ST. PETERSBURG — With thousands of Rays fans happy to be at the Trop on Saturday for the annual Fan Fest, top team officials, when asked, touted the benefits of playing parts of future seasons in Montreal starting in 2028.
Understandably, the reaction wasn’t all positive. As team president Matt Silverman talked about the future during a Q&A session, some in the audience booed.
“We are focused on making sure we are going to keep baseball here for generations to come," Silverman said, “That’s been our effort that’s been our focus for the past 15 years and that focus is unwavering. We are excited about the sister city plan and we’re excited as the year goes by to explain it in greater detail. And to turn some of those boos into cheers as we figure this out.”
Principal owner Stuart Sternberg, to his credit, walked among the crowd and got a broad sampling of the reaction, acknowledging there is a bit of a disconnect with area fans since the sharing plan was first announced in June.
“I recognize what we thought was an incredible idea and have thought through, it’s fair for people to think that they’re not going to have baseball, and I get it," Sternberg said.
“They’re going to go from having a full season to less than a full season. It’s not pleasant. But the alternative is going to be dramatically worse — no baseball at all. Everything we’re doing is trying to keep baseball here, and I’m firmly convinced the future is going to include partial seasons in many cities for many sports."
Sternberg said when they’ve talked one-on-one about the plan to area business and community leaders they have a “90 percent success rate" in gaining understanding. “They get it," he said.
Fans have been slower to accept it. “If I were a fan, I’d never be fully comfortable with it," Sternberg said. “However, once the first pitch is thrown and you have this connection with a park and you recognize baseball is going to be here through the 2050s at the very least, if not 2100, it’s a pretty good idea."
Brian Auld, the other team president, reiterated they don’t feel a new domed stadium, even in Tampa, would work as a full-time home given the cost and their economic forecasts. “We recognized that a near-$1 billion stadium and a hope and a prayer that if we build it they will come, when every bit of data that we looked at suggest that wouldn’t happen, it wouldn’t be responsible for this organization or for this community," he said.
Glasnow feels ‘really, really good’
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Tyler Glasnow said the previously undisclosed surgery he had on his right wrist in November was a “super minor” and “low risk” procedure to decompress the area around the median nerve and has no impact on his offseason throwing or his readiness for spring workouts, which start this week. He also said there have been no issues with the forearm strain that sidelined him for four months last season.
“I feel really, really good,” he said. “No concern here." Glasnow also said he is working to add a splitter to his repertoire, dropping the changeup he felt may have contributed to his forearm injury.
The spring roster grew to 64 with the signing of lefty reliever Sean Gilmartin to a minor-league deal and an invitation to minor-league catcher Rene Pinto, a 23-year-old who played last year at Double-A Montgomery. Gilmartin, 29, is a Florida State product who has pitched parts of five seasons for the Mets and Orioles, with a 4-5, 4.18 ERA. Of note, he is married to Tampa native Kayleigh McEnany, who is national press secretary for President Trump’s re-election campaign. … Sternberg said he is confident of another successful season: “I think we’re in good shape to get to 90 wins, and maybe north of that." … Reliever Emilio Pagan worked a lot on his curveball and is planning to make more use of it, mixed in with his fastball and slider. … Sternberg said this is the first season of the team’s new TV deal, though he wouldn’t discuss financial terms. Also, an announcement on new ticket products, possibly including a monthly pass, and a new first-base seating area, is coming soon. ... The team said about 12,000 fans attended Saturday, and more than $140,000 was raised for the team’s charitable foundation.
Staff writers Mari Faiello and John Romano contributed to this report.