Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn firm on keeping Rays in region
Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn reiterated Friday he's committed to making sure that the Tampa Bay Rays remain in the region.
Buckhorn, at Tropicana Field to take batting practice before tonight's game with the Mariners, said St. Petersburg and the Rays have to resolve their issues, but "if they can't, we'll be ready."
"I think lot of people care about what happens and a lot of people understand the Rays are a regional asset," Buckhorn said. "We want them to remain the Tampa Bay Rays. We're not going to let that team go to Charlotte or go to Las Vegas or go anywhere else. That is our team and we intend to keep it our team, and however that works and wherever that works out is yet to be determined. But as far as I'm concerned, we're going to do everything we have to protect the viability of this franchise whether it's in St. Petersburg or Tampa."
The Rays have a lease at the Trop until 2027, and St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster has said they're only allowed to look at places outside or adjacent to the city limits for a new stadium. Despite making the playoffs three of the last four years, the Rays attendance has lagged, ranked 29th of 30 teams in MLB this season (20,812 average), numbers that commissioner Bud Selig recently called "inexcusable."
With the Rays still in the thick of the wild card race, Buckhorn expressed optimism in how their season will finish.
"We've got a good young team, have had some bad breaks this season," Buckhorn said. "What I love about the Rays, what I love about (manager Joe) Maddon, is their attitude. They have fun, they like playing with each other. They want to win. But they also understand that if you don't win, you just forget it, move beyond it, and go to the next game. Regardless of how this season turns out, we love the Rays."
Buckhorn said he had a great time taking batting practice, pointing out it was his first time doing it in 40 years.
Joked Buckhorn: "I asked Maddon for a one-day contract - he wasn't too keen on it."
-- JOE SMITH