Tampa Bay had the second-lowest average attendance in Major League Baseball this year, with 14,734 fans per game, despite fielding an entertaining team that won 93 games (only the Miami Marlins drew fewer fans). The Rays’ attendance has declined every year since 2012 as local interest in the team — Monday aside — seems to wane.
Even on Sept. 23, with the Rays holding a half-game lead over the Cleveland Indians in the A.L. wild-card race, only 8,779 fans showed up to see the Rays play the defending champion Boston Red Sox. Tampa Bay’s previous high for home attendance this year came on opening day on March 28, when 25,052 showed up. Usually, with the tarps in the upper deck, the attendance for much of the season is capped at about 26,000. But the Rays manage to play well even when the building is more than two-thirds empty, having gone 16-2 in their last 18 games at home.
The Rays’ lack of support at the turnstiles, combined with the inability to find a consensus on location and funding for a new stadium, has led ownership to explore alternatives. One possibility would see the Rays play part of their season in Tampa Bay and part of it in Montreal.
But at least on Monday, that possibility seemed distant, and the playoff atmosphere gave some hope to the Rays.
“If we have that every day, it would be so much different,” Adames said. “It’s something that we were expecting to have today, and I’m really happy that we had it. Hopefully, we will keep having it over the next days and seasons.”
It was especially meaningful for Kiermaier, who has been with the Rays since their last postseason appearance in 2013. But during that division series, a loss to the Red Sox, Kiermaier was not on the roster and watched the games from the clubhouse. He called Monday’s showing by the fans the best he had ever seen.
“Seeing everyone with the towels and every fan through every pitch, it was insane,” he said. “That’s something that I’ve never experienced before.”