The 2020 season is the Rays 15th under the leadership of Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg, who assumed control of the franchise in October 2005. His arrival marked the beginning of one of baseball’s best turnaround stories.
Today, the massive rebranding of the club entering the 2008 season marks a watershed for two distinct eras of Rays baseball. In the club’s first decade of existence, the Devil Rays amassed the majors’ worst record at 645-972 (.399) and finished in last place in nine of those 10 seasons. In the 12 years since, the Rays own the 5th-best record in baseball at 1,041-904 (.535), and have made five trips to the postseason. In nine of those 12 seasons, the Rays were in postseason contention until at least the final week of the season.
The Rays went 96-66 in 2019, and their seven 90-win seasons since 2008 are matched by only three other clubs: the Dodgers (eight), Red Sox (seven) and Yankees (seven). The 2019 campaign also marked the second time in his tenure that Baseball America named the Rays its MLB Organization of the Year (also 2008).
“What the Rays have done—build up a 96-win major league team in the AL East and develop a farm system deep with future major leaguers—is awfully enviable,” ESPN’s Jeff Passan wrote. “And what’s scary is that this is only the beginning.”
While the on-field successes have been the envy of small- and large-market teams alike, there is even more to the Rays progress. Sternberg takes great pride in the organization’s community service and commitment to its employees.
Under Sternberg’s leadership, an employee-first culture defines the organization. It is fostered through myriad initiatives, including a wellness program; a staff-led service group, the Employee Community Outreach Team (ECOT); and generous leave policies. As part of this commitment to community, all employees are urged to spend one paid day each month volunteering. To date, total volunteer hours for the organization exceed 38,500.
Over the past three years, Sternberg and his partners have invested more than $20 million of capital improvements to Tropicana Field—including new LED lights throughout the stadium; an overhauled food, beverage and retail space; the Left Field Ledge; and a reconfigured seating capacity with the closure of the upper deck. Fans can now enjoy a more intimate, entertaining and social ballpark experience that represents the very best of Tampa Bay. Since 2005, the Rays total investment in upgrading Tropicana Field is more than $50 million.
Under his direction, the Rays have implemented a wide variety of fan-friendly policies. The organization was the first major league team to convert its ballpark to a cash-free facility, reducing wait times by up to 50 percent at concession and retail locations. The Rays also became the first major league club to offer free parking (still in place today for fans who carpool on Sundays), were consistently rated by ESPN as one of the most affordable experiences in all of sports and remain the only major professional sports team in Florida to allow fans to bring food into the ballpark.
In June 2019, Sternberg and the Rays introduced an innovative plan for the team to build new home ballparks in both Tampa Bay and Montreal and divide its home games across both geographies.
Sternberg also serves as chairman of MLB’s Diversity Oversight Committee, serves on the board of directors of the MLB Business and Media Board and on the board of advisors of Moffitt Cancer Center.
Prior to his ownership of the Rays, Sternberg spent 25 years in the financial securities industry, serving as a partner in Spear, Leeds & Kellogg and then as a partner and managing director at Goldman Sachs, from which he retired in 2003. Sternberg and his wife, Lisa, have four children. He resides in St. Petersburg.