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Braves wouldn’t be enough consolation if Rays leave

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A lot of us grew up as fans of the Atlanta Braves. A lot of us saw our first major league baseball games there.

We can still recite the old lineups. Orlando Cepeda and Felix Millan and Sonny Jackson and Clete Boyer. Rico Carty and Felipe Alou and Hank Aaron and Bob Didier. Phil Neikro and Pat Jarvis and Ron Reed and George Stone. It was the only team in the South, and as such, it was the team that took a lot of us through Little League.

But could the Braves replace the Rays?

No, not a chance.

It was an interesting curve ball when the St. Petersburg City Council talked about its plans to bring the Braves to Toytown for spring training.

Now, if the Council wants to add the Braves to the glut of major league teams that spend practice time in the area, well, bull. Already, we have the Phillies and Blue Jays, and the Yankees aren’t far away. The Pirates are just to the South. Yeah, you can see exhibition games in any team colors you want.

But, hey, one more makes for a party, right? So it isn’t the possibility of the Braves that should bother anyone.

It’s whether they are a consolation prize in case the Council decides to let go of the Rays.

Could that happen? So far, the Council has been slow to allow the Rays to look elsewhere, instead shielding itself with its lease. Is it possible that, if the Rays do leave the county, the Council would want to be able to point to the Braves and say “What do you mean we don’t have baseball? We’ve got the Braves.”

The problem is, of course, that spring training is salad with the steak. It’s 15 preseason games, many of them by players who have no chance to make the big-league team. Grapefruit is nice, but it isn’t the regular season.

Is there enough interest for both Rays and Braves? Is there enough money? Are there enough sites?

Or are there two teams on one base?

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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