There are 40,300 available seats in Arlington, Texas’ Globe Life Stadium, where the 2020 World Series is being played this week. Approximately 11,300 fans were allowed in to watch Game 1 Tuesday night. The Tampa Bay Rays play the Los Angeles Dodgers again tonight, with the same socially-distanced crowd numbers expected. Arlington (just outside of Dallas) is considered neutral territory.
This is Major League Baseball, pandemic style.
St. Petersburg’s Molly Auld was there Tuesday with her husband – Rays president Brian Auld – and their three young children. “It’s odd to be in that space with so few people,” she said in a call from Texas Wednesday morning. “Also, it’s fairly quiet. It feels a little surreal.”
During the game, Auld said, her daughter – a stadium-going veteran at 8 – asked her why the Jumbotron, between innings, was only playing footage of the Dodgers. “I said ‘Well, technically, this is their home game. In a couple days, you’ll get to see the Rays’ stuff.’
“I feel like they’re doing the best they can to create that feeling of having people there and being in your home stadium.”
Home is everything to Molly Brantz Auld, who is devoted to her children’s school. A member of the North Shore Elementary PTA, she is also an active participant in the 501©3 Friends of North Shore, whose broad-based objective is to connect families who have school-age kids with the Pinellas public school community.
“I have always been a really big proponent of public schools,” Auld explained. “Growing up, my mom was a public school teacher. And I just really believe in the way that schools can create opportunities for all kids, and make communities stronger and bring them together.”
Friends of North Shore was formed by parents interested in bringing attention to the facility, and in turn to other Pinellas schools. People in certain economic brackets, they discovered, tended to “shy away” from public schools, sending their kids to private ones instead.
“I think there are amazing things going on in Pinellas County schools – not just at North Shore, but a lot of different places,” Auld said. “We just need to provide folks with the opportunity to see that, to get involved, and recognize what amazing things are going on at North Shore.
“For some reason, in St. Petersburg there’s a very prevalent kind of mantra that our schools are bad, that they’re scary or they’re not good. And it’s just not true. There are so many amazing teachers in our public school. There are so many cool things that a lot of different elementary schools are doing.”
As VP of Marketing for the PTA, she is the public voice of the biggest annual fundraiser, the Coffee Pot Turkey Trot. In “normal” times, the family-friend foot race is run on the red brick streets around Coffee Pot Bayou, in Old Northeast, where North Shore Elementary is located.
In 2019, the 5K attracted 2,500 participants and raised $60,000 for the school.
This year’s race is – like the World Series – somewhat virtual. The Turkey Trot is usually held on Thanksgiving Day – hence the name – but in 2020, there’s a spread of run days: Nov. 19-30.
In short, you get to run where you want, when you want. Just 500 runners will be allowed to register.
“It’s definitely a totally different ballgame,” Auld said, apparently missing the obvious metaphor. “A Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving is something a lot of people like to do. But signing up for a virtual race, I feel like you’d have to have more of a connection to the school. Or a reason to do it.”
Auld’s suggested reasons: Fun with the kids, a family activity … cheer each other on, running for a good cause. “It’s definitely a different feeling,” she said, “and you kind of have to create that feeling on your own.”
Race funds are spent exclusively on PTA initiatives such as direct funding to teachers to purchase classroom supplies, the purchase of subscriptions or licenses to help with virtual and in-class learning, and diversity initiatives like the “Let’s Talk About Racism” series.
Coffee Pot Turkey Trot info and signup here.
Molly Auld was not expecting to be in northeast Texas this time of year. Then again, nobody expected Covid-19.
At first, she wondered whether a baseball season in the middle of the pandemic would work – no stadium outings as a family, none of the usual, fun, Rays-related gatherings and celebrations. “Is this going to be worth it?” she wondered.
“When the playoffs started this season, Brian actually opted not to go into the bubble. So he stayed with us for the first few rounds of the playoffs. I remember saying to him ‘Do you this could be our year? So crazy if this is our year.’
“And now we’re here, it‘s really fun and it’s exciting, and it’s also just so strange.
“But I have to say, it’s been incredible. It has been something that has brought out family together. It’s been so fun to watch this team, and watch them win, and it’s been so fun to even take us to this place – we’re at the World Series! We’re in Dallas!
“In a very strange time, but it’s given my family and friends something that’s a great unifying activity. Something we can do together and look forward to.”