part.

OVERALL: D

Look, it wasn’t great. But I do feel bad for the fans that do exist and care about this team. They are up against some pretty big logistical hurdles. They play in St. Pete, so although the biggest metropolitan area is in Tampa, for a 7 O’clock game it could take 2 hours to get to the game this makes it difficult to get fans out. Furthermore, they have a team consistently in the bottom 5 of payroll. They also want a new stadium, but due to the continued controversy over the use of taxpayer money to build the one in Miami, it seems unlikely they will get in anytime soon.

So they are stuck, and that sucks for them. We sat next about 10 long time season ticket holders and they are genuinely worried about losing their team. I’m not sure what will happen in that area but it doesn’t seem like the situation will get better anytime soon.

If you are considering going to the Trop you should go. For all the flaws the stadium has, you’re still watching Major Leauge Baseball. As much as it left me disappointed, I’m 100% sure ill be back because the Yankees are going to play here multiple times a year. But, if you are planning only one major league trip maybe go somewhere else. After all, you can just listen to the New York vs Tampa games on the radio. John will do the Trop Justice.

 

- Max Martin