PORT CHARLOTTE —- Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg made a spring training appearance Thursday before his club played the Yankees.
All of Tampa Bay (well, some of it, anyway) awaits the day when Sternberg is smiling for cameras, wearing a construction hard hat and holding a shovel, surrounded by politicians and civic leaders to start at the big dig: the groundbreaking for a new Rays stadium.
In their dreams.
At least that's what I think until I see it.
Is there a perfect stadium site in Tampa Bay's future?
"It's unknown at this point," Sternberg said. "It's unknown."
The not so great unknown,.
This is way more complicated than it should have ever been.
Tampa Bay needs major league baseball. Major league baseball needs Tampa Bay.
What we don't need, any of us, including Sternberg, is the two or three times a year when Sternberg stands around and answers questions about a ballpark. He'll probably do it again on Opening Day, but only when asked.
And on and on it goes.
The hunt for a stadium site marches on. Or crawls on.
The latest, revealed by Sternberg on Thursday, is that the Rays' first choice for a site is: unavailable: Maybe even their top two.
He did not say if the site was in Hillsborough County or Pinellas County. But, as reported by the Times, three of the sites are in Tampa and two are in St. Petersburg.
Thank goodness. I had Montreal. Or on The Strip, next to the Mirage.
Rome was not built in a day. Nor was the Roman Colosseum. I heard that they went back and forth over what side of the Rubicon it would be on. Chariot traffic was murder back then.
"We had some ideas on locations that just weren't available that I thought would have worked perfectly, but they're off the table," Sternberg said. "So, we're moving down our list to Nos. 2, 3 and 4," Sternberg said. "You know, it's like starting pitchers. You have five of them, and sometimes 4 is better than No. 2. They're rarely better than No. 1. No. 1 is the No. 1."
Can we get a perfect place?
It's unknown at this point.
Unknown At This Point Stadium.
Sounds like a great name,
There are days when I can picture a new baseball park.
There are days when I can picture no Rays at all.
Frankly, I don't know who to believe anymore.
I've said it before: Sternberg would never move this baseball team. He wouldn't want that blood on his hands, old school baseball wise. You don't move teams. But I could see him selling this club to someone who would move the Rays, someone who'd step in and, with the backing of Major League Baseball, say "Stadium or else," to local leaders, as the late Malcolm Glazer did before Tampa handed him a football stadium.
It seems like stadiums are going up everywhere except here.
Look at the new yard in greater Atlanta, a deal which seemingly came out of nowhere in 2013.
Tampa Bay and the Rays could use a little secret like that.
Go right ahead, kids.
Sternberg remains optimistic.
"The sooner we're able to get something done, the quicker we're able to ramp up our revenues and know where our future is going to be for the next set of generations to come," he said. "There are a number of other stadiums that have been built that sort of happened in the middle of the night where there's just this huge tract of land and discussions have happened."
In The Middle Of The Night Stadium.
I like that name, too.
Meanwhile, the Rays are coming off a third consecutive losing season. Sternberg is cautiously optimistic about 2017 — it's spring training, after all — but said, "As a (68)-win team, it's tough to say you're going to turn into a 90-win team."
That would take an awful big shovel.
And I don't see a shovel in sight. Or on site.