Rays decide not to post Sister City sign
HOUSTON – Two days after the Rays revealed their intention to hang a sign at Tropicana Field during the postseason that would promote their Sister City plan to split future seasons with Montreal, principal owner Stuart Sternberg publicly apologized to Tampa Bay fans and announced the club will not go through with its plan to hang the sign on the ballpark’s back wall.
“I'm really here to speak directly to our fans today and to apologize, quite frankly. I've always said that baseball is meant to be fun and engaging and exciting. Brings a community together,” Sternberg said during an appearance on the Rays’ radio pregame show. “I made a big mistake, a real mistake in trying to promote our Sister City plan with a sign right now in our home ballpark. I absolutely should have known better, and really, I'm sorry for that.
“I'm here to tell you and tell the fans that the sign is not going to go up.”
The idea behind the sign was to draw attention to the Rays’ split-season plan, which would involve playing half their home games in Tampa Bay and half in Montreal. Rays president Matt Silverman said Saturday that the club intends to be “more visible and more vocal” about it this offseason, and backing away from the sign presumably won’t change that.
But making the Rays’ future a focal point during the playoffs, Sternberg acknowledged, would only serve to take attention away from the remarkable season Tampa Bay is having on the field.
“Look, I love this team, and I love baseball,” Sternberg said. “And I'd like to think anybody who follows the team knows since we've been at this, the future of the Rays organization and keeping this team in Tampa Bay for generations to come is something that constantly weighs on me. And it has for years. With the Sister City plan, I know we found a way to do that exactly. I'm excited about it. I'm enthusiastic about it. And our fans deserve to know how serious the situation really is.
“I knew that a sign would bring us attention. And we do want the attention. I just didn't completely process that now isn't the moment for it. The postseason is a special time. October baseball is a special time for a team and its fans, and nothing should take the attention away from the games. It's a time for the whole community to come together and rally as one.
“By suggesting we have a sign that I knew could be controversial, I put much of that at risk. Plain and simple, it was a bad decision, and that's why we aren't going to go through with it. We're not going to put the sign up.”
Sternberg also acknowledged the volume and intensity of the outcry against unveiling the sign at this time of year. He noted that this year’s Rays club “feels like” the best team in franchise history, and he didn’t want the sign to distract from that when they return to Tropicana Field for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Oct. 7.
“I know we have passionate fans who love this team, and I'm forever grateful for that. And that passion shows itself in many ways. The last thing I want to do is discourage any of that passion,” Sternberg said. “The mistake I made here is directing that passion away from the field. Our fans deserve to be focused on Wander Franco, Randy Arozarena, Brandon Lowe. This has been an absolutely wonderful season, and it's not over yet, obviously.
“There'll be time to discuss and debate the future of Rays baseball, but right now is the time to enjoy Rays baseball.”