ST. PETERSBURG — Rays officials say they want to be “very considerate” in keeping the focus on what the team is doing on the field.
But they are adding a sign to the back wall at Tropicana Field for the postseason to showcase their somewhat controversial plan to split future seasons between Tampa Bay and Montreal.
Team president Matt Silverman revealed the plans in an interview on the This Week in Rays Baseball radio show that aired Saturday afternoon. He said later that they want to wait to unveil the sign at the first playoff game.
“We’re going to add a sign in the rightfield foul territory with a very simple Tampa Bay Montreal graphic,” Silverman said. “Especially with the eyes of baseball on us this October, we want that visible symbol of our plan and our excitement for it. It will mark the effort subtly and keep the focus on winning.”
Silverman said that the split-season plan remains “the best and possibly only chance” to keep the team in the Tampa Bay area long term and that talks have been progressing in the background.
“I’m more optimistic today than I’ve ever been that we’re going to make this happen,” he said.
Citing unnamed sources, Le Journal de Montreal reported Saturday a deal could be announced sometime after the Nov. 7 Montreal city elections, and that “an important meeting” will be held “very soon” in Florida to finalize details.
Under the plan, which includes new open-air stadiums being built in both markets, the Rays would hold spring training and play roughly into early June in the bay area, then shift to Montreal for the rest of the season. Team officials said postseason games would likely be rotated by year.
“We believe in our sister-city plan; Major League Baseball believes in it fully,” Silverman said. “It’s the best and possibly only chance for baseball to be here for generations. That’s been our sole focus. It’s never been about other markets and relocation overtures. It’s always been about how we can make it work here.”
When the plan was first revealed in June 2019, there was skepticism and opposition expressed by some bay area leaders and fans. Silverman said that is now changing.
“There’s been an encouraging shift among our fans and community and a real openness about the plan,” he said. “(Tampa Mayor Jane Castor) was the first official who spoke up and expressed openness, and more voices are joining that chorus.”
Silverman said the team plans to become “more vocal and visible” about the effort after the season ends.
“We’re entering crunch time,” he said. “Our lease here at the Trop expires after the 2027 season. So the time to solve this issue is now.”
• • •
Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.
Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.