THOSE WHO CONSIDER the Tampa Bay Devil Rays a Mickey Mouse franchise won't be surprised to find out the team is
playing a three-game series at Disney's
Wide World of Sports Complex this week.
Tampa Bay will "host" the Texas Rangers
at the site - about 20 miles from downtown Orlando - tomorrow through Thursday.
Attendance at Disney is 9,500, 13,000 with temporary seating.
The Devil Rays have finished last in the American League East in eight of nine seasons since their inception in 1998. The other time they finished next to last.
That has Matt Silverman, the team's 30-year-old president, scrambling to make changes. There is speculation that the team will change its logo, uniforms and colors next season. There is even a report that it might drop the word "Devil" from its nickname.
Silverman said nothing is "a done deal" and has until May 31 to notify Major League Baseball of any proposed changes.
For now, he's hoping a change of venue drums up some interest in his team, which
averages 15,725 at Tropicana Field.
"We're fortunate to play in a region that has
a great love of baseball," Silverman said. "Orlando is a big part of where we hope to spread our brand . . . And what better way is there to ignite the fandom than carry the game to them?"
Well, Matt, have you considered fielding a winning team?
While some might think the Disney experiment is - you'll excuse the pun - a Dopey idea, Rangers outfielder Jerry Hairston is all for it.
"I think it's a great idea," said Hairston, whose family will attend the game. "First trip for my son going to Disney World. He's 18 months. First time seeing Mickey Mouse. It will be good for him. I'll record it and he'll
always have it." *
- Tom Mahon