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Fans react: ‘Now the hard work begins to keep the Rays here full time’

Many fans were vocal about their dislike of potentially sharing the team with Montreal, but concerns linger about keeping professional baseball in Tampa Bay.
Fans fill the Trop for Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Red Sox this past season. But low attendance during the regular season is one reason the team explored the sister city option.
Fans fill the Trop for Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Red Sox this past season. But low attendance during the regular season is one reason the team explored the sister city option. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Jan. 20|Updated Jan. 21

Brian Jacoby was home from work for lunch when his wife, Mallory Arents, sprinted into their kitchen.

Interrupting a work call, she pulled up Thursday’s news about Major League Baseball killing the Rays’ split-city plan with Montreal.

“Yes!” shouted Jacoby, 31, of St. Petersburg.

He wasn’t the only Rays fan thrilled by the news, but many still worry about the team’s long-term future here.

Related: ‘Thank goodness they got this right’: Twitter reacts to MLB killing Rays’ split-city plan

Tempered elation

“Relieved that I never have to hear about it again,” said Michael Lortz, 44, of South Tampa. “But now the hard work begins to keep the Rays here full time.”

“I’m very happy,” said Michael Stein, 46, of Tampa. “The split-city concept was always a terrible plan, akin to your spouse telling you they wanted to be married to someone else on weekends (second half of the season and a pennant race) while expecting you to be happy to be a second spouse on Monday-Friday. Who would stay in that relationship? A divorce would be preferable, so even the team leaving, which I definitely don’t want, was better than a split-city plan.”

“I’m relieved that MLB isn’t allowing such a (fool-hearted) idea to proceed any further.” said Michael Matthews, 53, of South Tampa. “I’m also nervous that ownership will use the decision as justification to move the team away from the area. So I guess that would mean I’m pretty worried we won’t have them past 2027 (when the Trop lease runs out).”

Related: Tampa Bay is rid of the in-laws in Montreal, but has a stadium mess at home

Concerns about a Florida future

“I would like to say I’m not worried about baseball’s future here, but I am,” said Justin Evangelisti, 31, of New Port Richey. “The lease on the Trop ends in a few years, and (principal owner Stuart Sternberg) is back to the drawing board. He just got asked in his press conference about a full season here in Tampa Bay, and he basically dismissed it. He doesn’t believe a full season will work here, and he has said it repeatedly. I believe they will find another city as a sister city or ultimately move the team, unfortunately.”

“I am a little worried, sure,” said Jackie Boutot, 28, of Riverview. “I think Rays fans have a right to be worried given everything that has occurred over the past few years. It’s hard to pack an outdated stadium surrounded by water and that becomes even more difficult when there is animosity toward the ownership of the team.

“On the other hand we’ve got two wildly successful teams (the Bucs and Lightning) on this side of the Bay that have proven professional sports can thrive in Tampa. I think everyone needs to be willing to work together and understand just how close we came to having to share the team with another country. If that’s not enough to motivate fans and the local leadership I don’t know what is.”

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Related: Tampa Bay leaders react to news that MLB has dashed Rays’ sister-city dream

“I think that (St. Petersburg Mayor) Ken Welch and (Tampa Mayor) Jane Castor should be champing at the bit to keep the team or get them to their city, respectively,” Jacoby said. “Opportunities like this don’t just drop into your lap every day. While I definitely want to keep the Rays in St. Pete, a place like Ybor City with its rich cultural history might be a nice place to move the franchise. ... But I’m very confident the Rays will only exist in Tampa Bay for decades to come.”

In Sternberg we (dis)trust?

“I trust the other personnel in the Rays front office,” Lortz said. “They are great folks. But (Sternberg) is all about money. This is his investment. Where his wallet is, not where his heart is.”

“I don’t trust Stu but I think this was his plan all along to get a full-time ballpark in Tampa Bay” said Jared Knight, 34, of Tampa.

Related: Everything you need to know about Rays, Montreal and stadiums

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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