BY ROB SHAW
The Tampa Tribune
Published: April 1, 2011
ST. PETERSBURG - The booing began in earnest well before the game even got under way. But it had nothing to do with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Or the Baltimore Orioles.
It had everything to do with who was throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to kick off the Rays' season – Gov. Rick Scott.
Scott, wearing a No. 45 Rays jersey to mark that he's the 45th governor of the state, took to the mound amid an avalanche of boos and just a smattering of applause.
He smiled and waved to the crowd as he took the mound and again after he threw a pitch that was far better than the one former Gov. Charlie Crist delivered when he was the state's top elected official.
David Pearlman of Tampa called the governor a "scumbag" and a "dirtbag" and gave him the thumbs-down signal as he loudly booed. The boos echoed inside Tropicana Field from fans angry over many moves Scott has made during his short stint as governor.
"I think he's a fraud," Pearlman said. "I think he's a criminal."
The Tampa man doesn't like how Scott rejected billions of federal dollars for high-speed rail and he doesn't like what he is doing to education and teachers.
"I think he's been wrong across the board," he said. "I think he bought the election."
Ruth and Lee Levant of Tampa were on the other side of the aisle – literally and figuratively – from Pearlman.
They applauded the governor as he threw out the first pitch.
"I think he's doing a great job," said Lee Levant. "He's trying not to waste money. I think he ought to run for president."
Hours before the game began, about 100 sign-toting protesters gathered outside the stadium, urging those arriving to unleash their boos on the governor.
They carried signs that said things like "Hey Rick, pick on someone in your own tax bracket" and "Trade Rick Scott to the Yankees."
Ironically, Scott also was booed at a New York Yankees spring training game at Legends Field recently.
Annette Hicks of Tampa has been a school psychologist for 26 years and she has never been this worried about the future of education.
"I have grave concerns about its future," she said. "I did not vote for him and I'm not happy."