Tampa Bay Fans Thrilled By Team's Win

fromWUSF

Tampa Bay is thrilled about its baseball team's win.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. From NPR News, I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And I'm Michele Norris. And we end this hour with not one, but two epic baseball collapses. On September 1st, the Atlanta Braves had an eight-and-a-half-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the National League wild card. The Boston Red Sox had a nine-game edge over the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League wild card race.

Well, both the Sox and the Braves spent the rest of the month losing big. And last night, with playoff hopes on the line, both lost the last game of the regular season in spectacular last-minute fashion. We'll have more on last night's losers in a minute. But first to Tampa, where WUSF's Bobbie O'Brien caught up with some relieved and ecstatic Rays fans.

BOBBIE O: The sun was shining a little brighter and the fans were smiling a little broader at the Tampa Bay Rays team store at Tropicana Field. The phone rang at a steady pace, fans asking if playoff T-shirts were available. Jane Chapin(ph) of St. Petersburg was there for the team's send-off as the Rays head to Texas to play the Rangers on Friday.

JANE CHAPIN: They're so young, so underpaid and so underrated that it's just - they're so much fun to watch, and they have so much heart.

BRIEN: Rays fans don't mind being considered the underdogs. In fact, it's a role some relish, like Nicole Kirchberg.

NICOLE KIRCHBERG: I lived in North Carolina when the Panthers went to the Super Bowl when they were playing the other Boston team up there, with New England Patriots. It's the same thing. It's like they were the underdogs, and I feel that with Tampa Bay, it's like they don't get the respect like the Yankees and Boston and all the - Chicago, the big teams. And I think it's awesome for the community.

BRIEN: Kirchberg works at Eckerd College with Michelle Digioia. They were on their lunch break, hoping to buy some of those playoff T-shirts.

MICHELLE DIGIOIA: You know, teachers, students, everybody was very excited. We have some teachers actually put up pictures from the newspaper on their classroom doors.

BRIEN: Eight-year-old Marco Jimenez's dad got him out of bed to watch the end of the game after the Rays tied the score in the ninth inning. He says it taught him a big lesson.

MARCO JIMENEZ: The Rays never gave up. They never gave up, and they continued playing the game right. And they won because they never gave up.

BRIEN: How about you? Do you ever give up?

JIMENEZ: No.

BRIEN: Where did you learn that? From the Rays?

JIMENEZ: Well, actually, yes. So I learned it before, but this helped reinforce it.

BRIEN: Just like the Rays reinforced their image that they're never out of it. They were down nine games at the beginning of the month and made an unprecedented comeback. The team found a way to win. For NPR News, I'm Bobbie O'Brien in Tampa.

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