Fans are gearing up for the Tampa Bay Rays' face-off with the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series, but the midafternoon start time of today's first game in Massachusetts means the 9-to-5 crowd will miss out on much of the TBS broadcast.
That's because many large workplaces in the Tampa Bay area won't let workers head home or elsewhere before the game's 3:07 p.m. start time. Nor will they allow television or radio broadcasts to interrupt work schedules.
Spokespeople for major employers such as the University of South Florida, Pinellas County government, Franklin Templeton and Raytheon say their workers will stay on task until it's time to head home — though a bit of fanfare is acceptable.
“The county doesn't give time off for ballgames,” wrote Pinellas County spokeswoman Mary Burrell in an email, “although I know a lot of departments will be encouraging folks to wear their fan shirts if they want to.”
The same goes for the city of St. Petersburg, which is fighting to keep the team from leaving the city to play somewhere else. Rays fever was evident at Thursday's city council meeting with councilmen Bill Dudley and Wengay Newtown wearing Rays shirts and Mayor Bill Foster declaring October to be “Celebrate the Rays Month.”
But that doesn't mean city workers will be given time off to watch today's game. “We don't typically do that,” said city spokeswoman Beth Herendeen.
The city is planning a festival for Monday's game at Tropicana Field with music, activities, giveaways and games on Central Avenue near Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill. “It's just to create a little festival atmosphere if people want to hang out before the game,” Herendeen said.
Even some of the team's corporate sponsors don't plan to let workers off the hook for the last few hours of the workday. Troy Atlas, senior vice president of investments at the downtown Tampa branch of Raymond James, said until markets close today, employees may keep tabs on the Rays on the Internet, but clients are the priority.
But some TVs in the office tuned to Bloomberg TV for financial news might end up showing a different channel come game time. “I wouldn't be surprised if a few of the them were tuned to the Rays game instead,” Atlas said.
George Glover, chairman of Baystar Hotel Group, said his co-workers plan to leave work early today — but there's a catch.
“We're going to get here between 6:30 and 7 (a.m.),” he said.
Owners of smaller businesses might cut their employees a little more slack.
“We will be ... turning the lights off around 2-2:30 (p.m.) tomorrow to give us time to get to our favorite spot to watch the Rays beat Boston in Game 1 of the ALDS,” said Sean Roney, managing partner and one of five employed at Roney Design Firm in downtown St. Petersburg. “Go Rays!”