In Matt Silverman's seven years as president of the Tampa Bay Rays, the franchise has developed a blueprint for success for small market teams, and the results are the envy of nearly every other professional sports team.
MLB.com's Richard Justice wrote: "If maximizing assets and minimizing liabilities are the marks of a good franchise, the Rays are one of baseball's best. If you don't grasp how remarkable it is that the Rays won an AL pennant with a $43 million payroll in 2008, or came back to beat the Red Sox and Yankees again in the AL East in 2010, or jettisoned the seven highest-paid players on their roster and still remain in contention in 2011 [ultimately capturing the American League Wild Card], then you're following the wrong sport."
Bloomberg Business Week recently listed the Rays as the smartest spender among all 122 MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA teams. In each of the last six years, ESPN has ranked the Rays in the top three in affordability among all of the major sports team including a number one ranking in 2012.
On the field, only the Phillies, Cardinals, Rangers and Yankees have been to the Postseason as often as the Rays over the past five years .
At 36, Silverman's list of accomplishments belies his age. At the top of the list is the revitalization of the Rays. Under Silverman, the Rays have combined a winning, exciting product on the field with a creative promotional strategy. As a result, according to Scarborough Research, the Rays are now for the first time the most popular team in the Tampa Bay area based on a formula that takes into account television and radio ratings as well as attendance.
Often using a unique approach, the Rays placed an emphasis on customer service to keep Tropicana Field fan-friendly and fun. Major capital improvements to the ballpark and a refreshed commitment to improving staff preparation and training has greatly enhanced the Rays gameday experience. The team's rebranding efforts prior to the 2008 season included a new team name, colors and uniforms and produced the Major Leagues' largest increase in retail sales.
The team's charitable work through the Rays Baseball Foundation has invested more than $2.5 million into the Tampa Bay region over the past five years and brought the team and the community even closer together. The Rays have rebuilt fields and playgrounds and promoted volunteerism by creating the Employee Community Outreach Team (ECOT) which to date has seen Rays employees execute over 45 service projects in the area while logging over 6,000 hours.
The organization's objective to expand its reach and become a regional standard bearer is being realized. In 2010, the Rays local television ratings rose to fifth highest in all of baseball and over the past four seasons, the ratings are the highest in club history. To help foster this regional presence, the Rays moved their spring training home to Charlotte Sports Park in 2009 and built a new facility that has drawn glowing reviews and given the Rays a year-round presence in the southern part of its region along Florida's Gulf Coast. In their first three seasons in Charlotte County, the Rays have played before 90 percent capacity.
Silverman also serves as the president of the Sunburst Entertainment Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Rays, which serves as a vehicle to attract events to Tropicana Field. Sunburst provides consulting services to industry partners and enables the Rays organization to make investments in other sports and entertainment-related business opportunities.
Prior to joining the Rays, Silverman worked closely with Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg at Goldman Sachs and orchestrated Sternberg's purchase of controlling interest in the franchise. The partnership and friendship that first developed on Wall Street has now found its way to Tampa Bay and directed the Rays triumphant last-place-to-World Series season in 2008.
In 2010 Silverman received the George M. Steinbrenner III Citizen of the Year award from the Sports Club of Tampa Bay. Street and Smith's Business Journal has twice named Silverman to its "Forty Under 40" list honoring accomplished and promising sports executives under age 40.
A lifelong baseball fan, Silverman also enjoys running and writing. The Dallas native holds a bachelor of economics degree from Harvard University. He is a member of the board of the Rays Baseball Foundation and the Hillsborough Education Foundation. He is board chairman of "Starting Right, Now" which aids homeless families and adolescents. He also serves a member of the executive committee of the Tampa Bay Partnership and is a member of the Florida Council of 100.