Rays' cowbells to face Phils' towels

Rays' cowbells to face Phils' towels

PHILADELPHIA -- Cowbells, meet the rally towel.

When the World Series opens in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Wednesday night, Rays fans will let the Phillies hear it with a serenade of cowbell chimes.

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But when the series moves to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Saturday night, the Rays will find themselves amid a sea of 45,000-plus whirling white rally towels.

Throughout the postseason, the trinkets have been mainstays of their respective ballparks as the fans in Philly's Citizens Bank Park and Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field have cheered their teams on to the World Series.

Rays owner Stu Sternberg has always been a fan of the famous "Saturday Night Live" skit featuring Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken, and the team distributed cowbells twice in 2007, once earlier this year and again in the postseason.

For the Rays, it has added a distinctive layer to what was already a strong home-field advantage. Tampa Bay posted a 57-24 record at Tropicana Field in the regular season, the best mark in the Major Leagues. They're 4-2 at home so far this postseason.

"I don't know why people don't like playing here," Rays first baseman Carlos Pena said. "We love it."

Don't expect to hear the cowbells being rung at random times, however. Tampa Bay's cowbell etiquette calls for them to be rung only when there are two strikes on an opposing hitter.

"We don't want to be just shaking them for no reason," said Cary Strukel, a Rays season-ticket holder nicknamed "The Cowbell Kid." "We want them to be a positive reinforcement for the Rays."

For Philly fans, the rules are less strict.

The rally towels became popular as the Phils were making their run to the top of the National League East at the end of 2007. They resurfaced at Citizens Bank Park in the final month of the 2008 regular season, as the Phils recorded a 9-4 record at home in September.

The Phillies have not lost a postseason game at Citizens Bank Park this season, as their fans have waved rally towels with every big hit by Shane Victorino and every crucial strikeout by Cole Hamels and Brett Myers.

"I want them to be as loud as they possibly can be," Myers said of the Philly fans. "That's what us players thrive on -- our fans and how they respond to big plays, big pitches, big outs in key situations."

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