Soaking up the atmosphere - if you can find it

As I sit here in the second row of the Tropicana Field press box, I join my fellow scribes in wondering why it doesn't feel like Opening Day.

Maybe if they could open the roof.

It's so different on a Monday afternoon at Camden Yards. This could be any other game on any other night. I'm half expecting Aubrey Huff to be batting for the Rays and Jorge Julio to be one straight fastball away from a blown save.

It's good to be here. It's just...different.

I hope that makes sense.

You'd need a two-liter bottle of Montreal Steak Seasoning to spice up the atmosphere here. (And that, my friends, is my last free reference to the seasoning. The next one will cost them.)

On the positive side, the Rays will enjoy their fifth straight Opening Day sellout. I've been here when the media outnumbered the crowd. We actually could hear one leather-lunged fan yelling at Larry Bigbie from the left field bleachers. Not from behind home plate, but all the way in left field. Clear as a bell.

I remember the days when the Rays could tally the attendance by asking fans to count off. There's a little more interest in the team now that it's become more competitive and isn't far removed from the World Series. But you might want to check back with me tomorrow. It's pretty standard to have a lot more empty seats for Game No. 2.

It's more unusual to see a player punch the Rays' mascot, but reliever Will Ohman just decked him as the Orioles were lining up for pre-game introductions. All in fun, of course.

Manager Dave Trembley didn't go over the unique ground rules with his club earlier today. I thought he might explain whether a ball's in play when it bounces off the third catwalk or whether it's an automatic out if you hit a speaker. I never can remember - and neither can Trembley.

"You can get lost in the translation," he said. "I've gone up to home plate numerous times and they start talking about the ground rules and which catwalk to hit. You see the yellow poles up there.

"I think you just play. Don't umpire, just play. And if the ball happens to hit of the ceiling and somebody catches it, run until they stop you. I don't think you can worry about it or get all caught up in it. You start thinking about that kind of stuff, you'll probably be out there and stop-start a lot. You don't want to do that. But there are some interesting (rules) here. I've been up to home plate a few times and I still can't figure them all out.

"I'm glad they've got replay now, especially for this place. They need it here."

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