Finding a table at Ferg’s Bar and Grill on Tuesday afternoon was a challenge because of the sheer number of Rays fans packed into the restaurant across the street from Tropicana Field.


Fans jammed the street outside Ferg’s as the city shut down part of Central Avenue for a street party ahead of the game. There were fans in Rays blue and white, live bands, free-flowing beer and the smell of barbecue wafting over from tailgate parties in the stadium parking lot.


Nearly as tangible as those opening-day staples was a sense of optimism, buffeted by an augmented roster led by three-time All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria and the potential that comes with any new season.


“I think they’re going to the World Series,” retiree Jack Van Gieson said.


Sports Illustrated recently predicted the Rays would do just that this year, though ultimately fall to the Washington Nationals.


“I hope that’s not a Sports Illustrated kiss of death,” the Tampa retiree said. “I’m looking forward to some of our new players,” such as first baseman James Loney and second baseman Kelly Johnson. “Looking forward to having Longoria not get hurt and have a great year.”