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Q&A with Rays owner Stuart Sternberg

Stuart Sternberg, in his ninth season as Rays principal owner, says the idea for the Trop 360 renovation came from the boardwalk and tiki bar in Port Charlotte.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Stuart Sternberg, in his ninth season as Rays principal owner, says the idea for the Trop 360 renovation came from the boardwalk and tiki bar in Port Charlotte.

This (somehow) will be principal owner Stuart Sternberg's ninth season running the Rays, and he's still having a ball. Though there hasn't been as much progress as he'd hope (or much of any) on a new stadium and attendance lags, he has enjoyed their on-field success and is excited for the upcoming season. Last week he sat down with Times baseball writer Marc Topkin for his annual Q&A session, discussing everything from his late-to-the-party switch to an iPhone to his latest favorite snacks (think Plant City strawberries). Some excerpts:

Now that you finally switched to an iPhone after years of having a not-so-smartphone (Blackberry 4.6), what cool things have you done with it?

I take good pictures, go on to Amazon easily and use the MLB At-Bat app.

What's the best app you have?

Having Dropbox is good, does that count? My daughter put Flappy Bird on it, and I got to (level) 23.

Do you have a special ringtone?

I'm trying to find the noise you get when you get a free ball or a free game in pinball. That knock. That's what I'd like, and I can't find it.

Screen saver?

The same one from my Blackberry, (a photo of) the Canarsie subway sign.

Who is the most famous person's number in your phone?

I guess it's still (commissioner) Bud Selig.

Have you gone totally digital, or do you still read the actual newspaper?

I can't not have my newspaper. I stop every day when I'm down here at the same place to pick up the New York Times. I still have papers delivered to the house.

Latest new music you've downloaded and liked?

Phosphorescent , Dawes, Shovels & Rope.

Favorite website?

Thefancy.com.

Last year you were eagerly anticipating a Leonard Cohen concert. So?

Tremendous. Absolutely tremendous. It's amazing a guy that age (79) is able to put that out.

As I ask the players, what band would you like to be on stage with?

What would I do out there? It's got to be the E Street Band.

One of our annual questions: What three people would you like to see sing at the Trop this year?

Unfortunately it keeps coming up because I can't get him in — Tom Waits. I'd like to see Bob Dylan at the Trop. And I'd like to see my daughter, Natalie. She has a beautiful voice, she sings in all sorts of choirs and I keep urging her to do the national anthem.

Would you rather go to the Tony Awards, the Oscars or the Grammys, and why?

It's got to be the Oscars. Because there's absolutely zero truth in the entire room. There's nothing real at all.

You've previously ruled out skydiving, so would you rather fly a plane, bungee jump off a bridge or drive a race car?

Bungee-jumping is out. I could see driving a race car — but I don't know how fast I would go.

Having previously mentioned flax seed and dates and Greek yogurt, what is your latest favorite snack?

You know what — and it's not even to put a plug in here — the strawberries from Plant City have been absolutely tremendous. Like, I go into the stores in New York and I look for them. And I've recommended them to other people. You can't believe how much different and better they are than other strawberries. Man.

Have you found a new "place" to eat in the Tampa Bay area?

My brother-in-law just told me about a new burger place — the Burg. And I still want to go to Coney Island Grill (near the Trop in St. Pete).

Favorite food item at the Trop?

The chili-cheese dog.

Evan Longoria now has a restaurant open (Ducky's) in Tampa and Joe Maddon is opening his this summer (Ava). You've talked about owning one. Anything in the works?

It would be when I sell the team, if I ever sold the team. I couldn't own a restaurant and the team. I'd be too torn. But I think Longo's idea, duckpin bowling, is tremendous. There's a lot of promise for that because anyone can do it.

Where did the inspiration for Trop 360 renovation come from, with full circulation for fans around the field?

Here (at the Charlotte Sports Park, where they have a boardwalk and a tiki bar). We've thought about it for years. I still get lost going up and down the escalators and the stairs and it just drives me crazy, and I wasn't the only one.

Did you go to the Super Bowl in New Jersey?

No. I've been to one Super Bowl in Tampa and that was enough.

What is your favorite moment in Rays history?

When Aki (Iwamura) caught the ball (to clinch Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS over Boston). It's burned into my brain, because it comes with a lot of feeling and emotion. When I see it I'm still surprised that he caught it. The way things were going I just thought it was going to hop over his glove.

Do you have a specific good-luck spot when you're watching a game at home?

There's a particular chair but I'm not a slave to it — it's the most comfortable.

What past musical/theatrical event do you wish you could've attended?

The Beatles at Carnegie Hall. Phil Ochs at Carnegie Hall. There's probably a ton, but those are it.

What was your baby gift to team president Matt Silverman and his wife Andrea, who had a daughter just before spring training?

They haven't gotten it yet so I can't say.

You're a few months late aren't you?

I haven't gotten an announcement. I give gifts when I get an announcement.

What kind of store do you like to go into?

A good Italian deli, like where they make their own mozzarella and sauce, and things like that.

What kind of store do you not like?

A candle store.

What is your strategy to pick the shortest line?

Always go to the right.

And is that also your political strategy?

Au contraire.

What do you do to kill time at an airport?

I try not to have to wait too long. I'll read The New Yorker.

Our annual wrap-up: what Springsteen song best captures last season?

I thought of this in advance this time. Last year was No Surrender.

And for this season?

Meeting Across the River. And if that doesn't work, High Hopes.

When is the last time you …

Bought something off the Internet?

Does a book count for my daughter today, from the Divergent series?

Rode the subway in New York City?

Within the last two weeks.

Cried?

Within the last couple months. There's a certain song or two that'll do it to me. There's a Dar Williams song that always makes me tear up: When I Was a Boy. It's more about being a kid, and my kids being boys and girls.

Got a speeding ticket?

At least 10 years. I don't remember.

Drank too much?

Does it count if you don't think you drank too much but somebody else did? Probably in November or December. No specific event.

Yelled at your kids?

Years. You'd have to ask them.

Read a book cover to cover?

The Unwinding, six months ago. I do want to read Five Came Back.

Paid with cash rather than credit cards?

I try to pay cash in places that aren't chains so they don't have to pay the fee.

Q&A with Rays owner Stuart Sternberg 03/28/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 28, 2014 5:41pm]
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