Early last week, the Devil Rays announced plans to explore the possibility of playing a three-game series next season against the Texas Rangers at the Disney complex near Orlando. We asked what you thought. Are you worried this could be the first step to the team eventually leaving? Is it no big deal? Is it a good idea? In a word, most of you are ticked. Here's a sampling of what Rays fans think.
This is a bush-league move. Let's get some marketing going in Bradenton and Sarasota. Orlando has enough to go to. Matt Silverman should try something like putting a winning team on the field and getting a manager who has a clue on how to manage. I attended most home games last year and do not think we should mess around with a nine-game homestand early in the year. Let's wait until we're 20 games out. It should not take long for Joe Maddon to achieve.
Ed DiCicco, via e-mail
The only viable location for the club is in Tampa, where it can draw fans from Pinellas, Tampa and Orlando. It is bottlenecked in St. Petersburg. Area growth is clearly north and east of Tampa as current and planned transportation infrastructure shows. A new ballpark would be necessary and would help thrust this entire metro region into national recognition as truly BIG-LEAGUE. It's that, or kiss them goodbye inside of five years.
Jim Gallery, Palm Harbor
I have a problem with the Rays playing games in Orlando. Honestly, do you think that people in Orlando would drive two hours to and from just to see a Rays game? Don't get me wrong, I'm probably the biggest Rays fan you'll ever meet, but I think it's just stupid that we think we're popular enough, heck, even good enough, to attract people from distances to see our games. My opinion is stick with what you've got here until you start winning games. Then, maybe, you'll be good enough to attract fans without having to beg for a crowd.
Derek Lavezzo, Dunedin
Phew, Stu! This time you and the whiz kids hit a foul ball.
Eddie Lee, Madeira Beach
I do have a problem with the Rays playing any home games away from the Trop. We just recently moved here from the Chicago area, and I bought season tickets before I even got a job! We bought our house just blocks from the Naimoli complex to watch the Rays from Day One. Along these lines, having been a former White Sox season-ticket holder, I've seen it: If you win, people will come. All of a sudden poor attendance becomes standing-room-only crowds and waiting lists for season tickets.
Mark Lofgren, St. Petersburg
Far from being worried, I am thrilled that the new Rays organization continues to keep its promises and make intelligent decisions. While trying to build a contender, they are also developing a substructure that will sustain a winning team. I have yet to see a foolish or poorly thought out move by Sternberg and company, whether it's making trades, expanding into Latin America and the Japanese market, moving minor-league teams closer to Florida and spring training to Port Charlotte and now seeking to expand the fan base into Central Florida. Kudos and keep it up.
Robert Rittner, Clearwater
What happens if all the Orlando games sell out? If I were the owner, I would test the water with maybe six games and then ...? This could become a big problem quickly. My opinion? Goodbye, Rays.
Bob Neshta, New Port Richey
Why not? What's to fear? Sounds like a sane business decision. Test the regional market while attempting to broaden the fan base. Since March 31, l998, the D-Rays have played almost 730 games at the Trop, repeatedly before embarrassingly small crowds. Who is satisfied with the results to date? Certainly not the ownership, the players, the diminishing fan base or Major League Baseball itself. Will Central Florida respond differently to the opportunity to view the Rays versus Rangers? Can't wait to find out, and to see how the Tampa Bay area responds to the thought of a potential challenge over what the Rays will call home in the future.
Bob Stewart, St. Petersburg
It's only three games. Last year, I had the honor of being part of the smallest paid attendance at a Rays home game when they played Texas. I think there were 7,000 folks there. It's the right series to move, and if it brings bodies to the seats down the road at the Trop and helps create a homefield advantage, then I'm all for it.
Tom Ackermann, Tampa
As a season-ticket holder, I think the Rays should focus their marketing efforts on getting fans to come across the bridge from Tampa before they ask the Orlando folks to take "Fabulous 4" through Tampa to the Trop. Due to spring training, Orlando is a National League city, so one series and minimum exposure from a developing franchise will not gain much attention. I think the organization needs to keep its marketing in the bay area and perhaps branch down as far as Sarasota and focus on developing that fan base and then branch out. There are plenty of good baseball fans in the bay area who are anxiously awaiting a serious effort at being competitive. Everyone remembers the empty seats at Bucs and Lightning games when they were losing teams.
Red McGarry, Redington Shores
What is the new ownership doing? First they move spring training, now they want to move three games to Orlando. I don't think they will move, but I watched the Brooklyn Dodgers do this in 1956 by playing seven games in Jersey City and then move to Los Angeles in 1958. They want to expand the fan base? Win more games.
Roger Duffett, St. Petersburg
This stinks. After being a season-ticket holder for the first eight seasons, I gave up on the Rays when Lou Piniella did and went to only four games last season. My not going to games next year is hardly a loss for the team's revenues. On the other hand, there is absolutely no danger that Orlando sports fans will be dumb enough to support this bunch of losers for long. Sounds like, to use Inspector Clouseau's words, the "old new-stadium-blackmail ploy.'' Well, we'd have to be dumber than the French inspector to fall for it.
Robert G. Walker,
I enjoy going to the Trop and cheering for the Rays. I also enjoy seeing players from other teams. I think it is unfortunate that as a season-ticket holder for 2007, I may not have the opportunity to see Mark Teixeira, Michael Young and other Rangers as this is the Lone Star state Rangers' lone visit to the Trop. Excluding the Rangers just isn't right.
I think the current ownership can do what it wants without feeling guilty. They did lots of great things for the local fans this year, such as free parking and allowing food to be brought into the stadium. Shame on us for not thanking the team by having better attendance at games.
Ray Conchado Jr.,