In July 2003, my wife and I visited some friends in Tampa, Florida. I try to hit the ballpark whenever I visit a new city, so we hopped in the car one evening and drove to St. Petersburg to see the Tampa Bay Devil Rays take on the Texas Rangers.
It was interesting from a Royals fan’s perspective because the Royals were actually in the race at the time and were considering a trade for Juan Gonzalez. Gonzalez was having a decent season for Texas in 2003 (24 HR’s, .294 in 327 AB’s).
Since the Devil Rays don’t necessarily fill the house, we were able to walk up a half hour before game time and buy tickets right behind home plate, about 3 rows up. The first thing I noticed when the game started was the heckler. He sat near the third base dugout and constantly heckled the Rangers. And in Tropicana Field with only a few folks inside, everybody could hear him clearly. When Gonzalez was up to bat, he heckled him about his rumored trade to the Royals. I thought it was pretty funny.
Of course, it was during that game that Gonzalez came up lame while running the bases, and he didn’t play anymore in 2003. The Royals finally did sign him in the off season and in 2004, he played in 33 games for the Royals before injuries ended his season. I should also point out that Cleveland signed Gonzalez in 2005 and he had all of one at bat before his hamstring ended his season.
When I watch on TV or listen on the radio to Royals games when they are at the Trop, I can always hear the heckler in the background.
Now, the heckler, (his real name is Robert Szasz) has written a book. “The Happy Heckler” is now out in paper back. I’m not sure if the book will be any good, but I’m sure I’ll pick up a copy. Just for the “heck” of it.