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Date of Issue: June 25, 2008

Rays hot on the field, warm at the gate

While summer officially arrived June 21, sports on the Island is in the “chill” mode. So off we go to a Major League Baseball game.

The Tampa Bay Rays won another exciting game June 21 with a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros thanks to a two-run double in the bottom of the ninth inning by Gabe Gross. Gross’ double scored Cliff Floyd and Eric Hinkse to erase a 3-2 deficit.

The win improves the Rays’ record to 44-30 and thanks to consecutive losses by the Boston Red Sox, the Rays pulled to within a half game of first place in the American League Eastern division as of June 21.

Despite all of the Rays recent successes, they still are second from the bottom in home attendance, averaging just more than 18,000 fans per game. That figure is skewed upward thanks to a recent visit from the Chicago Cubs. They came into town sporting baseball’s best record. Cub fans were out in mass with more than 30,000 fans in attendance for each game of the series.

Unfortunately for Cub fans, the Rays swept them out of town, winning all three exciting games. The next night brought the Astros into the Trop and fewer than 15,000 fans showed up. The June 21 game against the Astros drew almost 30,000 fans, but that was due in part to a free post-game concert featuring Kool and the Gang.

Back when the Bucs and Lightning were bad teams, they, too, had poor attendance and sometimes more fans rooting for the opposing team, but once they started winning at home, fans started filling up the Ice Palace and the Big Sombrero.

That begs the question of why aren’t the Rays, who are arguably one of the best teams in Major League Baseball, not able to consistently draw more fans? Bad timing has a lot to do with it. People are having to cut back in these economic times of prices hovering at $4 per gallon for gas and some people are getting laid off from jobs.

Had this surprising Rays run occurred last season, I believe the team’s attendance would have been significantly better. Hopefully, with about half the season to go, the Rays’ attendance figures will continue to rise, especially if they are playing significant games in September.

If you haven’t been out to the Trop to catch a game, give it a try. Ticket prices are as low as $10 and parking is free for vehicles with four or more people in tow.

 

Surf camp coming

The West Coast Surf Shop and professional surfer Ryan Helm are teaming up for a surf camp June 30-July 4 at the White Avenue beachfront in Holmes Beach. Participants will learn the basics of surfing, such as how to spot a wave to ride, paddle, stand up and, ultimately, ride the board all the way into the beach.

The day camp will run from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday.

Lessons on ocean safety, sun safety and the environment also will take place, as well as games and activities on the beach throughout the week-long, fun-filled camp.

For more information, fees or to sign up, call West Coast Surf Shop at 941-778-1001.

 

Center summer activities

The Anna Maria Island Community Center teen program is enjoying sunset volleyball, relaxed games on alternate Tuesday evenings at the Manatee Public Beach.

Teens - ages 11-17 - are welcome to come out and play, while socializing and enjoying the sand and sunset. Games will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. July 1, July 22, Aug. 5 and Aug. 12. Meet at the beach or catch a ride from the Center at 5:45 p.m.

The Center is also inviting teens to attend a Ropes Course Challenge -an outdoor personal development and team-building activity, consisting of high and/or low elements. Low elements take place on the ground or only a few feet above the ground. High elements are constructed in trees or made of utility poles.

The program includes a day of low ropes with a certified instructor from Common Ground Adventures.

Day 2 will be at Dayspring, a retreat built by the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida on the north bank of the Manatee River just east of Ellenton. Dayspring has a high rope course that provides participants with an opportunity to develop teamwork and trust as they overcome obstacles and exercise problem-solving skills.

Lunch will be provided both days.

Registration is ongoing and the program will be held Monday, July 21, and Tuesday, July 22.

Next at the Center is a British Soccer Camp, Aug. 11-15, with registration under way now. The camp for boys and girls ages 4 to 16 will be held at the Center soccer field in a two-hour morning or evening session.

For more information on Center sports activities, call athletic director Andy Jonatzke at 941-778-1908, or e-mail andy@islandcommunitycenter.org.

 

Horseshoe news

Perfection was apparently quite hard to accomplish during horseshoe action at the Anna Maria City Hall pits over the past week. Any doubt as to who was top dog during the June 14, June 18 sessions was quickly erased due to the fact that during each session, only one team was able to forge a perfect 3-0 pool play record.

The June 14 competition saw John Johnson and Ron Pepka grabbing first place outright while the June 18 matches saw Ernie Moon and Debbie Rhodes win all three matches to claim bragging rights for the day.

The team of Lee Butts and Tom Rhodes grabbed second place after a playoff on June 14, while the team of one, George McKay, grabbed second-place honors.

Play gets under way at 9 a.m. every Wednesday and Saturday at the Anna Maria City Hall pits. Warmups begin at 8:45 a.m. followed by random team selection. There is no charge to play and everyone is welcome.

 

Key Royale golf news

The men of the Key Royale Club played a nine-hole, individual-low-net golf game on June 16. Jim Jorgensen, Dick Mills, Richard Westby and Matt Behan all carded 8-under-par 24s to tie for first place.

 

Sign up now for golf challenge

The Manatee High School Her-icanes girls soccer team - and your Islander sports writer and team coach - are again hosting a fundraising golf tournament to kick off their year and raise funds for uniforms, warmup suits and tournament travel.

The event will be held at the Bradenton Country Club at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, when for a $100 donation, players can test their golf skills in a four-person scramble at one of the area’s most exclusive and challenging layouts.

All players registered by Aug. 1 will receive a goody bag, cart and greens fees, a post-tourney banquet at the club and guaranteed fun throughout the day. Also on tap are a straightest-drive contest, two closest-to-the-pin contests, a putting contest and plenty of prize drawings. The field is limited to the first 100 golfers, so don't delay.

The Her-icanes are also looking for tournament sponsors to help their cause. For $800, a business can purchase a Hat Trick package, including foursome for golf and the banquet, tee or green sign on the course and a banner that will be displayed at all Manatee Her-icane home soccer games. A Golden Goal sponsorship package includes a foursome and a tee or green sign on the course for $500. A tee or green sign for the tournament is $125.

To sign up, send a foursome list with each player’s phone number and a check payable to Manatee Girls Soccer Booster. Mail to Her-icane Coach Kevin Cassidy, 2011 79th St. N.W., Bradenton FL 34209. For more information, call me 941-807-1105.

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