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Major league baseball preview: Q&A with Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg talks to the media before the game.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg talks to the media before the game.

Principal owner Stuart Sternberg has a hand in the Rays' major decisions, but he is involved in a lot more than baseball. He sat down for his annual Q&A session with Times baseball writer Marc Topkin and shared his views on everything from last season's success to random sock requests, his odd new ringtone and favorite Internet time-waster, a stadium on the bay, the "incredible" appeal of chocolate-drizzled popcorn and, of course, Bruce Springsteen. Here are excerpts:

Favorite souvenir from last season?

A picture taken in the playoffs standing in front of the Green Monster with the AL East standings with us on top. I can't even tell you No. 2.

Is there a piece of memorabilia or equipment you kept?

I have a base from our 50th home win.

Weirdest request you got for something?

A former business associate asked me for "pretty much anything from when you guys won, even if it's a sock." Not my sock. No player in particular. Just a locker room sock.

Best privilege of the AL championship as an owner?

At the first owners' meeting following the World Series, I got a better seat and I got a nice round of applause.

What could top last year?

Really, nothing. Because of how it seemed so unexpected and the way it played out during the season. But speak to me this October and I might have a different answer.

Do you have a ringtone on your phone yet?

I do actually — you see what happens when I get technologically advanced? It's Howard Cosell's call of "Down goes Frazier" (from the 1973 Joe Frazier-George Foreman championship fight). And I did it all by myself.

Favorite Web site?

Besides the St. Pete Times (tampabay.com)? It might be IMDB (the Internet Movie Database); I'd call it the most useful.

Do you still read the actual newspaper?

Oh yeah, no different than last year and the years before.

Favorite Internet time-waster?

Probably just searching through iTunes. To see how one band leads to another band. They have Genius, but I like to be my own genius.

Favorite breakfast cereal?

I usually have Grape-Nuts, with blueberries and yogurt. With my green tea. And my newspapers.

Last movie you saw?

(Confessions of a) Shopaholic, with my daughter.

Last book you read?

Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World. It's a great book about the tycoons and the financiers from the '20s.

How do you eat an Oreo?

I prefer Double Stufs. I put the whole thing in my mouth and a little bit of milk with it. I did see my son Jake crack open three or four of them, just completely discard the chocolate and make like a Quintuple Stuf.

Given the economy, what's your best investment advice in this market?

Don't buy real estate yet. Unless you're planning on living there for 10-20 years.

Favorite vacation spot?

Other than St. Petersburg? The Caribbean.

When on vacation, how long can you go without checking your e-mail?

In-season? A few hours. Actually, I'll say longer because my Blackberry doesn't work down there so it's probably a couple days. But I get some texts.

Since you were in a relatively small group of people who went to the World Series and the Super Bowl last year, how would you compare the two events?

There's no comparison, although the World Series could have been better. The Super Bowl was warmer. They're completely different. It seems to me the Super Bowl is more of an event and the World Series is a contest.

Anything you would recommend MLB do differently at the Series?

Less time between innings, but it sort of pays the bills. And throw in one late afternoon or early evening game — you could do the Saturday game at 6:30 or 7 o'clock. I think it's going to get there.

Last year we investigated your singing vs. dancing abilities (he can't dance); how about cooking vs. cleaning?

I'd like to think I do them both pretty well, but the fact is I'm not good at either. I could probably cook a couple dishes okay, egg-related items, breakfast items. In cleaning, I'm a tidier. I wouldn't call myself a cleaner.

Your favorite meal?

Maybe fried clams — a good fried clam roll.

Favorite kind of popcorn?

I would have always said plain, but with the chocolate drizzled on, it's incredible. I'm a latecomer to that. It is unbelievable.

Three people you would like to have at a game at the Trop?

I'd pick my dad (Samuel, who passed away in 2004); (the writer) Roger Angell; and Bud Selig, because that would mean we're in the World Series.

Our annual tradition: What Bruce Springsteen song best describes the upcoming season?

I'd say Working On a Dream fits perfectly.

And last season?

Southside Johnny wrote it and Springsteen sang it: I Don't Want to Go Home.

As a longtime Mets fan and partial season-ticket holder, were you sad to see Shea Stadium go?

Yes, very.

Favorite memory?

I saw Sandy Koufax pitch there, but it's sketchy as to what I remember. I think being there during the Pete Rose-Bud Harrelson fight in '73, because I had skipped school to go to the game and it was pretty memorable.

Best reason for someone to buy a ticket to a Rays game this season?

It gives you up to four hours of live, exciting, family entertainment.

Do you still hear people refer to the team as the Devil Rays?

Just the other night, at the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame Dinner. We fined them a dollar. But the Rays part has really stuck.

What did you think of the Marlins getting their stadium approved?

I think it's spectacular for them, I think it's spectacular for baseball and mostly it's spectacular for southeast Florida.

Any effect on your efforts to get a new stadium?

It's got to be helpful. Can't hurt.

What's the craziest stadium idea for the Rays someone has floated?

Other than putting a sail over a stadium (as the Rays proposed)? I had outdoor air conditioning and a sail; I don't know what else you could do. The craziest idea was to put it on a barge in the middle of Tampa Bay.

MLB preview 2009 | rays.tampabay.com

Major league baseball preview: Q&A with Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg 04/03/09 [Last modified: Sunday, April 5, 2009 8:20am]

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