Q&A with Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg

Published April 5 2012
Updated April 6 2012

Principal owner Stuart Sternberg is the boss, but he typically comes across as one of the guys who just happens to run the Rays. He's involved in all facets of the operation, from the major issues to some small projects, as you'll read. He sat down during a recent spring training game with Tampa Bay Times baseball writer Marc Topkin for his annual Q&A session and talked about things such as the coolest name in his cell phone to his botched wedding proposal to what type of restaurant he'd own. And he touched on his favorite subjects of food (yes, Mallomars came up) and music, including, of course, Springsteen. Some excerpts:

Oldest thing in your wallet?

I use a money clip, not a wallet, and it's the money clip itself, which my sister gave me for my 40th birthday, 12 years ago. (It's a gold version of a squared paper clip.)

Oddest thing in your money clip?

I carry the pocket schedule, which I design each year. I'm very proud of my pocket schedules.

Coolest name in your cell phone?

I don't think I have a cool name in my cell phone. I probably delete anything that would be considered cool because you see all this hacking and lost cell phones. And my cell phone, being a flip-phone Blackberry, I don't think it qualifies to have anything cool on it.

Is Bud Selig in there?

Bud is here; if Bud has been described as cool before?

There has to be somebody cool in there.

(Talk show host) Keith Olbermann, how about that?

How did you meet your wife, Lisa?

On a ferry to Fire Island. People were going to introduce us, but we actually met there, and it was random at that point.

How did you propose?

Badly. It's so bad, it's as bad a job as I've ever done. And I'm able to point to it and say I need to do things better because it was bad.

How bad?

I had some flowers, but it was bad. I had the date chosen to do it, but I had an absolutely brutal day at work, but I was going forward with it on that day, and it was just awful. But it's worked out great — we have our 25th anniversary coming up next year.

Oddest injury you've ever had?

A group of six bicycles hit me when I was about 9. I was in the street playing ball, six bicycles came charging down and I couldn't get out of the way, like a squirrel. I got hit, fell over, got cut up real bad and busted a tooth.

Favorite thing to do on vacation?

Have some green tea and a chocolate croissant outdoors looking at whatever view where we are — the water, some flora, whatever.

Favorite store to kill an hour in?

Probably a wine store.

Most prized bottle in your collection?

I was born in '59, Lisa bought me a bottle of '59 Chateau Latour that I was going to drink on my 40th birthday, then my 50th birthday, now I guess we'll wait 'til 60. I won't drink it then, either.

Current ringtone?

It's a gong.


My son Jake sent me a picture of a subway sign that says to Canarsie (the Brooklyn neighborhood where he grew up).

Last movie you saw?

Cinema Paradiso.

Last book you read?

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman.

Favorite TV show?

Still Modern Family. I love Phil Dunphy, he's my favorite character.

Last song you downloaded?

Thompson Twins — You Take Me Up.

Favorite Internet site?

Coolhunting.com (which looks at innovations in design, technology, art and culture) and itsnotonthetest.com (about pop culture).

Which reality show could you be on?

The one I couldn't be on is Survivor. I couldn't be on Dancing with the Stars. How about America's Got Talent? I'll wiggle my ears or something.

Which one would you like to be on?

How about The Voice?

So, you can sing?

As long as there's a shower on in the background.

If you had your own restaurant, what would it be like?

I've thought about this, because I've had my eye on some spaces at times. It would have a real patina, a real '50s wood old-bar feel, with an analog clock. Not a large menu, just some basics with a good steak, a good fresh piece of fish every day. Reasonable lighting, sort of darkish. And a real jukebox in the corner.

You have thought about this?

Oh yeah. I keep threatening. I'd have to sell the baseball team.

What would you call it?

Wherever it would open I'd try to find what the telephone exchange was, because every neighborhood had one. Where I was, it was Cloverdale. So I'd call it Cloverdale One. It would be a takeoff on BUtterfield 8, which is a new restaurant in New York.

And if you had a boat?

Hole in the Water. I would never — take the last thing I would ever own, and then a boat comes behind it.

What are you scared of?

A lot of things, but heights — anything related to heights.

You've mentioned in years past chocolate-drizzled popcorn, dates and flaxseeds — what's your newest food kick?

I still have my dates, my flaxseeds, my Greek yogurt. Those are my staples. Now, brussels sprouts.

Late-night snack?

Mallomars (his beloved chocolate-covered marshmallow and graham cracker cookie) and Yodels. Nothing's changed.

Best memory of Game 162?

Laying on the floor at my sister's house in disbelief when (Dan) Johnson hit the home run.

Anything you saved from that night?

A bunch of text messages from people who sent stuff after. We were driving home and Lisa was reading them to me. We had a good time.

Investment advice in this economy?

Stocks. Still stocks.

Favorite place to sit at a ballgame?

Ten rows behind home plate.

Three people you would like to hear sing at the Trop?

Taking Lisa into account, Cee Lo Green, she'd like to see him. Tom Waits. And Leonard Cohen.

Best reason to buy a ticket this year?

It's exciting. The most popular team in Tampa Bay.

Our annual feature — the Springsteen song that best captures last season?

If I Should Fall Behind.

And for this season?

I think we have to go with a classic, Born to Run. We're ready to go.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com.