ST. PETERSBURG — The excitement was evident practically everywhere in the Tampa Bay area Friday: cars sporting flags with the team’s logo, people decked out in team memorabilia, sports bars packed for the game.
For many who had to go to work, jerseys and caps were the only way to show their love for the Tampa Bay Rays during business hours, checking their smartphones for updates as the team opened the American League Division Series with a 3 p.m. game against the Boston Red Sox.
Some, like the employees of Gallagher & Associates in west St. Petersburg, were a little luckier. Employees of the small foreclosure law firm packed into a conference room with pizza and popcorn, with the bosses’ blessing.
“We love the Rays,” said Jason Cox, a lawyer there. “We appreciate all they do for the community, and we want to support them.”
Things were a little more raucous at Rays fan hub Ferg’s. The playoff game attracted hundreds of Rays faithful, who fixated on the bar’s array of television screens. Some were still clad in business suits as they sipped beer, but most had on their fan gear.
“I took a day off work so we could come here and watch the Rays,” said Jeff Berns, of St. Petersburg. “I’m in the sales world, and if you make your numbers, it’s flexible.”
Those at the bar who couldn’t get the whole day off said they were able to get away before the standard quitting time.
“Everybody in the office left work early to come here,” said Jeff Barker, who works in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning industry.
Mark Ferguson, the sports bar’s owner and namesake, said it was a huge crowd for an early game. Despite the blowout loss, he expects a large and loud crowd when the series shifts to Tropicana Field on Monday.
“It’s going to be like opening day,” Ferguson said. “Game’s going to be sold out. We’re having a block party three hours before the game, so everybody can come out and have a good time.”