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Team offers fans reason to hope
Improvements in the organization since Stuart Sternberg's people took over in October 2005 have been obvious.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 8, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG - Improvements in the organization since Stuart Sternberg's people took over in October 2005 have been obvious.
They have made upgrades to Tropicana Field, added quality young players to their system, improved the image of the franchise locally and nationally.
And, MLB president Bob DuPuy said, they have brought hope to their fans.
"There clearly is enthusiasm, and a lot of that stems from things Stu Sternberg, team president Matt Silverman, (executive vice president) Andrew Friedman have done," DuPuy said.
"They've put a very good young product on the field, which the national press is starting to recognize as that. They've made changes to the ballpark to make it more fan-friendly. They've reached out to the community and done terrific things. They've got the new spring training site in Port Charlotte, which will be great for the fans here to go visit. And, we've got competitive balance to a level we've never had it to before.
"There is no reason why the fans here can't think they're going to be this year's Detroit Tigers, or three years ago's Arizona Diamondbacks or four years ago's Anaheim Angels. Every team has improved, every team has a chance. And this is a good young team."
DuPuy said there were no concerns with the Rays cutting their payroll to a major-league low $23.2-million because ownership has a plan.
"You look at the team on the field and this team is competitive," he said. "As these guys get older, they're going to have to pay more money to keep them here. So the idea of building a good young team and letting the fans get used to these kids, watching them grow, watching them mature, and watching them become stars is all a good thing."
Two years ago, commissioner Bud Selig said of the Rays: "There is no question they have struggled more than any of us would have believed."
Friday, during what was just the fifth sellout in nine-plus seasons, DuPuy couldn't have sounded more optimistic:
"I'm convinced that given the growth of this area and given the enthusiasm of the fans here, that if the team continues to improve and if ownership and the players continue to reach out to the community, that it's going to be a success story."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: The Rays asked to open on the road, but how much sense did it make to send them first to frigid New York and then pair them with three other dome/warm-weather teams - Toronto, Texas and Minnesota? ... Among Friday's missteps, the Rays coaches were skipped during pregame introductions. ... The Rays are among four teams reported to be interested in disgruntled and demoted Brewers reliever Jose Capellan. ... The 1180 on Rocco Baldelli's batting gloves is a nod to the phone number of the family business in Rhode Island, ABAL Check Cashing, at (401) 765-1180. ... The Rays have taken their nutritionist's advice to the air, cutting out ice cream and candy on team flights. ... The NHK network crew following Akinori Iwamura heads back to Japan with 8,200 minutes of tape - to produce a one-hour special April 14. ... The "expensive scoreboard" Sternberg referred to cost about $5-million. ... Tropicana Field capacity was 38,437 for Friday's opener but may be further reduced next week as the blue tarps are extended over a few more usually empty upper-deck rows. ... Giddiest person in the ballpark Friday might have been Gov. Charlie Crist. ... Baseball Prospectus' Will Carroll picks Carl Crawford to win the AL MVP award and the Rays to finish third in the division. ... After 200 computer simulations of the season, Diamond Mind software has the Rays finishing fifth at 70-92.