ST. PETERSBURG --Integral to any New York Yankee playoff game are TV shots of that city's mayor -- be it Michael Bloomberg or Rudy Giuliani -- ensconsed in a box seat close to the field, cheering on the home team.
It's that close association between team and mayor that St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster can only look upon with wonder as the Tampa Bay Rays gear up for another round of playoff games.
A season ticket holder with a faraway seat in right field, Foster could conceivably be tapped to play any number of official celebratory roles for the club. You know, like throwing out the first pitch. Or popping that cork in post-victory champagne. Or even stopping by the owner's suite to mingle with Stu Sternberg during a game.
But the playoffs arrive this October during a stormy time in relations between the city and Rays. City officials have resisted the club's request to look for a new home. The Rays are obligated to play at Tropicana Field through the 2027 season, but Sternberg said doing so is impractical. To stay in the region, Sternberg has said he needs to explore stadium options in
Foster won’t allow that and the two sides have agreed to pick up the matter again in November – after the World Series.
“When we agreed we wouldn’t talk until after the season, I didn’t know that meant we wouldn’t exchange pleasantries as well,” Foster said. “But I guess they meant no talking. Period.”
Foster said he called Sternberg on Tuesday night to congratulate him on the Rays clinching a playoff berth. He said he left a message on Sternberg’s cell and at his home, but hadn’t heard back.
“As often as I’ve offered my assistance in making the Rays an off-field success,” Foster said, “they haven’t sought my involvement in anything this entire season. I’m ready to help and be there in an official capacity, but no one has called me. I don’t know what my role will be.”
Michael Van Sickler, Times staff writer