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Rays Sternberg arranged for Montreal group leader to attend wild-card game

Stephen Bronfman and colleagues are heading west to see the team they hope will play part of future seasons in Montreal.

OAKLAND, Calif. — Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg arranged for the leader of the effort to bring baseball back to Montreal to attend Wednesday’s AL wild-card game.

And he didn’t think there was anything wrong with that.

Sternberg said that Montreal businessman Stephen Bronfman asked for tickets for himself and some colleagues, and the Rays, who are working on a plan to split future seasons in Montreal, were happy to help their potential future partners.

“When they asked us for tickets, they said they had been at Fenway last year (for the playoffs) and the same group had been at other ballgames in other years. So we said sure. I’m thrilled they want to be here,’’ Sternberg said before the game.

“The thing is, it doesn’t interfere with anything going on, on the field. I made a point, and it still continues to be true, that 100 percent of what we’re focused on right now is on the field. This is not anything that has to do with the baseball end.

“(We) dealt with it for a total of four minutes. I’m glad they’re here. Let them feel more invested, that’s okay. Look, we need people to feel more invested in the project.’’

The Rays got permission in June from Major League Baseball to explore the unprecedented, and somewhat problematic, team-sharing plan, which would include new open-air stadiums being built in both markets.

The Rays can’t negotiate with Montreal or Bronfman, whose group would likely buy a minority interest in the team, until getting permission from the city of St. Petersburg. The Rays have met at least three times with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman without an agreement. Sternberg said he wouldn’t be sitting with the Montreal group.

He did acknowledge that it was “not ideal” that word got out of their trip, including a photo from the Montreal airport of the group that one of Bronfman’s associates tweeted.

Le Journal de Montreal said of the development (via Google translation): “If the news seems at first sight innocuous, it is significant in the process of the possible return of the major baseball in Montreal.’’