|Stuart L. Sternberg
When you speak with Stuart Sternberg about baseball, it doesn't take long to learn that his relationship with the game well precedes his time as principal owner of the Tampa Bay Rays.
From playing baseball, to watching his first game with his father at Shea Stadium, to coaching his sons' Little League team, Sternberg's passion for baseball runs deep. It's that passion that allowed him to see beyond the then Devil Rays long string of last-place finishes when he assumed control of the organization on October 6, 2005, and see that more was possible.
Like a historic, last-place-to-first-place 2008 championship season and 181 wins the past two seasons.
Under Sternberg's direction, the Rays put in place a business plan that turned the organization around in three years. On the field, the team significantly increased its major league payroll and focused on expanding and solidifying its player development operations. By reworking its roster and building training facilities in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Brazil (the first major league team to do so), the team's minor league system and major league clubhouse has since been filled with dynamic, young players.
The changes off the field have been equally as dramatic. From investing nearly $20 million in improvements to Tropicana Field, to being the first major league team to ever offer free parking (still in place today for fans who carpool), to being selected by ESPN as having the most affordable fan experience in all of professional sports in 2009, Sternberg's fan-friendly approach has been winning over fans.
So has his involvement in the Tampa Bay community. Soon after Sternberg took over, the team established the Rays Baseball Foundation, focusing primarily on youth and education programs in the Tampa Bay region. Sternberg and his fellow team owners pledged an initial $1 million to start the Foundation and the team now encourages players who sign long-term contracts to also support the Foundation. Through grants and other contributions, the Rays Baseball Foundation has invested over $1.2 million in the Tampa Bay region over the past two years.
But the most visible change brought by Sternberg has been 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.
From the first moment, Sternberg has worked to make the Rays a regional franchise reaching across all of Central and Southwest Florida. In both 2007 and 2008, the team played regular season games at the Disney Sports Complex in Orlando. In 2009, the team moved its spring training operation to a new, state-of-the-art training facility in Charlotte County where the Rays set the franchise spring training attendance record and sold out eight of 16 home games.
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 four children live in Rye, N.Y.