TAMPA — Tampa Bay's bright young sports hero, Evan Longoria, races through a city like an action hero, chasing a ball cap and charming pretty women for a new commercial airing nationwide on baseball telecasts.
He sprints through a courtyard. In Tampa.
He jumps on a streetcar. In Tampa.
He hops on a water scooter. In Tampa.
Yes, they are the Tampa Bay Rays, a team with a name that bridges communities. But the Pinellas side bristles when broadcasters mistake Tampa for the home of Tropicana Field.
So does St. Petersburg — on guard against suggestions of relocating the team — feel a little jilted by the backdrop in Longoria's commercial for New Era baseball caps?
No, at least according to Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the visitor's bureau.
"I thought it was great," spokesman David Downing said. "This isn't a Rays outreach. It's between Evan's manager and New Era. The Rays didn't have a decision in it, and we didn't have a decision in it."
Besides, he said, Longoria filmed another ad for Major League Baseball and Pepsi at Tropicana Field, one of three commercials featuring major leaguers in St. Petersburg or Clearwater this season.
Downing said the Tampa ad is "all very tightly shot. It's all very tightly cropped and you can't tell where it is."
But Tampa Bay & Co., Tampa's visitor bureau, and the Tampa Downtown Partnership thinks you can — so much so that they have tweeted about it.
"It's great exposure for downtown," Tampa Downtown Partnership spokesman Paul Ayres said. "Shows many of downtown's best assets."
The commercial, which premiered to a national audience Sunday on ESPN during Major League Baseball's season opener, features Longoria going all Jason Bourne in his own back yard to retrieve a baseball cap he thinks was stolen.
He owns a condominium in the Towers of Channelside, and the spot begins with Longoria lounging across the street in Channelside Bay Plaza's courtyard. The complex's name can be seen for a split second over his shoulder right before he boards a Tampa streetcar.
He then jumps on a water scooter and a helicopter on Davis Islands.
Filming locations are often driven by the "talent," Tampa Bay Film Commission manager Lindsey Guthrie said, and that was the case for Longoria, who wanted to stick close to home. The commercial was filmed on March 15, a spring training off day.
"We knew we had to shoot in Tampa because Evan was there," said Larry Shure, the freelance producer from Orlando who scouted the locations for Station Film, a production company from New York.
Paul Cohen, Longoria's agent, said the production company had the final say on where the commercial was filmed, but he acknowledged that there were many logistical issues involved.
The sites were convenient for the production crew, who had one day to film Longoria on a water scooter and a helicopter, both of which are accessible on Davis Islands, which has an airport. But the locations also turned out to be convenient for Longoria, who battled a stomach illness during the shoot.
"He lives really close to one of the spots," said Gerry Matos, New Era senior vice president for marketing.
Whether St. Petersburg was featured or not probably just matters to gadflies, government officials and those reading the tea leaves on a new stadium. Otherwise, Longoria's commercial has been a hit, Matos said.
"We just felt he was just right," Matos said. "A young and up-and-coming star, who we felt was a good fit for the face of the brand, and who would work well with our consumer base. Two years in and he has absolutely established himself as one of the stars of baseball."
The ad has even received national press.
USA Today mentioned it in a blog post initially calling the streetcar Longoria jumped on a "San Francisco cable car."
That made Tampa's streetcar line upset enough to ask for a correction — and get one.
Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or email@example.com.