The Tampa Bay Rays, first in the America League East but apparently not in the hearts of locals, are giving away 20,000 tickets to tonight's regular season home finale against the Baltimore Orioles. That's gratis, complimentary and any other way you can think of to express the word free. You'll have to show up at Tropicana Field beginning at 4:45 p.m. to get them, according to the St. Petersburg Times. One ticket per person. First come, first served. First pitch at 7:10 p.m.
Maybe you can help prevent fellow Rays followers from again being called "embarrassing" by Rays player Evan Longoria (right), who took issue with the 12,466 dotting the seats for Monday night's game.
Millionaire ballplayers should probably keep their gripes about iffy fan loyalty to themselves, but Longoria has a point. The Rays, a young and exciting team, have drawn poorly in putrid and good times. They have battled the Yankees all season for the division title, and yet they stand 22nd out of 30 Major League clubs in average home attendance at 22,850 a game, according to ESPN. The Yankees average an MLB-leading 46,491. In 2008, the Rays won the American League pennant for the first time, yet they finished 26th at the turnstile. The same excuses emerge every year: An elderly demographic won't come out consistently. The team plays in an ugly dome.
The really pathetic part is that the team is not even sure that all 20,000 tickets will be taken for tonight. (Those who already purchased tickets in the free zone are eligible for an upgrade.) There's even something at stake. Tampa Bay (94-63 going into tonight's game) clinched a playoff berth but is still battling the Yankees (94-64) for the division championship and home field advantage in the playoffs.
Last week WalletPop gushed about the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL offering free tickets for a preseason game, but a regular season ticket giveaway on this scale is rare. Too bad this one was born of such negativity.
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