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Let's Road Trip #6:Tampa to Toronto (6/6-6/11)

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The sixth road trip of the 2023 Twins season covers over 4200 miles AND an extra country! It’s time to go from dome to dome against the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays. Tropicana Field. Rogers Center. Grab your passports, and let’s begin…

Image courtesy of © Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

June 6-8 @ Tampa Bay Rays (3 games)
Tropicana Field - 2022 attendance was 1,128,127 (ranked 14th out of 15 AL teams, 28th overall MLB)
It made sense on paper. Home of Spring Training and epi-center of major league baseball for two months each year, so why not put an actual franchise in town? 1998 brought MLB and the Tampa/St. Pete metro area its own ballclub: The Tampa Bay Devil Rays. They celebrated by losing at least 90 games in each of their first 10 seasons!

Then after a 2008 name change to the Rays (think “sunshine,” not “animal”), the tide turned in many respects. Their first World Series appearance and a constant stream of small market success stories defined the next decade. Attendance, however, hasn’t followed suit. 

Tropicana Field boasts the notorious label of being “unattractive” and “nondescript.” A concrete dome, with Astroturf (that even the Astros stopped using…), optical illusions from the seating arrangement, and catwalks that giveth (Jason Kubel in 2010) and taketh away (Miguel Sano in 2015). Tropicana Field defines “quirky.” 

But apparently, the game experience itself can be a lot of fun. Dancing grounds crews, a live ray tank in the outfield (think “animal,” not “sunshine”), a Ted Williams and Hitters Halls of Fame, and plenty of room to roam make the Tropicana experience a good buy. If you can time the series right, you can also catch a few minor league games in the area while you are there.

I’m not sure that the Twins have a “history” at Tropicana Field. The Rays’ rise coincided with the Twins’ decline most recently. Rocco Baldelli grew up in the organization. Delmon Young and the Nelson Cruz/Joe Ryan trade stick out a bit. 

But whenever the rumor mill kicks up an idea to have the Rays play half of their season in Tampa and half in Montreal, or when a “new Nashville team” emerges as buyers, I’m forced to remember the days of contraction threats made against the Twins. We’ve been in a crappy dome before, one with World Series appearances, cherished memories of young teams on the rise, and a roof that messes up the actual play on the field. So my heart goes out to the fanbase there. I’m not ashamed to admit that this is actually the stadium I’m most excited to see this year, just so I can see for myself what all the fuss is about.

I’m bummed that the Mighty Mussels are playing at the exact same times, so I can’t check them out. I’ll have to settle for the Salvador Dali Museum, the Sunken Gardens, or the Florida Aquarium. (I checked that out with my eldest son on our last trip here and loved it.) The Big Cat Rescue also is pretty sweet, except for that my grandma and grandpa-in-law used to live next to it, and the wake-up roars at 5 am weren’t so pleasant.

At 1704 miles from Mitchell, I’m flying into Tampa, and definitely flying the 1357 miles into Toronto for the next series. The last time I was in Tampa for spring training, no rental cars existed in the town for about 36 hours. What could go wrong!!?

June 9-11 @ Toronto Blue Jays (3 games)
Rogers Centre - 2022 attendance was 2,653,830 (ranked 3rd out of 15 AL teams, 8th overall MLB)
When Toronto got their MLB franchise in 1977, they started out in a retro-fitted football field called Exhibition Stadium. 1989 brought the SkyDome (renamed Rogers Centre in 2005), soon to gain classic replay status for Joe Carter ’s World Series winner and back-to-back championships. In the 2010’s, the Blue Jays even boasted the highest attendance in the American League!

The SkyDome/Rogers Centre boasts about being the first stadium in the world with a fully retractable motorized roof, hosts a hotel with rooms that look out onto the field, and rests within the Old Downtown neighborhood of the 4th largest city in North America. The field itself? A bit cookie-cutter in form, with excellent food and tourist vibes throughout the concourses. 

The Twins’ history with Rogers Centre includes the American League Championship Series three road game victories that propelled them to the 1991 World Series, 50-50 success over the past 4 seasons, and a small dose of covid vaccine controversy. With travel restrictions lifted, and a Blue Jay squad with aspirational World Series goals, this should make for a fun mid-season match-up!

The sounds, tastes, and sights of Toronto are pretty epic it sounds like. CN Tower observation deck, Lake Ontario beaches and waterfront, the Hockey Hall of Fame, and an actual “distillery district,” all exist within a few blocks of the ballpark. I have a passport. I’m ready to go.

This one is an obviously “getaway day” flight from Tampa, with a less than 24-hour turnaround. Getting the 1153 miles back to South Dakota will be interesting. I’m wondering if this might be a good trip to catch a home game in Minneapolis before this series, with connecting flights being more direct and cheaper from there to both Tampa and Toronto. We have Cleveland @ Target Field on Sunday, June 4th at 1 pm as a potential “launching pad” for this road trip…or a potential flat tire…tbd.

Now it's your turn to plan! If you have been to Tropicana Field or Rogers Centre, please post your list of "best seats" and "must sees." Anyone else planning on going to these series?

Grace and peace, Twins Territory! Thanks for the help!


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Twins Daily Contributor

I LOVE the Trop! I went there a couple years ago and saw Nelly Cruz right after he was traded away from the Twins. I think it's super cool how you can just park right outside the stadium in the big surface lot. I also loved the Manta Rays swimming around in the outfield. It really felt like the Metrodome for me- it's like I was transported way back to when I was a kid. 

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