ST. PETERSBURG — Walking back into the Trop on Tuesday was understandably odd for Andrew Friedman, the architect of the Rays' transformation into contenders who now was just visiting with his new Dodgers team.
"It was strange," he said. "Just saying hello to people I walked by for 10-plus years of my life."
There were plenty of handshakes and hugs, questions from Tampa Bay media and a scoreboard tribute he surely would rather have done without given his attempts to downplay his return.
Friedman, who still talks regularly with some Rays personnel and watches "a decent amount" of their games, said there wasn't a singular accomplishment that he treasured most from his run as executive vice president that saw the Rays make the playoffs four times in six years.
"The things that are most special to me were the relationships throughout this building, the staff, the players," he said. "I derive so much satisfaction from what I do from the people that I work with. Obviously, very meaningful relationships were formed here over a long time through some great ups and some downs working together. And that's the thing that probably has the most lasting impact on me."
Coincidentally, the biggest transition in going from the small-market, low-budget Rays to the Dodgers and their $227 million-plus payroll in October 2014 has been finding the same level of comfort in the new relationships there, especially as he turned over a hefty amount of staff.
"Probably just the time it takes to create those relationships," he said. "I just naively expected it to happen immediately and because of how much I wanted that to happen, but it doesn't work that way."
In short, Friedman said he treasures what he did with the Rays and relishes the opportunity with the Dodgers.
"I definitely had a very good thing in Tampa Bay," he said, "but I'm excited and invigorated for this chapter of my life."