Baseball Bucket List

The Day I Pet a Ray in Tampa Bay: Bucket List Stop #4

Park Name: Tropicana Field
Team Name: Tampa Bay Rays
Hot Dog: Heater Dog with chili and cheese
Notable Attribute: Cowbells?!

I decided to come to Tampa on a last minute (and very cheap) flight from Boston secretly hoping for some extra sunshine before it turns to fall. I’d only been to St. Petersburg once before, and this time I loved it! It’s a very picturesque and charming waterfront town; a nice strip of restaurants, ice cream shops, shopping, etc… If you visit Tampa or the Rays, you have to get down to the St. Pete waterfront on a sunny day. Check out the ongoing Dale Chihuly glass exhibit at the Morean Arts Center; if you’ve never seen his work, he creates incredible glass sculptures and chandeliers. His work is most notably in the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. Ryan and I made it to an exhibit in Seattle on my last trip, and I’ve included a picture from that trip below. I was surprised to see another collection there, but I take advantage of any chance I have to see his work.

The best part of walking around town is exploring a city, and all that walking around deserves a good meal! Last Spring Training we ate at the restaurant Tryst with our long lost traded friends, the Weilands. Tryst serves sophisticated, modern American cuisine. We went the burgers and fries route for lunch- I had the Indian lamb burger, Rachel the turkey, and the boys went traditional. I’d recommend it for a nice place to sit down after spending the day walking around. There are about a dozen restaurants on Beach Drive ranging from Indian to Columbian, Italian to Tapas. Look at the menus and also check for happy hour specials. If you hang around Beach Drive and the water in the afternoon, you are just a short cab ride away from the stadium for game time.

Tropicana Field is home to the Tampa Bay Rays. The field is located in St. Petersburg (if you stay in Tampa you need a car to get there!) and was the first games I’ve attended where a full blown dome is covering the field. I have to say that I don’t love the dome effect, even in unappealing weather. It makes the stadium feel really small. One of the things I did notice though was a huge section dedicated to kids. The carnival themed first floor has everything from carnival games like ski ball and water targets to virtual batting practice with the pros. For little ones that can’t make it through a whole game without some distraction, this was a great find. There are televisions all around so that mom or dad can keep up on what’s happening upstairs. If you are feeling adventurous, you can also pet a manta ray! They have a tank located on the second floor in centerfield where there are about a dozen manta rays in a large tank.  You can stand by the tank and pet the rays. For those of you that don’t know, I am terrified of sea creatures. So petting a manta ray (which I did!!) was a big deal for me. My partners in crime, Janna Mortenson and their most adorable son Miles, were much better participants.

My trip to Tampa was full of some good food finds as well! I was fortunate that there were three other wives on the trip, and all of them were up for exploring some of Tropicana’s best field offerings! If you visit Tropicana Field, be sure not to miss:

  • Cowbells- It must be an inside joke amongst the organization, but fans carry them and ring them all game when good things happen for the Rays. Anyone have an explanation for me?
  • Everglades BBQ– there are two or three locations throughout the field, including the food court behind home plate. I’m not usually one for barbeque pork, but the pulled pork nachos were seriously awesome. The meat was juicy, tender, and plentiful. There are three barbeque sauces to mix and match as well as hot peppers and onions to add to the mix. The peppers are spicy but add a desired kick to the mix.
  • Outback Steakhouse– the famous bloomin’ onion tops the charts of all time WORST foods for your body, but if you love it and don’t care, you can eat one at Tropicana Field. I highly suggest sharing amongst a big group if you take this eating route.
  • The Brewhouse– i trekked and trekked around the stadium – in heels! – in search of a salad, because I think every stadium should at least offer one. After scouring the stadium and being disappointed that there are nearly no healthy options, I found The Brewhouse. If you are willing to sit away from the game, The Brewhouse serves a full menu of salads, sandwiches, and entrees. The catch is missing the game. If health matters, you might choose this alternative. I decided to pass.
  • Boiled Peanuts! My foodie buddy Adair Bard is a Mississippi girl and loves her boiled peanuts. She’s mentioned that a restaurant in Boston serves them, but I finally saw them first hand here in Tampa. I went for the Cajun flavored variety which had a little kick. If you’ve never had boiled peanuts it might take you a minute to figure out how to eat them. Luckily our family friends came to the game and instructed me. The shells are super soft after boiling, and my reaction was to chew the whole thing. Definitely not correct or recommended. Bite them open like a traditional peanut. The inside is soft and chewy and almost has a marzipan consistency. If you’ve never tried them, it’s worth having them here in the south!
  • Cuban Sandwich- this was one of the unique sandwich options that shows the local Cuban influence in Florida. I tried a half sandwich (which I thought was a nice offering if you aren’t starving), but have to say it was more cheese and bread than filling. Cuban sandwiches are traditionally ham, pickels, and mustard, which is a really interesting combination if you’ve never had it. I may try to remake a version of it this winter, but I’d say skip it at the stadium.
Pulled Pork Nachos at Everglades BBQ

As I mentioned, there is an overall lack of healthy options at Tropicana. I was able to find a gluten free section with chicken sausage dogs and g-free buns. Other than that, you don’t have too many options. But for lack of health there are certainly aspects of local culture worth tasting! It’s also the stadium that had the most interactive elements for both children and adults. Share the fun (and the calories) and treat every new experience as an opportunity to learn about unfamiliar places!

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1 thought on “The Day I Pet a Ray in Tampa Bay: Bucket List Stop #4”

  1. Hi Jamie, been enjoying your posts & recipes here in Boston. Here’s the story on those darm cowbells. The Rays’ Cowbell was originally a promotional idea thought up by principal owner Stuart Sternberg, who got the idea from the Saturday Night Live sketch.
    Keep those recipes coming…..Jackie in Boston

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