Thought processes and conversations started under the tilted cap of Tropicana Field. Someday everyone will know the Rays play in St. Petersburg, Florida, not TAMPA, or the fictitious city of TAMPA BAY.
Sternberg to Start the Rays “Baby Steps”
Usually when I am motoring across the Alligator Alley section of I-75 back towards Florida’s West Coast, my CD player is my lone co-pilot to keeping me entertained and focused on that long, monotonous journey through the never changing landscape of the Everglades. But not even 10 minutes out into the alligator and egret infested swamplands today, my cell phone began to ring while I left it charging near my center console, and within a half hour, there were 7 messages piling up amongst my voice mail all wondering the same thing.
What in the devil is Tampa Bay Rays majority Owner Stuart Sternberg going to present to the local Tampa Bay media tomorrow during a Rays off-day when the local media doesn’t usually camp out or assemble at Tropicana Field? Will it be earth-shattering news, or just a vocal announcement in the primary thought process of a new future home for the Rays, and to eliminate some of the speculation and riff-raff that has clouded the Rays future stadium ideals. Honestly, I think Sternberg’s announcement will be very simple, direct and might leave one community to the East wanting more…..much more.
It is my instinct that Sternberg will formally announce on Monday that the Rays are going to begin their “baby steps” process towards a future Rays stadium situation by having Sternberg and Rays allies meet with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and his municipal posse’ either on Monday or Tuesday. The meeting will air out some primary concerns felt by both parties and maybe clear the air a bit of all the hazy clouds surrounding the views of both parties. Foster and Sternberg have seen each other in a social setting in the last few months (Governors Ball), but this might be only the first steps by the Rays owner to formally addressing their future needs and imperative wants for a future stadium within this region.
But maybe the most important part of this equation is that the Rays are opening the dialogue instead of letting the local media fester the public with closed end proposals and their “wish lists” on stadium sites or requirements. This might be Sternberg’s way of telling the region to grow up and act like a budding metropolis instead of two spoiled children fighting over the same toy. Sternberg might make mention in his announcement tomorrow that showing grace and a level of civic maturity might be a great influence, but not the deciding factor. And right now, it has been the City of St. Petersburg that has taken the high road and waited patiently for the Rays and their ownership to open the discussion lanes.
Some might consider this an instant “win-win” for the west side of Tampa Bay, but the Rays also have a responsibility to discuss their intentions with their current landlords (St. Petersburg ) before even glancing in another direction. And if Sternberg does imply his meeting with the St. Petersburg Mayor is their first steps towards a future Rays stadium decision, then I personally take this step as a positive move. It could also be a great testing the climate move by the Rays to see if the public on either side of the estuary known as Tampa Bay, have a solid and united voice.
During the April 15th St. Petersburg City Council meeting, Mayor Foster was adamant about wanting to work with the Rays to coordinating or facilitating a cohesive environment in securing and financing a Rays stadium within the St. Petersburg City Limits. But just because St. Petersburg is getting the first public acknowledgment from the Rays by their already announced joint meeting this week, this whole scenario is just scratching the surface right now, and might be a year from a solid conclusion at best. There is familiarity with the St. Petersburg politicians and Rays team officials, and that needed to be nurtured right now to provide the right environment for the team to focus on all available solutions, even outside of Pinellas County.
I think Sternberg will be reaching out his hand to this side of the Tampa Bay area hoping the St. Pete political force is eager and willing to let them discuss, research and investigate all angles without a barrage of insults innuendo or mixed rumors flying like artillery shells upon this process. In reality, Sternberg doesn’t want to bite the hand that helps feed his team, but might be wanting a few assurances of patience and humility as they take additional steps in this long journey. Sternberg is a very intelligent man, and for him to have to make an announcement now as the Rays are fighting their own demons might be his way of trying to cement this region together and start a enduring process of highs and lows towards finally having something concrete to give out to the Rays Republic.
I do not expect him to admonish either side of the Tampa Bay region, but promote a sense of “The Rays Way” on the region’s fans. I suspect that Sternberg will institute his own level of “What’s Important Now, or WIN”, which has been one of Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s mantras for the 2010 season. Sternberg might be breaking his silence to promote the harmony and the cohesive bond of this community as the Rays and the region work towards a symbiotic relationship from this week forward.
We might finally get the news and the plans straight from the main Rays guy’s mouth instead of local media propaganda slamming and plastering innuendo and misguided thoughts through out the web or into our ears. And it will all starts with Sternberg saying three simple words tomorrow….”Good Morning Everyone….” The rest will be instant Rays history.
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