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WHERE WERE

STO RY BY J O N AT H A N G A N T T

YOU THAT NIGHT?

EVAN LONGORIA: J. MERIC/GET T Y IMAGES SPORT; NEWSPAPER: ERIK RUIZ

GAME

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he stories have been told at homes, offices, bars and meeting places to friends, family, coworkers and strangers. e stories revolve around the same event but the differences in the viewing are many.
in tow. I landed, delivered the guides in time and joined my bosses Rick Vaughn and Dave Haller in the Rangers Ballpark press box for Game . Game was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A -hour blur. And I will never forget it. RAYS PRINCIPAL OWNER & RAYS PRESIDENT So—what’s your story?

e stories are about how each of us experienced the Rays nothing-short-of-miraculous comeback in Game on September , . I was in the press box at Tropicana Field. I’ll admit that I violated the number one rule of any press box: no cheering. It was restrained, but I couldn’t help but rise out of my seat and pump my fist—first on Dan Johnson’s mind-boggling, game-tying, pinch-hit home run in the th and again on Evan Longoria’s walk-off in the th. After the Rays won, I called my wife, who was nine rows up from the Rays dugout, and shared a wonderful moment of cloud-nine bliss we’ll never forget. All the late nights and working weekends over the previous eight months didn’t matter. I finished the postgame notes for the media and then raced downstairs to the clubhouse and enjoyed my first-ever champagne shower. I hugged friends, coworkers and complete strangers. I stopped to realize I was witness to one of the greatest nights in sports history. And then I went upstairs and went back to work. Myself and the rest of the Rays Communications department had to pause our celebration and spend the next straight hours completing the Postseason Media Guide, which needed to be ready for Game of the American League Division Series in Texas. So we never left the Trop that night—just worked away in our beer-soaked shirts and fought off sleep with adrenaline. And loads of caffeine. I finally left the ballpark at p.m. on September — hours after I had arrived. My colleague Andrew Heydt sent the file to the printer later that night, and the next morning I was on a plane to Dallas with Rays Postseason Media Guides

THE MESSENGER

TOM BERTE
CLUBHOUSE SECURITY GUARD

EVAN LONGORIA: J. MERIC/GET T Y IMAGES SPORT; NEWSPAPER: ERIK RUIZ

Tom Berte stood outside the Rays clubhouse—as he has during every Rays home game since as the clubhouse security guard. Despite being only a few hundred feet from the field, he had to watch Game on the television across the hallway. He watched as Rays players who weren’t in the game raced from the dugout to the clubhouse and back to give updates on the Boston Red Sox game against the Baltimore Orioles. After the Rays rally in the th, a Rays player (he can’t remember who) ran up the steps from the dugout and yelled at him, “Hey Berte—get Dan!” Johnson was needed in the dugout as a possible pinch-hitter. Berte ran inside and found the soon-to-be hero at his locker. He was hard at work on a har crossword puzzle, a routine pr practice to keep his

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mind free and clear during games when he wasn’t in the starting lineup. “Dan, they want you in the dugout!” anks goodness for Tom Berte. Dan Johnson might still be trying to finish that crossword.

e Rays principal owner wanted to add excitement by making it possible for former left fielder Carl Crawford to rob home runs with the shorter wall. After seeing the far more beneficial result of Longoria’s fence-scraper, Sternberg quipped that he “used up all of his good fortune” CLUBHOUSE SECURITY GUARD to get the win in .

THE RAYS DAD

ALEX SHEFFIELD
RAYS GROUP SALES ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE

THE BRASS

STUART STERNBERG & MATT SILVERMAN
RAYS PRINCIPAL OWNER & RAYS PRESIDENT

Matt Silverman sat in a suite at Tropicana Field and watched helplessly as the New York Yankees piled up a - lead over the first seven innings. en he watched as the Rays mounted a come comeback and scored six runs in the th inning. After the third out in the th, Silverman received a prophetic text from Stu Sternberg: “It’s going to come down to my man, Dan.” Of course “Stu’s man” hit the improbable game-tying homer in the th, but it should also be noted that Longoria’s iconic game-winner in the th was only made possible because Sternberg decided several years prior to lower the left field wall near the foul pole.

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DAN JOHNSON: SKIP MILOS; ALEX & NATHAN SHEFFIELD: PHOTO PROVIDED BY SHEFFIELD FAMILY

Alex Sheffield arrived at the ballpark at : Al a.m. the morning of Game and had a relatively normal work day. His wife dropped off their tive -year-old son Nathan after school so father and -ye son could watch the game together. When Johnson did his part in the th, Sheffield picked up his son, jumped around and chanted “He did it! He did it!” To which Nathan replied, “Daddy, put me down!” When the th rolled around and the Orioles had devastated Red Sox Nation and boosted Rays Republic, Sheffield jokingly asked Nathan what he thought Longoria would do in his at bat. With plenty of witnesses, Nathan calmly sat up in his chair, pointed to left field and predicted that “he’s going to hit a home run. run.” So, in essence, the Babe called Longo’s shot. e night ended with the Sheffields in the Rays secondfloor offices enjoying champagne glasses full of Dr. Pep-

GAME

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per. And of course—Nathan was allowed to skip
RAYS GROUP SALES day. school the following ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE

THE SCOREBOARD OPERATOR

We’re

LOU COSTANZA
THE BAD DATE
RAYS DIRECTOR OF GAME PRODUCTION

ERIK HAHMANN
SPORTS WRITER & RAYS FAN

Erik Hahmann had planned a dinner date with a woman for September when the Rays playoff chances seemed like an out-of-reach impossibility. At the restaurant that night, he periodically tried to sneak glances at a nearby TV to get updates. When the Rays scored their first run, he started to focus more. By the time Longoria belted the three-run bomb to bring the Rays within one, Hahmann had completely stopped paying attention to what his date was saying. “Every word sounded like the adults from Charlie Brown,” he said. Hahmann had turned degrees in his chair away from his date and facing the TV by the th. After Longoria’s winner and the Trop’s eruption, the pair paid the bill and said their goodbyes. Hahmann hasn’t heard from her since. hmann “It was totally worth it.”

Lou Costanza was already planning his offseason vacation. As he directed the in-game entertainment from the control room on the Trop’s fifth level, the early outlook was somewhere between bleak and hopeless. Costanza and the rest of the RaysVision crew were watching the Red Sox-Orioles game closely throughout the night, and when Baltimore pulled off the upset while the Rays were batting in the th, his immediate instinct was to put the update on the jumbotron for all at the Trop to see.

After consulting his supervisors, the plan was pl to wait for an inning break to avoid disrupting the game. But the smaller out-of-town scoreboard ga in left field was automatically displaying updates al all night. So Costanza and crew waited for it to refresh and deliver the verdict to the crowd. “It re felt like we waited five days for it to change over,” Co Costanza said. “ at was the most amazing moment when it finally displayed that the Red Sox had lost.” Am Amazing for everyone except B.J. Upton, who was bewildered as to why the crowd would be roaring after he had just swung and missed roa at a p pitch from Yankees reliever Scott Proctor. e center fielder caught on quickly though—he ce stepped out of the batter’s box and saw broad-

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ORIOLES: GREG FIUME/GET T Y IMAGES SPORT

GAME

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cast legend Dick Vitale frantically screaming and pointing to the recently updated scoreboard. RAYS DIRECTOR OF GAME PRODUCTION Jubilation, baby!

THE GNOME CONQUEROR

ROB SAMARTIN
LAWYER & RAYS FAN

Rob Samartin hates to leave sporting events before the game ends. He almost never does it. Almost never. About two weeks prior to Game , Samartin was diagnosed with throat cancer. He was feeling lousy on September , but he had tickets to the game and decided to go with his friend—who, it turns out, had decided to play a joke on his neighad j bor by stealing her University o Florida Gators of lawn gnome and bringing it to th game to take the pictures pictur around the ballpark. ballpa Highbrow comedy to be sure. e pair arrived just in time to see Yankees take a the Yank nk

st-inning lead when en a two-out groundball groundba ball went through Ben thr en Zobrist’s legs. “See,” ,” Samartin said pointing to his friend’s little friend. “You brought that gnome, and it’s bad luck.” Samartin was miserable. Because of the cancer, he had a feeding tube in his stomach so he couldn’t eat or drink. He had a bad-luck gnome underneath his seat. e Rays were down in the th inning. “And Joe Girardi was bringing

ROB SAMARTIN
LAWYER & RAYS FAN

e stories are many but each is unique to the individual who experienced them. Remember the details of your Game night—because we’ll be sharing those stories for years to come.

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GATOR GNOME: PHOTO PROVIDED BY ROB SAMARTIN; EVAN LONGORIA: SKIP MILOS

in every pitcher the Yankees have ever signed from the bullpen,” he said, overflowing with exasperation. So despite his aversion to leaving games early, Samartin decided to call it a night. He and his friend packed up the gnome, hit the road and turned on the Rays radio broadcast in the car. And then suddenly as they started to drive away from Tropicana Field, the Rays started scoring. Samartin immediately attributed the Rays resurgence to the gnome being evicted from the ballpark. So he put the pedal to the metal to get the gnome further away from the Trop. And, of course, the Rays started scoring more. As Samartin approached the Howard Frankland bridge on I- , he made the urgent suggestion that the gnome should be thrown over the side to rid the Rays of their bad-luck nuisance for good. He and his friend—two full-grown men, both college-educated with law degrees—spent several minutes arguing about whether they should throw the Florida Gators lawn gnome into the Tampa Bay waters. Finally, they made a pact: if Longoria, who was up with two men on and two outs in the th, could homer to bring the Rays within one, the gnome would sleep with gn the fishes. th Well, Longoria homered, Samartin pulled over er just past the “hump” in the ju bridge and now somebr where in the depths of wh Tampa Bay lies a pointyTa hatted gnome who took ha one for the team. Oh, and Samartin was declared cancer-free earlier this year. He's not free sure if that was gnome-related.