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Players, fans in tune for Game 2

Players, fans in tune for Game 2

ST. PETERSBURG -- While much was made of Boston slugger David Ortiz's comments about Tampa Bay having a "different look" in Friday night's game, the Rays couldn't have been more relaxed in enjoying the pregame celebrations for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday.

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There was pitcher Matt Garza, who is slated to start Game 3 in Boston on Monday, playfully dodging baseballs thrown down to him by fans, as he laughed and signed autographs. Several yards away, the Rays' Eric Hinske greeted his guests, several members of the hard-rock group Staind, who were up front about their divided loyalties.

"I'm a Red Sox fan," said guitarist and backup vocalist Mike Mushok. "But at least I didn't wear any gear, since I am here with the Rays."

The band originated from Springfield, Mass., and several Red Sox players -- including Ortiz and Alex Cora -- came over to exchange pleasantries. Hinske, a former Red Sox himself, didn't seem to mind. Plus, Staind's audio guy, Scott Boculac, sported a Rays cap and hails from St. Petersburg.

"This guy right here is a big Rays fan," Mushok said, pointing toward Boculac. "But we're all excited to be here."

Mushok met Hinske through mutual friend and Reds player Bronson Arroyo. And with a gig in nearby Orlando on Sunday, Staind -- which has six studio albums and has sold over 15 million records -- jumped at the chance to come to Saturday night's game.

Mushok admitted the group had one eye on the Rays-Red Sox game while performing a concert on Friday, and was glad for the chance to kick back and take in Game 2 from the stands.

Those in attendance for Games 1 and 2 may have had a little sense of deja vu on Saturday, as local saxophonist B.K. Jackson performed the national anthem for the second consecutive night and third time this postseason.

Strangely enough, Jackson, a student at Tampa's Blake High School, first performed before a Rays game in Spring Training last year. The team's opponent in that contest? None other than the Red Sox.

"I'm going to put on a show," Jackson promised. "And hopefully [the Rays] will take care of the rest."

ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale was equally excited to make his mark on Tropicana Field's turf. A nearby Lakewood Ranch, Fla., resident and longtime season-ticket holder, Vitale was joined by his three grandsons to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

"It's such a great time," Vitale said. "The unbelievable enthusiasm; the energy that's here. It really reminds me of doing a college basketball game like Duke and [North] Carolina."

Vitale has long been a fixture at Rays games and has been sitting by the visitor's dugout since the inaugural 1998 season. And after a decade of losing, Vitale couldn't be happier to see his patience pay off.

"The guys at ESPN laughed at me like crazy," Vitale said. "They said, 'You are spending money buying tickets for that?' Now I tell them, 'Eat your heart out, baby.'"

Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["ALCS" ] }
{"content":["ALCS" ] }