NEW YORK — After Hurricane Irma ravaged much of Florida, the Tampa Bay Rays were forced to find a new home to play a series against the division rival Yankees. The Monday through Wednesday series is to be played at a neutral location, which ended up being Citi Field in Flushing.
The choice of Citi Field was a controversial one, as some Rays fans believe that choosing Citi Field, the usual home of the New York Mets, is too close to where the Yankees play their home games in the Bronx. Rays fan Will Lefkovich stated, “the Rays having to play a home series against the Yankees in New York City defeats the purpose of even having a home series. Yankees fans can take a subway ride across New York City. What are Rays fans supposed to do? Fly? They’re in the middle of a hurricane!”
The MLB community has also been rocked by Hurricane Irma. Since the warm weather all year down south allows children to play baseball outdoors year round, a majority of Major League Baseball players grew up in the areas affected by the hurricane. Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner stated in an interview Sunday that he remembers when Hurricane Hugo blew a tree onto his house when he was a child. He also shared photos of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in his hometown in South Carolina. Former Yankee Derek Jeter also was affected by the hurricane. He currently resides outside of Tampa, Florida, and recently was part of the consortium that purchased the Miami Marlins.
Hurricane Irma is actually the second hurricane that has affected Major League Baseball. A few weeks ago, Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area. The Houston Astros were supposed to play a home series the weekend after the hurricane, but the games had to be moved to a neutral location. The games were moved to Tampa, and the proceeds from the game went to Hurricane Harvey relief. Now that the Rays have been displaced, the Mets were the team to step up to lend the team a temporary home until the hurricane subsides. However, it is unknown how much of the proceeds from this game will go to Hurricane Irma relief.
The implications on the American League East pennant race are also heavy. With the Yankees essentialy replacing a road series against a division rival with a home series, the Yankees suddenly have another advantage in their race to catch up with the first place Boston Red Sox. If the Yankees sweep all three games in Queens, they will be in an even better position to pass the Red Sox before the season ends.