Friday, June 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg on Cuba, Springsteen and Honda Odysseys

Stuart Sternberg is entering his 11th season running the Rays, and, all things considered — the stadium site search, low attendance, small-market woes — is still having a ball. He sat down during spring training with Tampa Bay Times baseball writer Marc Topkin for his annual Q-and-A session discussing everything from his new affinity for Instagram to driving a Honda Odyssey to eating beets to sitting through bad movies to Benny Goodman to his best Cuba souvenirs to Springsteen. Some excerpts:

What is your newest favorite website?

I'm still on, but I think Instagram is now my thing rather than a website. I would say my favorites there — and I have a very few — are The Impossible Cool; Pete Souza, who is the White House photographer; and Saratoga Food Adventures, a plug for my daughter. I think the total number of things I follow is six.

Have you ever Instagrammed?

I don't think so.

Are you still only using Twitter to read stuff or have you taken part?

I do tweet with one account a little bit, under a secret name. I follow some of the baseball things, Albert Brooks and Classic Alternative.

TV show most likely to binge watch?

It would probably be Homeland. That's a great show. On the comedy side, though I wouldn't binge watch it because I like to make them last, is Veep.

The biggest house project you can or have done?

If you ask Lisa (his wife), it's the recyclables, but I call myself a garbologist. And I've been forced to become a master of toilets.

How long can you go without checking your phone?

If it's a staring contest I could beat most anybody. I actually find it refreshing when I don't have it for a while. But it depends. Out of season, I could certainly go a couple days. I don't, but I have gone over a day. But in season, it's hard.

Favorite car you've had?

I'd have to say the Honda Odyssey (minivan). We've had three Honda Odysseys. They're perfection.

What about as a kid?

I was working at a young age, so I had a used — 5 years old when I got it — 1974 Mercedes 220. It was a good value for the money.

What city/country that you haven't been to would you most like to visit?

That's a good question. Internationally, it's probably Amsterdam. And in the United States, probably Memphis.

What Olympic sport would you most likely play?

I was a very good triple-jumper. Is the triple jump still an event? (It is.)

What instrument would you play in a band?

I'd be the singer. Otherwise, bass.

What is your latest and greatest good treat, having in the past mentioned flax seed, dates, Greek yogurt, Plant City strawberries and sour pickles?

Beets have become a popular item. But cooked — they have to be cooked.

What about a snack?

Dark chocolate raisins.

Last great restaurant you've been to?

In Boca Grande, it's Temptation, which is very enjoyable. But in New York City, it's La Grenouille. Sheer perfection. The greatest restaurant. Just wonderful.

Favorite take-home quick meal?

If I'm in a hurry, I'll grab a slice of pizza.

Would you rather go hunting or fishing?

Fishing, for sure. I can actually make a case I enjoy fishing. I don't go, but I do enjoy fishing. I need somebody to take me fishing, that's what it is.

Would you rather play tennis or play golf?

Definitely tennis. I have no patience for golf. They're going to have to change the sport for me. I keep threatening to try it. But, no, tennis.

Would you rather go on a long bike ride or a long run?

Bike ride. If it was short, I'd take the run.

What do you do when you're sitting in a bad movie?

How bad? It's hard to go to a bad movie these days. I always made a point of sticking the movie out. Unless it's in a multiplex, and you can hop over to a different one. If they're going to give me garbage to watch, I can try another one.

Favorite/least favorite class in school?

The teacher was and is always more important than the subject. My favorite teacher, Mr. Kaufman, taught history in junior high. Least favorite was typing with Mrs. Bialor — she used to rap your hands with a pointer if she saw you looking at your hands while typing.

Favorite time killer on your phone?

Do I kill time on my phone? Probably Instagram. I like pictures.

You hear on the car radio in the morning it might rain later. Do you run back in and grab an umbrella?

Of course. Is there another answer? Plus it's all the more likely that it won't rain if I actually take it. … And I did find an incredible umbrella to buy — the Davek umbrella.

You walk up to crowded checkout lines, do you go to the left, center or right?

I'll keep going until I get to one (I like) and then sort of stay at that one, but I guess to the right. Not the center, that's for sure.

Since it's the political season, if you were going to run for president, what would be your campaign slogan?

Feel the Stern? I Do More With Less?

Have you ever met Donald Trump?

No. In the '80s and '90s I knew a lot of people that knew him back then, and they said one on one he was a decent guy.

So what do you think of Trump?

Trump is touching a nerve that has been exposed and mostly ignored until now. (Bernie) Sanders is doing the same, though in a dramatically different fashion.

What is your latest celebrity encounter?

Tim Robbins, at an Off-Broadway theater. And he was with Steve Earle (the singer). The two of them together, I thought it was an interesting combination. It was actually the third time I've seen Tim Robbins — twice on a plane and once at the show. … I have this baseball thing with him (as Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham), but he's really just an actor and a musician.

Best thing you brought back from the trip to Cuba?

Not to sound too corny, but the best thing I brought home were memories and photos. Along with some cigars and rum to remember the trip by.

What was your favorite moment in Cuba?

That there was NO cell service for anyone. That was the true step back in time.

Last thing you bought over the Internet?

You should've asked me what did I buy last that's not on the Internet. A travel bottle set for the Cuba trip.

Okay, so what was the last thing you bought not over the Internet?

Food. That's about all that's left that I don't buy on the Internet.

What's your latest technological gadget?

This Amazon Echo thing is pretty intense. We've bought them for people, and I've tried them out, and they're pretty intense. I just don't know if I want to make the leap to get one. You don't have to press a button, and it does everything, and they're going to be writing more and more apps for it. It's pretty scary. It's always sort of there. … I've used it, but I'm afraid to actually enjoin it into the home.

What's your current ringtone?

No change. I have the sonar, and the pinball "knock" (the sound of winning a free game).

Is there a special ringtone for MLB commissioner Rob Manfred?

Only Lisa gets a special one. It dings for Lisa.

What would be your walkup song?

Is it just favorite song? I think it should be a descriptive song. Or is it a distinctive song? … Boy oh boy, that's a tough question. I'll go with Sing, Sing, Sing, from Benny Goodman. It's upbeat, it gets you going, it gets me going, it's one of my faves.

What is your financial advice for people in this economic climate?

The risk/reward right now is basically to sit on cash and wait out whatever's going to happen. And use the price of gold as a barometer.

Three people you'd like to see sing at the Trop this year?

My daughter Natalie would be nice. I'm going to still stick with Tom Waits. And a third person — how about Ringo? You need a Beatle.

And our annual finale, the Springsteen song that best sums up last year?

Tougher Than The Rest.

And for this year?

High Hopes.

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