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Rays fans react: Better ‘sister city’ plans

Letters to the sports editor: Rays fans make plea for the team to remain in Tampa Bay full time, and offer suggestions for how to do it.
Tampa Bay Rays fans run through the pouring rain into the stadium to watch the game against the Texas Rangers on Friday, June 28, 2019 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. ALLIE GOULDING | Times
Published Jul. 3
Updated Jul. 3

Today’s responses reflect themes of depression from imagining a future without the Rays in Tampa Bay and bargaining over ways the Rays team could and should remain here full time.

These responses were taken from well over 100 emails sent to the Tampa Bay Times Sports department in the days after principal owner Stuart Sternberg’s announcement the Rays are considering splitting seasons between Tampa Bay and Montreal.

MORE RAYS: Readers say no halfsies, Montreal

Coming Friday: Responses from Rays fans who see promise and potential in the Rays’ split-season proposal. Share your thoughts via email to sports@tampabay.com.

Like losing a family member

I was at the inaugural game and have been to over 700 games since. The Rays are my second family. It’s heartbreaking to think about losing this team and not being able to take my future kids to Rays games. I’m not confident in the Montreal Plan and am losing hope fast. Some games are better than none, though. Please do not leave!

Kameron Kandefer, Sarasota

Breaking a father’s heart

Took my 4-month-old daughter to her first game on Father’s Day. I really hope she learns to love baseball and we can share the game. It breaks my heart to know she won't have a team to grow up with. Stu said they would be gone if this fails, and this plan is designed to fail.

Robert Moates, Bradenton

A college student’s plea

While I love the players and the staff at the Trop, ownership’s insistence on a move hurts a middle-income college student who attends 5-10 games per year while living over an hour away. There must be an alternative that keeps the Rays local.

Sebastian Plank, Sarasota

Can’t look away

I feel like we are watching a very slow train wreck. There is an inevitability to the Rays’ move out of Tampa Bay, and the coming years will only increase the pain. I go to 25-30 games a year and will miss them.

C.G. McMillan, Tampa

When team leaves, passion leaves with them

I was born in New York to a hardcore Yankee family, but I didn’t fall in love with baseball until I started following the Rays, proud to be the odd man out. Though I don’t live in the area anymore, I am very proud to wear my Rays cap daily and represent not only the team, but the area as well. I will be heartbroken if and when the team inevitably leaves. I will no longer have any passion towards to the team if they relocate, even if it’s in my current town of Nashville.

Justin Hamilton, Nashville (formerly of Sarasota)

Hurting in the UK

I’m born and bred in London, England, and have been fortunate enough to fall in love with the Rays over the last decade whilst visiting my grandparents in Bradenton. Since they moved I haven’t made it back to Tampa, but I never miss a game via MLB.tv and I’ll be at the London series this weekend in my Rays jersey. The Rays are my final connection with the area, and the fact a greedy, smarmy businessman gets to remove this and try to convince me it’s a positive, is quite simply soul-destroying.

Nick Fruin, London

What about the players?

With the Rays, not much said about what it means to players families. Two homes in the regular season? Do wives stay back in Tampa or Montreal? Wives of players living in two different countries? Have kids? What about schools?

Harry Elifson, St. Petersburg

Have a heart

I’m a college student living part time in Orlando and Tarpon. If I had the monetary means to go to games, I would gladly travel to the Trop. Stu is attempting to extort the working class. If he had any heart, he would put up a legitimate amount of money for a stadium.

Maxwell O’Toole, Tarpon Springs

Asking too much

You are asking two cities to support a team full-time, meaning watch on TV, buy apparel, fill the stadium, etc., while at the same time telling them “but you are only worth half a season of home games.” You are potentially robbing them of iconic moments because they happened when the team was with “that other city.” Part of what makes sports great is the tradition built between a team and a city —not cities. Game 162, the ALCS Clincher, the first World Series game. If these iconic moments happened in Montreal, they would not mean nearly as much as they do because they happened here.

Scott Felker, Orlando

In this 2017 file photo, a vendor walks through a section of mostly empty seats during the first inning Marlins-Mets game at Marlins Park stadium in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Location, location, location

I invite Stu Sternberg to try something: Leave from Tampa at rush hour for a weekday game, sit in traffic on the bridge, sit in traffic in downtown St. Pete, then watch an entire game. You won’t be able to because you’ll have gotten there late. Then sit in more traffic getting out of the stadium area. Do this, then consider why fans don’t come to more games. Stu, if you actually wanted this team to stay, you would sell to someone who has the resources and the willingness to pay for a more conveniently located stadium to keep it here.

Ben Krongard, San Diego (Lived in Tampa for 2008 World Series run)

A better way to split

If we can only have half a team, let’s send either the Rays or Marlins to another market and split Florida baseball between South Florida and Tampa Bay. At least keep the entire fan base in the same state and country.

Kris Dumke, St. Petersburg

Time to work together

Sternberg’s lack of financial support for a Tampa stadium, upper-deck closure and the Montreal plan are ways of “proving” Tampa Bay isn’t viable. Kriseman’s obstinance will guarantee 81 games in 2027 and zero in 2028. Let’s work together to keep the Rays in Tampa Bay.

Ryan Goldstein, Tampa

How will Tampa Bay ever compete?

I want the Rays to stay in Tampa Bay forever. Jeff Vinik and his Water Street partners must be concerned. If our local leaders can’t keep a business with worldwide recognition like Major League Baseball in the area, how can they expect to lure a Fortune 500 company’s headquarters to Water Street? Same with St Pete.

Jeff Smith, Tampa

Open mindedness is a two-way street

My anger is getting consumed by the fan base that thinks they understand how to operate a team. If the team leaves, the fans refusing to put forth the effort to attend will be the cause. To Stu, I say you’ve asked us to have an open mind, so I hope you go back to an open mind about the team remaining here full time if a split is ruled out by the players union.

Tom Kilty, Safety Harbor

Time for ballpark Pub subs

After listening to the Rays plan for a split season, I felt sick. Time to reach for an old time remedy: Castor oil. Mayor Jane Castor needs to step in to save our team. Get business back in with a smaller domed stadium in Ybor City. Publix can buy naming rights, sell subs there and make their money back in no time. How can a city that has hosted Super Bowls, political national conventions, the NHL all-star game not have a baseball team of its own? St. Pete mayor Rick Kriseman needs to give Tampa a chance again. The mayors need to work together and look for support from the state to reach a compromise that would work for everyone.

Rich Lynch, North Redington Beach

An Expos fan’s wish

I grew up in Montreal as an Expos fan. Losing the team broke my heart and for almost a decade I couldn’t watch baseball. I don’t want Tampa Bay to lose its great, exciting team. But I also desperately want Montreal to get baseball back. So I’m torn. Just like Tampa Bay was so many times before it got the Rays, Montreal is clearly being used as leverage by the Rays ownership. I truly hope it works out for both cities.

Rob Silver, Ottawa

Give Sternberg a break

As opposed to trashing Sternberg in columns, I would respect the fact the guy is successful and is trying to figure out a solution to a problem.

Dick Powers, Tampa

A $2 ticket promotion helped produced a crowd of 20,441 for the Rays-Orioles game Monday, July 1, 2019, at Tropicana Field. DIRK SHADD | Times

What the Rays really lack

It's amazing how a team that is so intelligent from a baseball standpoint (analytics, innovation, etc.) can be so tone deaf from a public relations/marketing standpoint. That said, if the Rays were to move spring training back to St. Pete and finance a new ballpark in Tampa Bay area, I am not entirely opposed to the Montreal-sharing plan.

Giles Dowden, Tampa

Need more from ownership

I’ve lived in Florida 30 years, growing up in Brooklyn and raised a diehard Mets fan. Been a Rays fan since March 1995 and have raised a 23-year-old diehard Rays daughter in that time. While I think the current ownership has made some good tweaks, I feel like they haven’t given it their all. If you’ve ever gone to a Lightning game at Amalie Arena, you know exactly what I mean.

Dan Rodriguez, Lutz

How about a little vision from everyone

I’d rather have half a team in Central Florida than none at all, if that really is the only way it can work. To conclude a split season is the only way it can work represents a lack of vision and willingness to put in real effort on the part of all parties. I have loved the Rays from the beginning. I was 15 and was home sick from school to watch the first Opening Day. When I first moved to D.C. I introduced my international housemates to baseball by watching Game 162. The plan seems completely illogical, designed to make ownership happy and only to disappoint everyone else.

Richard Goddard, Washington, D.C.

At least someone is happy

I’d rather have half a team in Central Florida than none at all, if that really is the only way it can work. To conclude a split season is the only way it can work represents a lack of vision and willingness to put in real effort on the part of all parties. I have loved the Rays from the beginning. I was 15 and was home sick from school to watch the first Opening Day. When I first moved to D.C. I introduced my international housemates to baseball by watching Game 162. The plan seems completely illogical, designed to make ownership happy and only to disappoint everyone else.

Richard Goddard, Washington, D.C.

Prove Stu wrong

Since Stu purchased the franchise he has given the fans a winning product that includes a 2008 World Series appearance. It is up to the fanbase to return the favor, to prove Stu and the outside critics wrong instead of pointing fingers.

Edgar Rivera, Gary, Ind.

How about this sister city?

They were given three years to look for a suitable ballpark outside of St. Petersburg, and then, when they do find one in Tampa with roughly six months left, they thought that would be a enough time to gather funding possibilities. ... Spending 2-1/2 years to find a good spot and six months to find money for it seems backwards to me. They need to be in Tampa. Look at the Bucs and Lightning. Both in Tampa and both work.

Matt Edwards, Riverview

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