By last estimation, 50% of Tampa Bay residents are baseball fans. Of these 1.4 million people, roughly 60% root for the Rays, 20% root for the Yankees, and 20% root for the Red Sox, Braves, Cubs, Mets, and other teams. So it is no surprise when fandoms clash.
Unless the manager of the Rays gets involved.
A few years ago, Joe Maddon made a comment about Tropicana Field filling with Yankees fans to see Derek Jeter’s final games at the Trop. Maddon was perturbed people were not rooting for the Rays. This frustration has continued with his successor, Kevin Cash.
According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Cash was upset over the weekend at PGA Golf legend Chi Chi Rodriguez for dissing the Rays and proclaiming his Yankees fandom at the Tampa Bay Sports Commission’s annual Sneaker Soiree. With Cash in attendance, Rodriguez also stated the Rays have “no pitching”.
With all due respect to Kevin Cash, he was in a no-win situation. First and foremost, the Tampa Sports Commission, sponsors of the event, run Steinbrenner Field. Supporting the Yankees is in their best interest.
Second, Chi Chi Rodriguez is a life long baseball fan who is from Puerto Rico and has been a part of the Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Course, Academy, and School in Clearwater since before the Rays were in existence. Based on demographics and geography, the chances of him liking the Yankees is pretty high.
This is what happens when a local area splits its loyalty between more than one team. It becomes acceptable for people disparage a team and for the local big league manager to have to defend himself and his team. Reminder: this doesn’t happen in any other Major League city.
“My gosh Chi Chi, we’re at a Tampa Bay event. C’mon, man.” – Kevin Cash
Cash has lived in the Tampa Bay area long enough to know this area is divided. Until the area decides to put its loyalty and dollars behind only one baseball team, it will always be divided. Cash and the Rays will more than occasionally be second fiddle, especially on the Tampa side of the bridge.
Now we have to wonder if Cash will be involved with The First Tee Day promotion between the Rays and Chi Chi Rodriguez’s golf facility. The promotion is July 31, 2016 as the Rays take on, who else, the Yankees.