New for the 2013 season, the Tampa Bay Rays launched a High School Reporter Program. Applications were sent to Hillsborough and Pinellas County public and private schools and eight candidates were chosen to participate in the inaugural year of the program.
These students will attend select Rays games and events throughout the season and write about their experiences. On this page you will find their concert and ballpark food reviews, feature stories and recaps of the games they attend.
Click on the names of the 2013 Rays High School Reporter Program participants below to see their stories.
The force may have been used Saturday 9/21. After an exhausting 18-inning game the night before, the Rays beat the Orioles once again with a score of 5-1. This game was different than usual, because amongst the crowd were characters of the classic Star Wars films. Darth Vader cheered the Rays to victory Saturday along with many other fans (of both the movies and the Rays alike). The game was filled with light saber fights, and the all too familiar theme song, and the Jumbotron was taken over by Star Wars videos. This game was as out of this world as the movies, with the Rays playing incredibly well after winning a game that lasted till nearly 2 a.m. that morning.
As you walked around the Trop, you were taken to another universe. Characters from the beloved movies walked around Tropicana Field as if they had just walked off the set for "The Empire Strikes Back". Standing in line for a hot dog could end in an awkward run in with a group of Storm Troopers, or a high five from an Ewok. Many fans went all out and even dressed up as their favorite characters from the 6 movies. Princess Leia buns were a regular sight and little Luke Skywalkers seemed to be everywhere. Camille Torres, an avid Rays and Star Wars fan, spoke of her experience as, "the best of both worlds, a combination of my two favorite things the Rays, and Star Wars!"
Tropicana Field was turned into a Millennium Falcon of sorts, a home base for all Rays/Star Wars fans. The game concluded in a 5-1 win and Darth Vader even managed to behave himself through all 9 innings. The Rays are ending their season on a high note, and may the force be with them as they battle their way into the playoffs.
Energy buzzed around me as the crowd cheered and anxiously waited for OneRepublic to come out and rock The Dome. The band came out on fire during the 2013 Summer Concert Series opening up with one of their hottest hits off their latest album, "Light It Up." Already having been a long time OneRepublic fan, I came into the concert enthused about hearing the upbeat rhythm from their newest album Native which was released in March this year.
They came out with genuine energy and a stage presence that was both extravagant yet intimate.
The acoustics sounded amazing as the band poured their soul out into a performance that the raving crowd of all ages just couldn't get enough of.
Moving right along in the set, the pop rock group performed the famous songs that caused even the fans in the nosebleed section in the back to belt their hearts out.
The high tempo music kept the crowd of fans singing and dancing along until lead singer Ryan Tedder came out solo to perform an enchanting acoustic version of the band's first single, "Apologize." Slowing down the beat allowed the crowd a chance to connect with the singer; this falsetto melody gave the feeling of being transported to an intimate coffee house performance rather than one on a baseball field surrounded by sweaty strangers.
The band kept up this sense of connection by sharing with the crowd their story of the crazy experience in London that inspired one of their biggest hits off their second album, "Good Life."
Tedder proved his outstanding range as he drifted into one their newer songs, "Can't Stop." He then gave a respectable shout out to the Bee Gees for making it acceptable for guys to sing in that rare tenor tune that melted the hearts of every fan girl in sight (yes, myself included).
The band continued to perform a variety of their timeless classics such as "Stop and Stare," "All the Right Moves," "Secrets" and "Feel Again." The set list also consisted of two different instrumental solos on an acoustic guitar and cello that gave this performance a classical twist that can be found in many of their songs.
This concert had outstanding vocals, high energy, and a sense of personal connection with the band that fans such as myself just can't get enough of. OneRepublic packed the baseball stadium with fans of all ages and gave crowd a show that would make them not only stop and stare, but also sing along.[ x close ]
In a mere ten minutes, the outfield of Tropicana Field can be turned into the venue for a Carly Rae Jepsen concert. Sadly, technical troubles added about an hour delay to the concert's start.
When the technology cooperated, Carly finally arrived and the show began. My knowledge of the singer was mainly based on hearing "Call Me Maybe" and "Good Time" numerous times on the radio. I assumed the concert would be five upbeat songs followed by everyone singing/screaming "Call Me Maybe".
I was in for a surprise.
This girl has two full albums out on iTunes and another album devoted solely to "Call Me Maybe" remixes. I'm not entirely certain how many songs she sang Sunday night, but it was way more than five. She delivered a whole concert, and not only that, she made it pretty fun.
The length of Carly's set list was not the only surprise I had that night. I also discovered just how much Carly loves her fans. You hear a lot of musicians talk about how lucky they are, but up on stage Jepsen just has a way of really showing how grateful she is for her audience. Gifts given to her as she sang became new props in her choreography. Throughout the night, she paraded around with a "We love you Carly" sign from an adoring fan, had her guitarist wear a hair bow that was tossed to her, and danced around in sunglasses that someone passed onstage. She was super cute, and it's always nice to see celebrities show back some of the love their fans give them.
Another surprise was that Carly brought some lucky fans on stage! Audience members were randomly selected to go up and dance with her during "Call Me Maybe," including a little boy, who had some crazy dance moves. Seriously, this kid got really into the song, it was awesome! She also brought up a group of boys who had "Carly Rae" written across their chests. She turned the ending "E" around and announced to us that today she would be spelling her name "Carly Ray" to honor the Tampa Bay Rays. It was a funny little skit and was followed by many more songs.
Carly's graciousness towards her fans really pays off because she has a lot! Her concert that night was sold out, and these girls (and a few boys) were super excited to see her. She stayed close to the edge of the stage most of the concert and let the fans touch her hand (I got to also!) Later, she ran down in front of the stage causing the crowd to go crazy. It was a great atmosphere made even greater by the Rays win that night. Some fans had the idea of writing their Twitter and Instagram usernames on a sheet of paper and handed it to a security guard who promised it would be given to Carly. If this man actually delivered the note, he will be seen as a hero to these girls who spent the hour wait for the concert collecting tons of crowd members' usernames to hand over.
On stage, Carly Rae glowed. Her bouncy personality was shown as she jumped about the stage in many of her songs. Halfway through her concert she switched microphones to a "telephone wire mic". As she sang she wrapped herself around it and twirled in the wire. Her quirky actions and fun personality made the concert. She was having such a "good time", excuse the song title pun, that it was contagious.
I was most surprised though, when Carly dimmed the lights a little and played an acoustic song for us. It was a pleasant break from pop song after pop song, and it really showed off some of the vocal talent this girl has. It was probably my favorite part of the night and left me pretty impressed with the sweet, talented singer.
Overall, Carly delivered a great concert. Her contagious happiness filled the crowded outfield of Tropicana Field and had everyone singing "Call Me Maybe" the whole way home.
The Rays are not giving up their baseball careers to become models, but on Thursday, July 11, several Rays players, accompanied by their wives or girlfriends, will be walking the runway in the Eighth Annual Rays on the Runway Fashion Show.
Rays on the Runway is one of the many events hosted by the Rays Wives, an organization comprised of the players' wives and girlfriends. For this event, they are working together with the Children's Dream Fund to raise money and awareness for the Dream Fund's mission.
The Children's Dream Fund provides children who have a life-threatening illness a chance to live their "dreams." A child's dream could be anything from getting a pet puppy to taking a trip to Walt Disney World. Events like Rays on the Runway provide the necessary money and awareness that has allowed the Children's Dream Fund to make these dreams come true since 1981.
In past years, Rays on the Runway has raised more than $200,000 for the Dream Fund. This year the event will be located at the Vinoy in the Palm Court Ballroom. Twelve Rays couples will be attending including Evan Longoria and family. Beginning at 8 p.m., the attending Rays couples will walk the runway modeling two looks: men will model styles from Tommy Bahama and women styles from Penelope T. Single players and some couples will also be partnered with "Dream Kids" who are a part of the Children's Dream Fund. Dream Kids also have the opportunity to model clothes from the Rays Team Store.
After the fashion show, fundraising will continue with a silent auction which includes a "My Favorite Things" basket put together by the Rays Wives. Prior to the evening's events, a meet and greet with Rays players will take place at 6:30 p.m. as they prepare to model the night's fashions.
Tickets for the event can be purchased by following this link to the Children's Dream Fund website: http://childrensdreamfund.org/events/upcoming-events/rays-on-the-runway/. Individual ticket prices are $125 for adults and $75 for students. A patron ticket is $250, and patrons will receive both runway seating and their names listed in the program.
After the cheering subsided for the Ray's 5-0 win Sunday afternoon, it was quickly re-established in full ... Sunday, July 14, Carly Rae Jepsen stepped onto the Rays Summer Concert Series stage to find a sold out show awaiting her. From the smiling faces of screaming fans, it was very clear that she didn't disappoint. Squealing teens surrounded me as I watched Carly Rae relentlessly jump, dance, and most importantly sing around stage. Her stage presence was almost as sweet as her bubble gum pop voice. She was cute as a button and didn't look her age at all (27). She began the show with the upbeat "This Kiss" off of her 2012 album "Kiss." She has a very fun high-pitched voice that makes her all the more adorable. In 2007, Carly Rae placed third on Canadian Idol, and she made it very clear why she got so far in the competition. Her voice effortlessly boomed out of her 5'2 frame.
If you haven't heard her full album, please know that almost every song is very high energy and fun, which is exactly how she performed them on stage. Not once did she look out of energy during her 15 song set list. She ran from side to side on the stage trying to touch as many excited fan's hands as she could along the way. She even managed to grab a few items from the crowd that were handed to her. She was very engaging with the jam-packed group and really seemed to enjoy performing.
About halfway through her set she slowed down and sang an acoustic song entitled, "Almost Said It." It was a very sweet song, and her voice oozed out of her like melted gold. The crowd seemed a little mesmerized by this change of tempo and even though it was short, it was my favorite of her performances. She looked very emotional and vulnerable standing on that stage biting her fingernails while singing about a boy about whom she may or may not still be brokenhearted.
She followed her acoustic song with another slower paced number, "Sour Candy," off of her 2008 album "Tug of War." And just like that she was right back at her fast tempo songs dancing across the stage and punching her little fists in the air. She called some guys onto the stage with painted chests that read "Carly Rays". She giggled and joked claiming, "This is how I chose the guy for my carwash video. We lined boys up in a room and my girlfriends and I ate popcorn and chose the lead!" She led them off the stage and went back to performing. At some point, a small toy baseball was thrown on the stage so in-between songs she pitched her second ball of the day, explaining that whoever caught it would be allowed on stage with a friend for a dance party at the end of the concert.
She closed the show with the hit of last summer, "Call Me Maybe." She brought kids from the crowd onto the stage and danced with them while she belted out her biggest hit with the crowd. A little boy stole the show from her during the song as he goofily danced on stage to Carly Rae Jepsen's and the crowd's entertainment. Overall, Carly Rae Jepsen gave one surprisingly stellar concert. Her voice was bubbly and sweet as was her personality. I'm not sure if it was to make up for the pitch she threw at the start of the game, or if it was the excitement from the crowd, but on that stage Carly Rae Jepsen certainly gave a grand slam performance.
There are few places where one can hang out with a friend for over three hours, enjoy action in front of you, and possibly learn something new. All of these things can be done at a baseball game. Though the Tampa Bay Rays struggled in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays, the atmosphere made it hard to tell. For example, Rays fans were able to create the wave in the sixth inning and circle the stadium multiple times, lasting about half an inning. Also, numerous foul balls made it easier for fans to walk away with a souvenir. But it was the postgame concert put on by OneRepublic that had many fans, especially the teenage girls, engaged in the action.
To be truthful, I was a bit nervous about the concert. Not only was it the first concert I had ever been to, but I could only name a few of the band's hits from yesteryear, such as "Apologize" and "Stop and Stare." Even though my fellow High School Reporters and I left at the bottom of the ninth inning, fans lined up from the sixth inning to get as close to lead singer Ryan Tedder and the stage as they possibly could. Few were as close as we were, since we were allowed to get in the front row.
The set list included their hits, from "Secrets" and "All the Right Moves" to "I Lived" and "Good Life." Though I did not know all the songs, I was shocked that I knew so many of them. But what excited me the most was being able to connect with the band. When the band was done playing "I Lived," Tedder stopped and asked if anybody watched The Office. Once the screams died down, Tedder explained that he too was a fan of the show, having watched every episode, and that it was an honor for NBC to come to the band and ask them to write a song. That song would eventually become "I Lived" and would be the theme song for the final season of The Office. After a few more songs, Tedder began to tell a story about how another one of their more famous songs came to be. With about two weeks left to create their second album, the band decided to spend a few days at Abbey Road in London to see if they could write one more song. One night they stayed up until four in the morning, woke up real late, and found "some pictures on [their] phone[s] [and] new names and numbers that [they] don't know." With those memories came the production of "Good Life."
As the night came to an end, the band played their own version of The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army," adding a dash of Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" and a pinch of Justin Timberlake's "Sexy Back." Afterwards, guitarist Zach Filkins threw out his guitar picks to fans in the front row and drummer Eddie Fisher followed suit with his drumsticks. I was almost one of the fans who was lucky enough to catch a drumstick, but it landed in the hands of an older gentleman who pushed his way to the front to get a better view for his girlfriend. To me it did not matter very much because I felt I was lucky enough to be in that position as a first-time concertgoer.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience at the OneRepublic concert. If every concert at Tropicana Field was like this, I would highly recommend any fan, casual or hard-core, to stay after a baseball game and listen to one. One would definitely be pulling all the right moves by staying, receiving two shows for the price of one.
The dark side came into Tropicana Field on Saturday September 21, 2013 as the Tampa Bay Rays faced the Baltimore Orioles. At first, I had a bad feeling about this, mixing Star Wars and baseball. When I walked in, I could see Stormtroopers had lined up for photo opportunities. As I walked throughout the stadium before the game, I continued to see small groups of Stormtroopers and other minor characters posing with fans. I wanted to take a picture with one of the more famous characters and thus, when Darth Vader passed by, I wanted to ask him for one. But, he nodded towards me and put his hand up, and I had a strange thought that this was not the Vader I was looking for.
When I finally took my seats, Raymond and the Oriole Bird came out from the left field fence and started dueling with lightsabers. The matchup was entertaining, until the Oriole was defeating Raymond and had Raymond on the ground without a lightsaber. The only problem I had with this is was that, when Raymond was at his most helpless, Darth Vader, the embodiment of evil, came to save the day for him. But, it was all in good fun and I figured the Rays organization wanted to show that even the bad guy has a heart every once in a while. Later, Chewbacca was found to have a pretty good arm (for a Wookie) as he was selected to throw out the first pitch. To end the pregame festivities, Darth Vader banged the gong, using the Force nonetheless, and signaled the Rays to take field. To me, this was cool to watch because the gong was able to move without the use of anything hitting it and, as far as I could see, nobody had touched or pulled it. It was as if the Force was actually real.
Besides fans dressed up, I some new characters introduced including C-3PO and Boba Fett, the bounty hunter. Threepio was shown briefly in the gong area with fans to welcome everyone to the stadium. Boba Fett was also brought in, along with his own group of Stormtroopers, to display fans that had upgraded their seating into the area right next to the field.
The next time a Star Wars character, that was not a fan, was featured prominently was the all-important fan favorite bottle race. The three bottles took off and when they reached about two-thirds of the way there, a familiar face came out from behind home plate: Darth Vader. He came out, stood on the field, and used the Force to knock everybody in his way over, even the camera operator who was filming the action from fifteen yards behind the bottles.
But it was the dressed up fans' and their experiences that stood out the most. In order to win tickets for Papa Johns, a fan dressed up as C-3PO went against a pair of Stormtroopers. The "Tango Troopers" were no match for the breakdancing protocol droid, and the lucky fan won himself a coupon at Papa Johns. Along with dancing, the Rays had fans that were brought in for memory challenges such as the Ice Cream Hat Shuffle. This was cute because a three-year old boy was picked who was dressed up as Darth Vader, with his own little mask and cape. He too won his free coupon, with a little help from the audience.
Overall, I found the Star Wars theme to be a fun experience to enjoy. If only the good guys could prevail and not have the bad guys take over the Trop, then it would be a perfect experience.
The reaction you get when you mention the band OneRepublic is almost identical to the one you'd get if you were to mention, say, Forever The Sickest Kids or Lady Sovereign. A heap of confusion and a tinge of recognition pass across their faces and then there's the line, "wasn't their last song in, like, 2005?"
This quintet was established in 2002 with lead singer Ryan Tedder and fellow members Zach Filkins on guitar and back-up vocals; Drew Brown on guitar; Brent Kutzle on bass and cello, and Eddie Fisher on drums.
Most popularly known for their songs "Apologize," "Secrets," and "Good Life," Tedder and his crew visited the Trop on August 17 to be a part of the Tampa Bay Rays Summer Concert Series. And boy let me tell you, these five can pull in a range of fans. From rowdy 10-year-old girls readily throwing elbows to barge to the front row, to middle aged men slowly bopping their head along to the tunes.
The night started with the song "Light It Up" from the band's most recent album, Native (which, contrary to popular belief, did not come out in 2005, but in early 2013). "Light It Up" was then succeeded by crowd favorites "Secrets" and "All The Right Moves."
In the beginning, Tedder's vocals were a little rusty. His band was playing way louder than his voice, or microphone for that matter, could handle, and he seemed short of breath. "Oh great," I thought. "Just another washed-up performer looking for a quick gig." Boy was I wrong.
As the night went on, the crowd got more accustomed to the show as Tedder cracked slick jokes and shared funny anecdotes. Eventually his voice warmed up and the show was a non-stop dance party. The group performed choices like "Apologize," and "I Live," a song he wrote for his son, and closed out the show with "If I Lose Myself."
The show overall gets a solid seven out of ten stars, the only drawback being the rusty start. Hopefully people will start to recognize them as something other than "that band from 2005."
Rays win and so does Carly Rae Jepsen! It was a fun filled day for everyone as the Tampa Bay Rays took home yet another win against the Houston Astros with a 5-0 victory.
After the game, fans ran out onto the field and parents popped in their ear plugs to watch the postgame concert with Carly Rae Jepsen. 10,000 wristbands were sold, and Carly Rae sang fifteen songs off of her new album Kiss, including her Grammy nominated song of the year, "Call Me Maybe".
Dressed in her customized Rays jersey and ball cap, Carly Rae threw the first pitch of the game, which was even shown later that night on ESPN! Although her pitch did not make it very far from the pitcher's mound, she still had a big smile on her face, and was awarded a hug from Rays pitcher Matt Moore afterwards.
A couple of lucky fans were chosen to go up on stage and dance with her too. One girl who was on stage dancing with Carly Rae said, "This was the best day of my life, and it was such an incredible experience!"
The experience for me was amazing! Being able to stand up at the front of the stage and have Carly Rae touch my hand was a great feeling. She has an incredible voice and a marvelous disposition towards a crowd. She never stopped smiling. It's always a good time when Carly Rae Jepsen comes to Tampa Bay! The Tampa Bay Area hopes to see her again soon!
Florida and barbeque. How can it be bad? In the case of the Everglades Smokehouse at Tropicana Field, that statement rings true.
Everglades Smokehouse, which opened before the 2011 season and occupies the space formerly known as the Batter's Eye Restaurant, proved to be a great place to grab a quick, quality lunch before a Rays game.
Trying to experience a different part of the menu, I started by ordering the smoked fish dip appetizer for the table. It was a pleasant detour from the barbecue-centered menu. Although it was a little bit fishy at first, once you dove into it, there was no going back. It came with what seemed to be Ritz crackers for dipping, which was great because you can't go wrong with Ritz crackers.
The main event of the lunch was the pulled pork sandwich. Once it came out, rather quickly I might add, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of pork that was given in the sandwich. Once I had finished smothering it with the Smokey BBQ Sauce (each table has three choices of sauce), I went for it. And boy was it worth it. The juiciness of the sauce with the meat was irresistible. This sandwich is a MUST for any guest.
Along with the sandwich, I received two sides, macaroni & cheese and green beans. The homestyle mac & cheese was very hot and every flavor went together nicely.
The meal from Everglades Smokehouse was a great meal to kick off a Rays win. The Thursday July 11 game against the Minnesota Twins was packed for a day game, with a crowd around 25,000. Much of the attendance can be attributed to Parks & Rec Day, a Rays promotion aimed at drawing local summer camps to the Trop for day games. The promotion seems to be working, and I was pleasantly surprised. The more, the merrier.
All in all, I would recommend the Everglades Smokehouse for a nice, quick lunch. The ballpark atmosphere mixed with traditional barbecue made for a great pairing during a great game.
OneRepublic really does know how to have a good time-literally.
OneRepublic performed a postgame concert on after the Rays game on Saturday, August 19. The Grammy-nominated band covered all the bases, performing past smashes along with new and current tracks from their new album, Native.
Donning a custom fitted Tampa Bay Rays hat, a very proud Ryan Tedder led his band through a very energetic performance. The vocal capabilities of Tedder were extraordinary, and the musical capabilities of the band were also pretty awesome. As someone who stood right by guitarist Drew Brown, I left with a very great impression of the band's elements as a whole.
One of the more sentimental moments came when Tedder dedicated one of his Native songs to his son. One of the funniest moments of the night was when Tedder rambled on about how he wanted orange juice because he was performing in Tropicana Field. He was convinced that product placement really does work!
OneRepublic was faithful to the Tampa Bay Rays game as a whole, with lead guitarist Zach Filkins throwing out the first pitch.
The overall experience of the Rays Summer Concert Series was a really great one. As any sports fan knows, it is hard to leave a losing game in a great mood, but the OneRepublic concert left my experience on a high note.