With the wildest MLB trade deadline in recent memory in the rearview mirror, the baseball world turns its eyes to the latest existential threat converging on the core of the game itself: Tropicana Field.
You can't play baseball without, well, baseballs. And the Trop is on a crusade to swallow up every 88-stitched pearl of beauty that lands in its orbit.
For the second consecutive game, the catwalk at the Trop claimed another victim. After making a ball disappear following a Randy Arozarena swing against the Yankees on Thursday, the upper recesses of the stadium did the same in Friday's game against the Red Sox. This time, the ball off the bat of Boston's Hunter Renfroe was destined to live forever in the abyss.
Gaze upon the range of emotions as various Rays players react to the situation unfolding, from slack-jawed awe to, "Not this again."
In our first freeze frame, third baseman Yandy Díaz, first baseman Ji-Man Choi, pitcher Josh Fleming and catcher Mike Zunino look skyward, their necks craned to maximum capacity as if they were looking upon an approaching UFO.
The expected outcome of this familiar scenario is for a baseball to come crashing back to Earth, and not even recent events can sway the Rays to raise their guards for the possibility that, no, gravity would not emerge victorious this time. Zunino appears to be the first of the group to piece together that lightning, indeed, has struck again.
Eventually, the rest of the Rays arrived at the same realization: that this baseball had moved on to a higher plane of existence and would not be rejoining them on the turf below. Díaz, though—ever the professional—remained prepared for action.
That sense of wonder and disbelief was not reserved just for those between the lines, but also the players in the dugout. Rays players on the bench looked up with expressions of amazement, as if expecting a different outcome than the one they'd seen just the night before.
But just as no one can hear you scream in space, the roof of the Trop cares not for your laws of physics and gravity. It stares back with a cold detachment, craving only another baseball to devour.
Baseball stadiums all have unique features—that's part of their charm. Wrigley Field has the ivy, Fenway Park has the Green Monster, and LonaDepot Park has
an elaborate sculpture in center field that animates after every homer plenty of good seats still available. Tropicana Field is widely derided as one of the worst ballparks in the league, but it does in fact have an identifying characteristic: an unyielding, calculating predator of perfectly innocent baseballs.
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