Rays Receive Mixed Reactions From Fans On Split-Season Plan
Rays execs at the team's annual Fan Fest "touted the benefits of playing parts of future seasons in Montreal" starting in '28, but the reaction from fans "wasn't all positive," according to Marc Topkin of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. As Rays President Matt Silverman "talked about the future during a Q&A session, some in the audience booed." Silverman said, "We are focused on making sure we are going to keep baseball here for generations to come. ... We are excited about the sister city plan and we're excited as the year goes by to explain it in greater detail. And to turn some of those boos into cheers as we figure this out." Topkin noted Rays Principal Owner Stu Sternberg "walked among the crowd and got a broad sampling of their reaction, acknowledging there is a bit of a disconnect with area fans since the sharing plan was first announced in June." Sternberg: "They're going to go from having a full season to less than a full season. It's not pleasant. But the alternative is going to be dramatically worse -- no baseball at all." Sternberg said that when the team has "talked one-on-one about the plan to area business and community leaders, they have a '90 percent success rate' in gaining understanding." However, fans have been "slower to accept it" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/9).
PIECING IT TOGETHER: Silverman, appearing on St. Petersburg-based WDAE-FM, said he wants to have "continued conversation with Tampa and Hillsborough, and potentially St. Pete and Pinellas, and for us to really put some substance to those conversations." Silverman: "Figure out what that ballpark might cost, where it could go, and how we can afford it as a community and as a baseball team. Those same conversations need to happen in Montreal and they're starting." He added, "What we want to avoid is an outcome where the community puts up a lot of money for a ballpark, the Rays put up a lot of money for a ballpark, and it doesn’t work.” Silverman noted it is "not about having a brand new ballpark, it’s about having something that’s going to catapult us from the bottom of the league’s economic ranks somewhere closer to the middle, where we can put that competitive product on the field year in and year out, and do what a baseball team should do, which is bring joy and happiness and excitement to a community." Silverman: “We just don’t think 81 times a year, especially during the hot summer months, that we can fill up a ballpark enough compared to the rest of Major League Baseball to justify the risk that goes into building a ballpark. It’s not something we would want to do for the community either" (“Ronnie & TKras This Morning,” WDAE-FM, 2/7).
SLIP OF THE TONGUE: In N.Y., Bill Madden noted prospective Montreal MLB team Owner Stephen Bronfman on Thursday "insulted the city of St. Petersburg" during an interview on a Montreal radio station. Explaining why players will love uprooting their families in the middle of the season, Bronfman said, "Say the shift to Montreal happens the second week of June, mid-June. School season is over, they move up to Montreal. Wives are happy. Much nicer city to be in than St. Petersburg, please. Much more cosmopolitan. Much more fun" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/9). The TAMPA BAY TIMES' Topkin noted Bronfman on Friday night "sent an email through a spokesman to clarify" his comments. He wrote, "I was simply trying to convey my enthusiasm for how beautiful Montreal is in the summertime. Folks here have a particular joie de vivre that is particularly evident when the weather warms up. I apologize for the comparison" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/9).