Rays fans pack Tropicana Field for Tuesday's home opener against Baltimore Orioles

8th consecutive sell-out for home opener

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - After six long months, baseball is back.

The Tampa Bay Rays opened up the 2013 season at home Tuesday against the Baltimore Orioles.  Rays fans were seen mingling in the parking lot by 9:30 in the morning, getting ready for the big game.

"The atmosphere, the players, everybody is so excited, so pumped. Oh, my God, it's awesome," said Megan Madura, who is attending her fifth home opener at Tropicana Field.

It's been almost six months to the day since the last home game at the Trop.

"It felt longer. It felt like about a year and a half," said Joe Hill, a die-hard Rays fan. "It's a clean slate, it's a new year right now. It's about what's on the field, the product on the field."

Some lucky fans who arrived early were greeted by some of the stars, including Jeremy Hellickson.

The Rays owner, Stu Sternberg was also mingling with fans as the entered the stadium.

"It's exciting. It brings back a lot of childhood memories," he said of opening day.

Every home opener, Sternberg tries to make his way to the rotunda to greet the first few fans whose dedication never waivers.

These days, Sternberg is in the spotlight more for his team's stadium woes than anything else, but not on this rare day at Tropicana Field, when every seat is filled.

"With sellouts of 30,000, nobody would ever have to talk about stadiums," he said. "Nothing we would like better than having it work right here where we are at Tropicana Field."

Before Tuesday's game, the infamous Budweiser Clydesdales paraded through town, and inside, brand new menu items like ribs and hand-carved turkey sandwiches waited fans' arrival.

But it's the game the fans came for -- the one time when your favorite team starts the day with a perfect record.

"It's a clean slate, it's a new year right now," said Joe Hill, who has never missed a home opener. "It's about what's on the field, the product on the field."

Unfortunately, that product fell a little short on Tuesday, as the Rays lost 7-4 to the Orioles.

One down, at least 161 games to go.

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