|Stuart L. Sternberg
Since becoming Principal Owner of the Tampa Bay Rays in the fall of 2005, Stuart Sternberg has named one club president, one executive vice president of baseball operations and one field manager. That quartet—Sternberg, Matt Silverman, Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon—are now the longest running senior management team among the major franchises in Tampa Bay sports history.
It has been consistent leadership, an unyielding commitment to the region and its fans and a creative approach to both the organization's business and baseball operations that prompts Commissioner Bud Selig to refer to the Rays as a "model organization."
Many others agree. "The Rays," wrote ESPN's Buster Olney in November 2013, "are generally viewed within the industry as having the best-run baseball operations department and the most symbiotic organization."
Last season, the Rays posted their fifth 90-win season in the last six years. In 2013, the Rays advanced to the postseason for the fourth time in the past six years and recorded their sixth consecutive winning season, the first such streak among Tampa Bay's major professional sports franchises.
As the architect of that success, Sternberg continues to make investments in the organization both on and off the field. In January 2013, the Rays awarded two of the three largest free agent contracts given by Sternberg's ownership group. The Rays re-signed first baseman James Loney to a three-year, $21 million contract and brought back closer Grant Balfour with a two-year, $12 million pact. It was just a year earlier that the Rays signed Evan Longoria to a $100 million contract extension that could keep the All-Star third baseman in a Rays uniform until 2023, the team's largest ever financial commitment to a player—a player who happens to be the first one drafted after Sternberg became Principal Owner in 2005.
This winter Sternberg green-lighted a new wave of improvements at Tropicana Field focused on enhancing the fan experience. The central features of the renovations are 360-degree pedestrian circulation around the lower seating bowl and a reimagined batter's eye gathering point. These renovations build on the more than $20 million the Rays have invested in Tropicana Field under Sternberg.
ESPN has long recognized his fan-friendly approach and attention to customer service. It ranked the Rays in the top six in affordability in each of the past seven years among the 122 MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL professional franchises. In both 2009 and 2012, the Rays took top ranking in affordability. In their most recent measurement, Bloomberg Businessweek named the Rays the "smartest spenders" among the 122 franchises in 2012.
It was under Sternberg's direction that the Rays became the first major league team ever to offer free parking (still in place today for fans who carpool on Sundays) and the only major professional sports team in Florida to allow fans to bring food into the ballpark.
Sternberg's commitment to community service is evident in the team's philanthropic investments in Tampa Bay. Soon after he became Principal Owner, the team established the Rays Baseball Foundation. Focusing primarily on youth and education programs in the region, the Foundation continues to expand its reach and impact. Sternberg and his fellow team owners pledged an initial $1 million to the Foundation, and the club also encourages players who sign long-term contracts to support the Foundation. All employees are urged to spend one day a month volunteering in the community.
Through grants and other contributions, the Rays Baseball Foundation has invested over $3 million in the Tampa Bay region over the past six years. In May 2012, the Foundation and the Helios Education Foundation partnered to provide $1 million in college scholarships over five years for students participating in Take Stock in Children in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee and Pasco counties. Sternberg and his family annually sponsor a playground build in partnership with KaBoom! where he, his family and Rays staff construct the playground. Sternberg also serves on the board of advisors of H. Lee Moffitt Cancer and Research Institute.
Under Sternberg, the Rays have built training facilities in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Brazil (the first major league team to do so). In 2009, the team moved its spring training operation to a new, state-of-the-art training facility in Charlotte County where an enthusiastic community has filled the park to 84 percent capacity, selling out 20 home games in the first five seasons.
Not only has the training site become a point of pride for staff and players alike, it also has served as a centerpiece for one of Sternberg's first directives: to make the Rays a regional franchise reaching across all of Central and Southwest Florida. To this end, the team also played regular season games in Orlando in 2007 and 2008. TV ratings over the past four seasons are among the top one-third in the major leagues.
In the fall of 2007, Sternberg initiated a complete organizational rebranding, including a new name, colors, uniforms and icon, a bright yellow sunburst invoking the magnificence of life in the Sunshine State. At that same time, the team, in conjunction with the City of St. Petersburg, proposed a waterfront ballpark in downtown St. Pete.
From playing baseball to watching his first game with his father, Sam, at Shea Stadium, to coaching his sons' Little League teams, Sternberg's passion for baseball runs deep.
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 the Goldman Sachs Group (from which he retired in 2002). Sternberg, his wife and their four children live in Rye, N.Y.