One day after the MLB announced that the 2023 regular season had its biggest yearly growth in attendance since 1998, the Tampa Bay Rays drew the fewest fans to a playoff game in over 100 years.
Officially, 19,704 fans attended Game 1 of the American League Wild Card Series between the Rays and the Texas Rangers — which the Rangers won 4-0 — at Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field. According to Sports Illustrated, that's the lowest attendance for an MLB playoff game (in a non-COVID-19 season) since Game 7 of the 1919 World Series (better known as the infamous "Black Sox Scandal").
Even though Tuesday's game started at 3 p.m. local time, which isn't ideal for fans, the abysmal turnout is still surprising for a few reasons. For one, the Tampa Bay Rays were one of baseball's best teams during the regular season. They finished the season with a 99-63 record, averaged 5.31 runs per game (fourth best in the entire MLB), and tied for the most home wins in the MLB with 58. They also boast a roster full of young and exciting players. In other words, it isn't the team's fault that so few fans decided to show up.
Official attendance for today?s Rangers-Rays game: 19,704.
That?s the lowest for an MLB postseason game since 1919.
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) October 3, 2023
Which raises the question: Why did so few Rays fans attend their favorite team's first 2023 playoff game?
One sure answer is that Tropicana Field is ranked as MLB's worst stadium. Even though the Rays have made the playoffs in five straight seasons — including a World Series appearance in 2020 — "The Trop" is consistently a bottom-dweller in terms of attendance each year. The stadium itself has no noteworthy landmarks or unique features and exudes a bland, lifeless energy at all times. Clearly, Tropicana Field's flaws are enough to deter fans from watching an excellent on-field product.
There's also the fact that the Rays recently announced a new stadium, which they plan to move into in 2028. One might imagine that this long-awaited escape from Tropicana Field would stir some excitement within the Tampa Bay faithful — or at least stir some nostalgia for where the Rays have played since their inaugural season in 1998. Alas.
One would hope that breaking the Chicago Black Sox's 104-year record would cause fans to show up for the Rays in Game 2 of the American League Wild Card Series, which takes place Wednesday afternoon. Yet, perhaps Rays fans have simply had enough of "The Trop" and are content to wait until the new stadium opens in 2028 to start supporting their team.
Either way, we'll see on Wednesday afternoon.
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