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Tampa Bay Rays Fans Hope A World Series Win Will Improve Future Turnout At Games

NOEL KING, HOST:

The LA Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays are tied one game to one in the World Series. Tonight's Game 3. If you look at the ratings this year, it's not great. This is one of the least-watched Series in history. People have been having watched parties in Tampa Bay, but attendance hasn't been great there, either. Here's Stephanie Colombini of member station WUSF.

STEPHANIE COLOMBINI, BYLINE: When Ray's second baseman Brandon Lowe hit the first of his two home runs in Wednesday's game, the crowd at the waterfront watch party in St. Petersburg came alive.

(CHEERING)

COLOMBINI: About a hundred or so people cheered from spread-out and socially distant sections of lawn, nowhere near capacity. Coronavirus concerns likely factored into the low turnout. But the small crowd mirrored the often poorly attended games of past years at the Rays home stadium. It led some Tampa Bay area residents to joke during this no-fans-allowed seasons that all race games are socially distanced. Amanda Cooper says she's been a Tampa Bay fan for 20 years but had to do some convincing in her own family. Cooper says the Rays' recent success is helping.

AMANDA COOPER: My son is - he was a Phillies fan, and he is a Rays fan now. I kind of gave him some crap about being a bandwagoner, but that's OK. We'll take them all.

COLOMBINI: A few blocks away, 21-year-old Parker Perry watched the game at a sports bar next door to the stadium. He hopes being in the World Series proves to this community that the Rays are worth showing up for.

PARKER PERRY: I think that after this year, people are going to realize, like, don't laugh at us. We're not the laughing stock. We beat everybody above us. I mean, who are you going to root for? You want to root for the Yankees? Fine. We'll smoke them.

COLOMBINI: One thing all fans interviewed agreed on - keep the Rays local. The past few years have been filled with debates about the team splitting its season in Montreal or leaving the region altogether. It's unclear how this World Series appearance will affect those discussions, but a win would make for a historic sports season in Tampa Bay. The Lightning won Hockey's Stanley Cup last month.

For NPR News, I'm Stephanie Colombini in St. Petersburg. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.