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In Montreal, frustration and concern for the Rays’ future

Group leader Stephen Bronfman is upset about MLB’s decision, notes “tough” situation for the Rays in Tampa Bay.
Stephen Bronfman, part of a group spearheading the effort to return baseball to Montreal, says he feels "terribly" for Rays officials who were so invested in the split-city plan.
Stephen Bronfman, part of a group spearheading the effort to return baseball to Montreal, says he feels "terribly" for Rays officials who were so invested in the split-city plan. [ AP ]
Published Jan. 20|Updated Jan. 21

Montreal leaders also were frustrated and disappointed in talking about Major League Baseball’s decision to kill the Rays’ season-sharing plan.

“It’s like a bloody eulogy,” group head Stephen Bronfman said during a media Zoom call Thursday afternoon. “I’m just tired. I’m a little upset. We had something so good. We would have proved (to) everyone, we would have made a mark. I think a lot of people in sport would have been listening to us.”

Bronfman said they were disappointed in the setback to their efforts to bring back baseball to Montreal — albeit on a part-time basis — after losing the Expos in 2005. Now they’ll likely have to wait for an expansion opportunity.

He also noted the challenge principal owner Stuart Sternberg and his Rays staff again face in trying to get a new stadium built that will generate better attendance and increased revenues.

“These are quality people, and they are hurt,” said Bronfman, whose father Charles was the original owner of the Expos. “They put everything into this project. ... We all got slapped in the face. … I feel terribly for these guys. I mean, we’re all in it together. And we all got the same surprise together.”

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

Bronfman said he initially asked about moving the Rays fully to Montreal, but Sternberg made it clear he had no interest in abandoning this market and instead proposed the sharing plan.

With that now dead, Bronfman said he hopes the Rays can find a new home in the Tampa Bay area.

“They’ve got a market … they’ve got to work it. And it’s been a tough run,” Bronfman said. “Over the last decade, you’ve been in the World Series, you’ve won 100 games, you’ve been in the playoffs several times, and you drew 9,500 people (on average in 2021, 28th in the majors).

“I mean, it’s tough for them to make a go of it. That’s why they jumped full in (to the sharing plan). Because Stuart, he is honest as the day is long. And he told me from the get go, he says, ‘I am not going to take this team (out of the Tampa Bay market). … I am not.’

“He did his best in his heart of hearts to keep the Tampa Bay Rays in Tampa, but he knew at the time; now, I don’t know going forward. I hope that the business is going to right itself, because these are good people and Tampa deserves baseball. I mean, it’s a great sports market. I’m just hopeful that things turn out for the better. Because it’s very tough for all of them right now.”

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