The scoreboard above him was blank. The standings, too. Soon, both would change.
The new season was three hours in front of Stu Sternberg, the principal owner of the Tampa Bay Rays. Sternberg stood beside the first base dugout, looking at the new grass of his old facility in the moments before his team played the New York Yankees. He talked about the Opening Days of his youth, about the Rays, about the season to come. Yes, he talked about the search for a new facility.
Stu, off the top of his head.
On the search for a stadium site: “We’re progressing. We have not taken any steps backward. We haven’t gone in reverse. The process, I think everyone would like to move along quicker, but it’s moving along steadily. The slope is up. I’m very optimistic we’re going to come up with a solution. It’s something that’ll be a generational type facility.”
On whether his focus is still on Tampa Bay: “My only focus and will remain my focus through this process and any process going forward.”
On the prospects of the new season: “I really don’t know. I’m probably a bit less optimistic on the final record than most. I do feel confident if the bullpen performs average, somewhat admirably, we will be in the hunt well into September. That’s the margin of error. Our defense, especially in the outfield, will be unprecedented. The new catchers will be helpful. We’ll ride on the arms and shoulders of the bullpen.”
On the pace of the game: “I’d like baseball to widen the strike zone and cut downs on the walks and strikeouts. I’d like fewer home runs. I wouldn’t like the batter to leave the box.”
On the new turf: “I love it. It’s a million-dollar investment. By the end, the new turf was nothing short of a disaster. The pitchers tell me they like running on it in the outfield better.”
On Kevin Kiermaier: “A team that will remain nameless asked for him in a trade back in 2012. We said ‘we’re not trading him and don’t think about it. I really put a bias on people who blossom. When someone’s slop is looking like his does … I ‘m a big fan.”