St. Petersburg, Florida -- A local grassroots effort to bring fans to Tampa Bay Rays games has been successful, according to its organizer.
Brett Morgan, co-owner of a local automotive group in Tampa Bay and a loyal Rays fan, decided three weeks ago he was tired about hearing how fans no longer went to Rays games.
"I was frustrated so I thought, 'Either I can be part of the solution or part of the problem,' and I want to be part of the solution," said Morgan.
So he started cold calling more than 60 small and medium size businesses and selling 20 tickets at a time. He even sold to competitors.
"Here are several of these competitors helping me; we compete on a daily basis but they are joining the cause they want to see Tampa Bay baseball flourish as well," said Morgan.
USA Today Major League Baseball columnist Bob Nightengale, who has been writing about MLB for 27 years, told 10 News he believes Tropicana Field is the problem.
10 News asked him, "Do we really need fans there watching?"
He responded, "Yes, I think we do for the baseball model to work. Fans also motivate the players. It is easier for those guys to get excited seeing a full house. I think it's the location of the ballpark, getting over the bridge, battling traffic. I think the other side of the bridge in the Tampa side, even where the Yankees had their training, would be much easier for fans."
Nightengale recalled Monday night's poor attendance.
"Monday night was their big game. Two teams tied for a Wild Card race and they had the lowest attendance in all of baseball. It just made no sense. That was a huge game for playoff implications, on Monday night, they only had 10,000 plus fans. I think there are more fans for the Lightning exhibition game and almost twice as many fans at the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs - two teams not in the race since April."
He said the MLB commissioner's office has been discussing what to do.
"The commissioner's office is very frustrated with Tampa's situation. In the last owners meetings in New York in mid-August they said they would intervene and send someone down there. Bud Selig's quote was 'What the hell is going on down there?' It would be one thing if the Rays weren't winning, but they win year after year and they are a role model for all of baseball, and for people not to support that it is a problem because at some point the Rays won't keep winning like this and when that happens who knows how bad it might get?"
He also said MLB is considering breaking the Rays lease at the Trop to move the field to another location.
"A different ballpark in the same spot will not work, it needs to move," said Nightengale. "There is even talk of moving them to Orlando, but I think they should stay in that area."
Moving that far would be tough for Morgan and his die-hard group of fans, but he is OK with it if the team stays local.
"I want what's best for the Tampa Bay Rays, I want what is best for the Tampa Bay area, and if that means moving the team, and they can get that done and take it downtown to another location I fully support that," said Morgan.
Wednesday night's game is against the Texas Rangers. Both teams are tied for the first Wild Card in the American League.