Sternberg puts karma aside

Sternberg puts karma aside

ST. PETERSBURG -- It is only fitting that Rays owner Stu Sternberg picked Saturday night to resurface at Tropicana Field for the first time in more than two months.

Dubbed "Turn Back the Clock" Night at the Rays home stadium, the band Kool & the Gang were on hand for a postgame concert, peforming hits like "Cherish" and "Celebrate."

The Rays honored the St. Petersburg Pelicans, the only team to win a championship during the short-lived era of the Senior Professional Baseball Association. Members of that team -- including Rays hitting coach Steve Henderson-- were recognized prior to the game.

The current Rays team wore the replica home pinstripe uniform that the Pelicans wore during the 1989 and 1990 seasons. All of the game-used jerseys will be autographed and auctioned off online to benefit the Rays Baseball Foundation and the Moffitt Cancer Center.

Sternberg is certainly celebrating the good times; although away from the Rays' home turf.

The club's owner -- who last was present at a Rays game in Baltimore on May 1 -- says he has been avoiding watching his team live because of a belief in karma.

"Yes, specifically [avoiding]," he said. "I mean, I speak to the guys that I talk to all the time. And there was a point about four or five weeks ago where I just went radio silent with [Rays manager Joe Maddon]. I put off a couple of visits ... there are certain things I am superstitious about."

With a series-opening loss to Houston on Friday night, Sternberg clearly felt the air was cleared.

Wearing an ear-to-ear grin, Sternberg discussed his Rays team and the seemingly 180-degree turn the franchise has taken. Entering Saturday, the Rays boast the fourth-best record in the Majors, and are going for a 10th consecutive home series win.

So, did Sternberg and the rest of the Rays' brain trust see this coming?

"Those who know me know I really appreciate when a plan comes together," he said.

But even Sternberg -- who assumed control of the organization Oct. 6, 2005 -- admitted that everything has "gelled nicely" this year.

"I think we clearly put ourselves in a position to succeed," he said. "There are a lot of mitigating factors that go into it. We've gone through suspensions and injuries, but overall guys have done a great, great job. Can't ask for more. And, you know, the timing you can never predict."

As the season inches toward July and trade talks heat up, Sternberg said the Rays will continue to do whatever it takes to build an even better team.

"Oh absolutely. We will do whatever we think is reasonable, right, and as much as we possibly can," he said.

Sternberg also noted that the Rays will stick to a plan of "long term greedy," a motto from one of his old businesses.

"What that means is we won't completely mortgage the future," Sternberg said. "But by the same token, you don't necessarily get a lot of opportunities to take a real big cut at a fat pitch so to speak.

"If it's there to be done and we feel it's right -- but certainly when we bring something in it replaces an existing person, and the existing people are doing a pretty good job."

Sternberg had equal praise for the existing stadium. Although the Rays are in the process of trying to obtain a new 34,000-seat, retractable-roof, open-air ballpark on the St. Petersburg waterfront, Sternberg was pleased with the upgrades within Tropicana Field.

Particularly with the guys on the field.

"We are really happy with the building, the way the building is playing right now," he said. "You get 25, 30, 35 thousand people in here, it's a nice place, a great facility. But long-term it just doesn't give us the opportunity to sustain what it is we've begun to build here."

Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.