ST. PETERSBURG -- Part of the prescription for Rays fever is, of course, more cowbell, as the noise-makers are becoming increasingly common inside Tampa Bay's home dome.
Owner Stu Sternberg has always been a fan of the famous "Saturday Night Live" skit featuring Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken, and the team partnered with T.G. Lee to distribute 10,000 cowbells twice last season and again this year.
But the cowbells were only given to fans wearing Rays gear, a point that helped band together the faithful and elicit a sense of pride.
"People kind of get mad. They are wearing either Yankees or Red Sox gear, and we turn them down at the gate," said Brian Killingsworth, director of marketing and promotions. "We've actually had people go to the team store and buy something just to come back and get a cowbell. It's been pretty crazy."
Yes, participation in Rays Mania requires donning some of the team's apparel.
But this year's fans -- who arrived on Thursday afternoon with blue wigs and Mohawks on their heads, cowbells tucked safely under their arms -- have added another level of awareness.
"There's cowbell etiquette this season. Only when there's two strikes on the opposing team," fan Cary Strukel said.
The 39-year-old season-ticket holder, nicknamed "The Cowbell Kid," is one of the Rays' loudest proponents.
"We don't want to be just shaking them for no reason," he said. "We want them to be a positive reinforcement for the Rays."
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.