PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (WFLA) – The long drought is over. Baseball fans have been waiting nearly five months to see the Tampa Bay Rays back in action.
They had their wishes fulfilled on Wednesday. The team played its first Spring Training game. See the entire Spring Training schedule here.
From the moment you walk in, the atmosphere surrounds you. The smell of hot dogs and popcorn wafted through the air, while salesmen sold peanuts, beer and programs. With the crack of the bat, baseball was back.
“Great team, I think, this year,” one fan said.
Spring Training is a taste of what’s to come.
“It’s a way to see some of the young stars coming up,” longtime fan Mike Griffith said.
Many fans attended to see the team’s potential.
It’s also a chance to get up close to the stars. Many young fans lined up to get autographs.
“I think its showing that we’re going to have the best offense this year,” a fan told News Channel 8.
Some fans, though, wanted to see other things. A man motioned toward his wife and said, “She was just noticing one of the new pitchers taking autographs. And she told me that’s going to be her new hottie.”
“I have a hottie roster every year,” the woman chuckled.
Fans are happy to forget about last season. “I hope they do better this year,” one told us.
The fans also told News Channel 8 it was nice to take in a different Rays baseball experience because there’s no breeze or sun inside Tropicana Field.
“We like the outdoors, the open air feel,” one man said. “(The Trop is) a nice stadium too, but it’s nice to have a change.”
There’s so much optimism out here because, as of Wednesday, the possibilities are endless.
“I’m hoping to see them in the playoffs and then the World Series so I’m very optimistic with what we’re going to do this year,” a longtime fan said.
And the Florida economy is happy to have Spring Training back as well. Experts say the economic impact is worth $753 million every year.