As principal owner Stuart Sternberg eagerly prepares for the 18th Rays season under his purview, he, like the rest of the organization, is also looking back a bit.
The franchise is celebrating its 25th anniversary year, having started at the Devil Rays in 1998 and now having completed 25 seasons. So to stay on theme, we’ve focused some of our annual preseason Q&A with Sternberg about 25th anniversaries.
Here is what Sternberg, whose group bought into the team in 2004 and took control in October 2005, had to say (some comments were edited for brevity and clarity):
Where were you on March 31, 1998, when the Devil Rays played their first game?
We had three kids at the time (four now) and were probably in the process of moving into a new home in Rye, N.Y. I was 38, and working on the floor of the (American) stock exchange.
Were you aware there was a new team in Tampa Bay, and one in Arizona?
I absolutely was. I remember following it. I just recall not being engrossed with it at the time. There was just a lot of family and business stuff.
What did you think on March 31, 1998, that you’d be doing on March 30, 2023 (opening day)?
If there was a list of 100 things, this was 116th.
How has your life changed in the last 25 years?
It’s really my kids aging that changes you. And not working on Wall Street, which was really a grind-it-out situation in a lot of ways. But I’d say oddly enough for the most part, in a good way, I don’t think my life has changed dramatically. Other than having a fourth child. (Sandy, 32; Jake, 31; Natalie, 27; Ella, 23.)
What has been the biggest change in baseball over the last 25 years?
The biggest change over the last 10 years has been what we’re seeing right now in front of us (with all the rule changes, such as the pitch clock), and it’s all great. The largest thing was obviously — and certainly we’ve been a reasonable part of it, and it’s happened in every industry — sort of the computerization, mechanization, process-oriented baseball approach. But it’s not unique to baseball.
What do you think baseball looks like 25 years hence?
It will be closer to the sport it is today than football and basketball are. Baseball has a great way of having the 90 feet between bases, the 60 feet, 6 inches (to home plate) work through many, many, many iterations of generations of physical change. And the size of the field and the way it all comes into play.
Whereas the others are, especially basketball, boxed into a smaller area, and the height of the rim. So I think there could be some significant changes there. And football because of the violence and potential of all those issues (could change).
And where will the Rays be playing in 25 years, for their 50th anniversary?
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I’m pretty certain they’ll be here.
Here, as in where?
In Tampa Bay.
When was the first time you came to the Tampa Bay area?
It was around 1993. We lost Sandy (their oldest son) briefly at Busch Gardens. It was the most terrifying moment of my life — he was 2 1/2-3 years old. We’d come down every couple years, go to Sarasota or stay at the Don (Cesar hotel on St. Pete Beach).
I remember saying to the kids that a baseball team was going to play in that building (the then-Florida Suncoast Dome, now Tropicana Field). I had taken them around to enough baseball stadiums by then that they didn’t believe that was a baseball stadium.
What’s something you’ve had for 25 years?
I’m a bit of a pack rat and hoarder, so I have a lot of things for 25 years — whether it’s ticket stubs or old CDs, certainly sweaters, maybe the shirt I’m wearing.
Who/what have you been watching for 25 years?
Larry David in some form. That’s around when Curb Your Enthusiasm started.
What musicians have you been listening to for 25 years?
There’s no shortage of those. Obviously Bruce Springsteen. There’s a lot of people obviously not still making music that I listen to, older stuff. Of those still making music, Bob Dylan is another one.
Of all the promotions and things the Rays are doing for the 25th anniversary, which do you consider the coolest?
The 25th anniversary book that we’re putting out. It’s a huge amount of effort and love going into it, and it forces us all to look back on 25 years, and it’s been pretty cool to do that.
What did you get your wife, Lisa, for your 25th wedding anniversary?
Well, I know it wasn’t luggage or a speaker or an ice cream holder because I had gotten those three things (for her) at various points and almost got thrown out of the house. … It was probably a watch. We like to mark occasions, but I like to think I’m a giving person throughout the year.
Since the 25th anniversary is silver, are you big on investing in that?
I was many years ago, a bunch of times, but I haven’t been focused on the silver market as much in the last 25 years.
A little bit of a trick question: What’s something you’d like to have very badly that’s made of silver?
The World Series trophy.
And here’s a few of our more usual questions:
Last year you mentioned Wet Leg as good new music, and you were right on as they won several awards. What have you liked this year?
Beach Bunny (a rock band from Chicago).
Any concerts you are looking forward to?
Wilco; they’re playing Ruth Eckerd Hall.
A website you’ve started using?
Watching any new shows?
I love the re-do of Party Down; I was excited about it, and it’s been great.
What’s your latest go-to snack food?
Still eating my Milanos (a Pepperidge Farm brand cookie) too much. The problem is I can’t get Mallomars (a Nabisco cookie sold mostly in the Northeast) now that I’m living in Florida.
Last interesting thing you bought online?
A personal beach umbrella. Not the Brockabrella (worn on the head). These are little umbrellas, they go on your chair, they’re very lightweight. A great item.
Discover any new places in downtown St. Pete you like?
There’s two. Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls and, more importantly, an ice cream place on Central (La Diperie) where they have soft serve and they dip it — I love brown bonnets — and they use high-end chocolate. I’ve been there a number of times, and it’s wonderful. And they have a zillion different flavors that they dip in.
Our annual finale, what is the Springsteen song that best describes last season?
And for this season?
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