How Orioles' relocated series at Tropicana Field will take on a more neutral feel

Baltimore Orioles, left, and Tampa Bay Rays line up during the national anthem during the clubs' Opening Day game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Monday, April 6, 2015.
Baltimore Orioles, left, and Tampa Bay Rays line up during the national anthem during the clubs' Opening Day game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Monday, April 6, 2015. (Eve Edelheit / Associated Press)

Will John Denver play during the seventh-inning stretch this weekend when the Orioles travel to St. Petersburg, Fla., to play three "home" games on the road at Tropicana Field, nearly 1,000 miles away from Baltimore?

Will Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria's walk-up music be played on his home field even though he will be wearing a gray road uniform?


And just how exactly do you play a home game in an opponent's stadium?

Those were among the internal questions and discussions this week after the Orioles relocated their three-game home series – originally slated for Camden Yards – to the Rays' home field because of the unrest throughout Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American city resident who died in police custody.


From a baseball perspective, the past week has been a bizarre one for the Orioles. When protesters began marching along Gate H of Camden Yards before Saturday's game, the gate was closed. Later that night, the ballpark was briefly under lockdown under order of the city as concern grew that fans flooding out of the park at the end of the game could be in danger.

Monday was the darkest day of riots in the city, forcing the team's game against the White Sox to be postponed and Tuesday's was as well, as a 10 p.m. city-wide curfew was enacted. Both games will be made up as part of a doubleheader on a mutual day off. Wednesday's game was played, albeit in front of an empty seating bowl with the game closed to the public, mainly in order to allow police officers and National Guard troops who would be securing the park the ability to be deployed elsewhere around the city.

That's also the main thrust why the Orioles, along with Major League Baseball and the Rays, worked to get this weekend's series relocated to Tampa Bay.

Even though the Orioles wanted to swap this weekend's series for one slated to be played at Tampa Bay in July, MLB decided that it was already difficult enough costing the Orioles fan base five home dates in Baltimore this week, and would be unwise to affect another franchise's fan base as well, according to industry sources.

The Rays have an annual summer concert series that is tied closely to their season-ticket plans. During that July series, the Rays are hosting a postgame concert featuring country music artist Kacey Musgraves, certainly creating one of their best summer weekend draws of the season.

Since these games are still technically Orioles home games, the Orioles did request playing the same crowd prompts and videos that are played at Camden Yards, but were rebuffed by MLB, which preferred a more neutral experience.

The Orioles will certainly have some home privileges. They will wear their home white uniforms, take batting practice first and bat at the end of the inning.

And the host Rays are making several efforts to make sure the series will have an impartial feel to it. There will be none of the typical sponsorship elements presented during a regular Rays home game, no game emcee and no pump-up-the-crowd elements.

Walk-up music for both Orioles and Rays players will be played. And the Oriole Bird mascot, as well as Rays mascots Raymond and D.J. Kitty, will all be there.

The seventh-inning stretch, however, will undoubtedly be Orioles-slanted, with John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" to be played.

Both teams had to make several on-the-fly adjustments to make this series work. The Orioles had to book a charter flight on a different airline carrier and aren't staying at their usual team hotel because of last-minute bookings. Typically, those travel plans are made before the season begins.

The Rays will have to bring in about 700 gameday staff members – all of whom expected to have the weekend off – to work the series.


Tickets for all three games will be general admission with seating only offered in the lower bowl of Tropicana Field. Tickets to Friday's and Sunday's games will be $15 and Saturday's game will be $18. The Orioles, who set the ticket prices in conjunction with the Rays, will receive the gate revenue of the series minus the Rays' staffing expenses.

Since Sarasota is less than an hour south of The Trop, Orioles spring training season holders were emailed the opportunity to purchase tickets for a $3 discount.


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