Major League Baseball's World Series is set to open in Florida Wednesday, where the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays will host the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies in game one of the best-of-seven series. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer is there and has a preview.
The Tampa Bay Rays will attempt to do what no other professional U.S. sports franchise has ever done - go from last place one season to champion the next. They won their division this season ahead of the reigning World Series champion Boston Red Sox, and beat the Red Sox on Sunday in seven games to win the American League title.
It has been a remarkable achievement for a team that entered the league in 1998 and had finished last in nine of the previous 10 seasons.
Scott Kazmir (regular season record 12-8) will be the starting pitcher for Tampa Bay.
"It means everything in the world to me, it really does, especially for the city," he said. "It's pretty much worth the wait, you could say, for what we had to go through the past years of not really having a winning season and always kind of in a rebuilding stage and what not, so it's worth everything right now to be in the World Series."
The Philadelphia Phillies, a team that has been in existence for more than 100 years, last appeared in a World Series in 1993, and their only World Series title came in 1980.
They will send their ace pitcher Cole Hamels (regular season record 14-10) to the mound for game one. He is aware that Tampa Bay's home stadium, the enclosed domed Tropicana Field, has a reputation for being one of the loudest in baseball.
"You know, it's going to be louder," he said. "They're going to have that more, I guess, excitement level just knowing that they have that comfort level, because it's someplace where they've played 81 games. You know, they've done very well here. And that's something where you have to come in here and you have to be prepared to, I guess, deal with the crowd but also with the team.
The first two games of the World Series are at Tropicana Field, a home field advantage that Tampa Bay received because the American League won this year's mid-season All-Star game against the National League. The Rays fans hope they can take advantage of it.
Game 2 will be Thursday night, with games 3, 4 and , if needed is set for Philadelphia Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Games 6 and 7, if needed, will be back in Florida at Tampa's home stadium the following Wednesday and Thursday.