Who’s Johnny?

Dylan and I and two friends of ours went to the Tampa Bay Rays-Toronto Blue Jays game this past Friday. After having a great time at the Red Sox game a few weeks earlier, I was expecting good things. The last game we went to included nice weather, World Series trophies, and the best team on the planet. This game consisted of the always-crappy Rays and Canada’s only team. My expectations may have been too high.

I like to get to the park early so I can watch batting practice and check out the stadium, so we arrived at 11:30 for a 1:05 game. As soon as we passed through the turnstiles at Progress Energy Park, it started to rain, and the temperature dropped.

This sucked for a few reasons. First of all, I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Secondly, the field crew threw the tarp on the field, so no BP. Thirdly, there was absolutely nothing going on at this stadium. This place is essentially a bunch of concrete and bleachers, nothing like City of Palms park, where they have a beautiful stadium and didn’t cut any corners. So there we were, stuck standing around the concourse with the other seven fans at the game.

For about an hour it continued to rain off and on and get colder and colder until it got to the point that I made the very difficult decision to get off my wallet and invest in a long sleeve shirt. After going to four different souvenir stands, I had the choice between a long sleeve Rays shirt and a Rays sweatshirt. I reluctantly forked over $28 and experienced one of the lowest moments of my life as a sports fan.

Eventually, the rain stopped and we got to our seats, two rows up on the first-base line. We watched as the players warmed up and then started coming off the field, stopping to sign autographs and chat up the fans. Then a short, fat guy wearing #63 for the Rays came off the field and tossed a ball into the stands, right into the hands of yours truly.

I’d never caught a ball at game before so I was pretty psyched. Until I looked back at #63 to thank him and saw that he was shaking his head in disgust and calling me a few choice words. Confused, I turned around to see a 15-year-old kid, glove in hand, sitting right behind me. Feeling like a loser for stealing this kid’s ball, I apologized and gave him the ball.

As the game started, I found myself getting more and more irritated, thinking about #63 and his overreaction. I didn’t know there was a kid behind me, and I didn’t appreciate some no-name giving me a bunch of crap over it. So I decided to make Mr. Short Fuse my verbal target for the rest of the day. I quickly did some research on him and found out that he is a 30-year-old career minor leaguer named Jon Weber. Lucky for us, he was starting in center field.

So at the beginning and end of each inning, as Weber runs on and off the field, I hit him with a “Look alive out there Johnny” or a “Let’s show some hustle out there Johnny.” Each time I said something, he made a point to look right at me to give me the stink-eye. We were officially in his head.

Our exchanges came to a head in the fourth inning. As he was running off the field, I told Weber to “enjoy Double A this year, Johnny.” I don’t think he appreciated this, as he again stared me down, and then told Carl Crawford that I was something that rhymes with “brother-clucker.” Victory is ours.

After pushing Johnny’s buttons for four innings, I figured it was probably time to leave this psychopath alone, before he jumped the wall and beat me to death with a Louisville Slugger. Although, that may have made the game more exciting for the fans in attendance.

Boring game. Bad weather. Lousy stadium. $28 dollar Rays shirt. Not the best way to spend a Friday afternoon.

After the game, a few questions popped into my head:

  • At what age do kids become fair game, when you don’t have to give them the ball?
  • What kind of Employee Assistance Program do the Rays have to help Jon Weber with his anger management problem?
  • Will the Rays ever be contenders in the hardest division in baseball?

If anyone has the answers to these highly debated questions, I would love to hear them.