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FREE Tampa Bay Rays tickets given away amid backlash from Evan Longoria's comments on "embarrassing" attendance

10:31 AM, Sep 29, 2010   |    comments
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Video: Rays give away free tickets amid backlash

St. Petersburg, Florida -- The Tampa Bay Rays are giving away 20,000 free tickets to Wednesday night's game, as the team manages backlash from two All-Stars' comments about attendance. 

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2010 Rays season

How to get tickets: Wednesday's game against the Baltimore Orioles is the last home game of the regular season. It begins at 7:10 p.m.

To get a free ticket, go to any gate at Tropicana Field Wednesday afternoon, starting at 4:45 p.m. Tickets are first come, first served.

The tickets are for most areas of the stadium, except for the lower level. If you've already paid for a ticket that's in one of the giveaway sections, you can exchange it at Guest Services at the stadium for a free upgrade to a lower level ticket.

Why they're giving tickets away: The Rays say their motivation is two-fold. Club managers say they want to send their squad off to the playoffs with a big crowd and a good vibe.

But they're also trying to manage the backlash from comments by two of the team's top players criticizing poor attendance at Monday's game.

After losing to the Orioles on Monday in front of 12,446 fans, Evan Longoria said, "For us to play 155 games and go a full season of playing really good baseball, it's kind of like, what else do we have to do to draw fans into this place?"

"It's actually embarrassing for us."

And David Price posted on Twitter, "Had a chance to clinch a post season spot tonight with about 10,000 fans in the stands....embarrassing."

To many fans, the comments left the impression of aloof millionaires who don't understand the economic situation of people in the Tampa Bay area.

Rays President Matt Silverman says the club had already considered giving away tickets to the home finale before Monday's attendance debacle.

But the backlash from Longoria's and Price's comments led the team to give the green light to the giveaway.

"We want to win the [American League East Division]. We want that home field advantage. And so our guys respond," Silverman said, explaining the connection he sees between big crowds and better play by the team.

"They respond when we have fans in the stands and we want to do everything we can to get this place packed."

The team says over the past few years, the team has won 45 games and lost just 15 when at least 30,000 fans pack the Trop. Silverman said those numbers just don't lie.

"I hope we fill the house," he said, soaked in champagne after the Rays clinched a playoff spot Tuesday.

"There are lots of folks who talk about why they do come and why they don't come. We want to take away as many excuses and get people here."

"It really comes down to wins and losses. Our guys win more often when we have big crowds here," Silverman said.

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