My Story

Every Rays fan would recognize this iconic photo of Brett Phillips airplaning on the field at the end of Game 4 in the 2020 World Series. For me, it represented the start of my Rays fandom.

I wasn’t a baseball fan for most of my life. I grew up only following basketball (I’m a Nets fan), and even living in New York City — a city with two storied baseball franchises — I couldn’t care less about the sport.

Flash forward to the night of October 24, 2020. It was seven months into the pandemic, and just like a lot of other people, I was bored out of my mind. I found myself in the living room with my dad, checking the TV guide to see what was on. I stumbled upon Game 4 of the 2020 WS. Even as someone who didn’t care about baseball, I didn’t have anything better to do, so I thought, “Why not?” and put the game on.

By the time I tuned in, it was already the eighth or ninth inning. As a basketball fan, I was used to seeing scores that are *much* higher than a baseball game’s score, but I was intrigued nonetheless because it was a close game.

I didn’t know any of the players on either team. I didn’t even really know the rules in baseball, beyond the general “three strikes and you’re out” and how a team scores when a guy crosses home plate. Maybe I had heard of the Dodgers on a few occasions, but just by team name — and I definitely never heard of the Tampa Bay Rays.

I actually don’t remember much about the game, or if I’m being more specific, the last 1 to 2 innings that I ended up watching. I do remember that the game kept me on the edge of my seat so much that I kept watching it on my laptop in my room after my dad went to sleep around 10pm (he had work the next day, and he slept in the living room). And of course, I remember what was perhaps the greatest moment I’ve watched live in sports history: Brett coming up to bat and everything that transpired afterward.

At that moment, I realized just how magical and beautiful baseball is as a sport.

I didn’t become a Rays fan then and there, although I often tell the story that way whenever someone new asks how I became a Rays fan (it’s just easier sometimes). Still, I rooted for the Rays in the WS — and yes, it sucked that they lost. I also became a Brett Phillips fan, and he was the first (active) baseball player I ever followed on social media. (A-Rod doesn’t count because he had been retired at that point, and I only followed him because I loved him and J-Lo together lol.) My story in officially joining Rays fandom took a bit longer, but I think I just didn’t know at the time that they’d already won my heart during the 2020 WS.

Living in New York, I begrudgingly started the 2021 MLB season watching Yankees and Mets games (given that those were the games broadcasted locally for me). I tried really hard to like either team, but I realized in seeing Rays-Yankees games — quite often because of the frequent in-division matchups — that I had grown rather fond of the Rays and loved their wholesomeness. It helped that I already recognized so much of the team from the WS. There was also something about their instilled label as underdogs — despite not exactly being underdogs, as a team that has seen a good amount of success in recent years — that felt relatable and made them extremely likable.

It took me another month or two before I finally purchased an MLB.TV subscription so I could keep up with all Rays games and not just the ones when they were in New York. And now, while Brett is no longer on the team — although he’ll probably always be my favorite player! — I still hold much of the same fondness that made me fall in love with the Rays in the first place. For better or for worse — leaning toward the former, probably! — I’m a Rays fan for life, and beginning in 2023, I’m starting a tradition to see the team play every year for my birthday.

Quick Facts

Who are my favorite players on the Rays?

Current Rays: Brandon Lowe is my ride-or-die. It's well-known among my followers, and I post about him a LOT on my Instagram stories! Other Rays I like (in no particular order) are Randy Arozarena, Shane Baz, Shane McClanahan, Yandy Díaz, Zach Eflin, Pete Fairbanks, Drew Rasmussen, and Jose Siri.

Former Rays: Brett Phillips (obviously), Collin McHugh, Austin Meadows, Willy Adames, Ji-man Choi, Tyler Glasnow, David Robertson, and Ryan Yarbrough.

What other teams and players do I like?

To the dismay of many other baseball fans I know — particularly Mets fans — my second team (behind the Rays) is the Atlanta Braves. Max Fried, Matt Olson, Austin Riley, and Travis d'Arnaud are my favorite Braves. I also hold a soft spot for the Milwaukee Brewers because of Willy Adames and because of my former roommate (who is originally from Wisconsin and loves the Brewers). I always keep an eye out for Braves-Mets and Brewers-Mets matchups when baseball schedules come out, and I've seen both teams play in person several times (my Braves record is 3-1, and my Brewers record is 4-0).

In terms of favorite players at large, I realized that I gravitate toward pitchers. Other players I like include Shohei Ohtani, Jacob deGrom, Mark Canha, Freddie Freeman, Liam Hendriks, Kyle Higashioka, Clay Holmes, Michael King, Jonathan Loáisiga, Ron Marinaccio, and Anthony Volpe. May the baseball gods forgive that many of these players include current and former Yankees...

What is my favorite ballpark that I’ve visited?

Camden Yards is my favorite, with Truist Park coming in second. Both ballparks are absolutely gorgeous and have outstanding pregame areas and festivities for fans to experience. (Living in New York City, I'm of course stuck with Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, and there aren't any particularly exciting things going on pregame at either ballpark.) Camden gets the edge though because of its more accessible location (you would not believe how much I spent on Ubers to/from Truist), more unique architecture, and history.

What is my favorite food that I’ve eaten at a ballpark?

I tend to avoid ballpark food and eat at home before games, or whenever possible, bring food with me into the ballpark. I'm just not much of a finger food person and try not to eat anything too messy, which seems to describe almost all ballpark food (hot dogs, burgers, etc.). Ballpark food can also cost a pretty penny!

I have caved in getting ballpark food on occasion though, particularly when I've traveled. The buffalo fries at Camden Yards are the best ballpark food I've eaten so far.

What is the most memorable game that I’ve been to?

For the last game of my inaugural Rays birthday trip in 2023, I went to a Rays-Marlins game at loanDepot Park. Given the lack of demand for Marlins games, I was able to splurge on a really good seat without spending an exorbitant amount of money — I was two rows directly behind the Rays dugout. That was the closest I've ever sat to the action at a baseball game. The Rays won that game 11-2, so there was a lot of action I got to see up close!

This game was also memorable because of the saga of getting into the ballpark. Just as I arrived at the stadium, torrential rain and wind came out of nowhere. I was huddled with other fans under a security checkpoint tent for probably around 15-20 minutes before I decided to just make a run for it into the ballpark. Good thing I arrived early enough to dry up substantially before first pitch!