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Rays' fans juggle schedules with Game 4 in afternoon

TBO.com
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 01:21 AM
ST. PETERSBURG -

The Tampa Bay Rays remain baseball's not-ready-for-prime-time players.

The Rays are in the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, yet night playoff games remain a rarity.

Two of the first three games in the American League Division Series between the Rays and Texas Rangers began at 5:07 p.m.

And word that Game 4 was set for 2:07 p.m. Tuesday brought complaints from some fans who had purchased tickets last week and must now juggle schedules.

Bill Haley, a professor with the University of South Florida's School of Aging Studies, bought tickets for himself, his son and daughter-in-law. The tickets listed "TBA" for the game time, and Haley assumed first pitch would be at 5 or 7 p.m.

To attend, he'll have to skip work - a 12:30 p.m. class - and his son was unable to find child care for their 4-month-old daughter, who they'll now take to the game.

"I would not have bought the tickets if I knew it was at 2 o'clock and had known I would miss my class," said Haley, whose students will see an online presentation instead of a live lesson.

Haley, who also had tickets for Monday's Game 3, believes the Rays should have informed fans of all possible game times.

Times are set by Major League Baseball and TBS, the network telecasting the first round of the postseason. Night games tend to feature teams in major markets with larger fan bases, such as the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies.

"Nothing for nothing, but geez @MLB, way to give the #Rays the shaft on Tuesday's 2 p.m. start time," tweeted April McManus (@April_mc_13).

Tuesday's game at Tropicana Field is close to a sellout, another rarity in the Tampa Bay market. The Rays have struggled at the gate all season. Until Monday's Game 3, the Rays had not sold out a game since Opening Day in April.

The Bay area has received a lot of negative national attention because of lack of ticket sales to support a successful team. Day playoff games don't help generate sellouts when fans are supposed to be at work and their kids in school.

The situation was similar in 2010, when Tampa Bay and Texas meet in the ALDS. Games 1 and 2 at the Trop started at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m., respectively. Games 3 and 4 in Texas began at 5 and 1 p.m. Only Game 5 was in prime time.

The early starts don't surprise Rays manager Joe Maddon, who said last year it felt like his team was placed in a "losers' bracket."

"It's not optimal from our perspective, but it doesn't surprise me," he said today.

Maddon said the Rays play well in day games, so that is not an issue.

"We've kind of turned the corner on that, so I'm not upset with it, I just prefer getting the guys a little more rest."

If the best-of-five series goes the distance, Game 5 will start at 5 p.m. Thursday in Texas unless the other ALDS between the Yankees and Detroit Tigers ends in four games. If so, the Rays-Rangers game would move to 8 p.m.


Tribune reporter Roger Mooney and TBO.com editor Karen McAllister contributed to this report.

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