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Rays' front office proud of club

Rays' front office proud of club

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Shortly after the Rays' new ownership group headed by Stuart Sternberg took control of the team in the fall of 2005, Sternberg announced that Matt Silverman and Andrew Friedman would take over as team president and executive vice president of baseball operations (or general manager), respectively.

Given the fact that both were under the age of 30 and neither had solid baseball experience, the move looked radical. Now that both have played instrumental roles in the Rays reaching unbelievable heights, it seemed appropriate that each stood in the clubhouse soaked with champagne following Saturday's clinching win by Tampa Bay.

"There aren't many words," Silverman said. "The accomplishment is hard to describe. Not many people expected us to achieve this, much less this season. And we're going to enjoy it and we're going to keep it going. Because there's so much more that we can accomplish. We're not satisfied. But this is special. Incredibly special for the entire organization, and you could just feel it all week long, building."

Silverman is an astute businessman who knows all about bottom lines, quantifying problems and such, but what the Rays have done this season has defied logic in his mind.

"This is emotion," Silverman said. "This is pure emotion. A team and an organization that has been challenged and questioned, and we've answered all the questions. And now it's time to move on and see where else we can go. There's so much more to accomplish this year, but we are going to step back and really revel in this moment, because what we've done is something that is noteworthy."

Silverman said Saturday's scene could not be fathomed when he first came aboard with the organization then known as the Devil Rays.

"I couldn't have imagined any of this, to the feeling in the crowd, to everyone wearing the clothes, to the uniforms, and the new logo and just the feeling of accomplishment everyone in the region feels for this team," Silverman said. "It's something we never could have predicted or expected. We're here, we're going to enjoy it and then we're going to keep on accomplishing."

Friedman, who pulled the trigger on many of the team's important offseason moves -- such as acquiring shortstop Jason Bartlett and right-hander Matt Garza in a trade with the Twins -- and has continued to be opportunistic in improving the team, called Saturday "an incredible moment for the organization."

"There's no question about it," Friedman said. "We're going to take tonight and really enjoy this, and everybody in this room really deserves this. Tomorrow we're going to re-shift our focus to doing what we have in front of us. It's a tall order. Our focus is on winning the American League East and going from there. But we're going to take tonight and really enjoy it. Everyone really deserves this."

Friedman deferred any credit to the players.

"The real credit belongs in this room, to these 25 guys, I guess now 35, who have really stepped up in big moments and displayed the talent and character for why they were in there in the first place," Friedman said.

Friedman again stressed the importance of the Rays winning their division.

"It's extremely important," Friedman said. "Tomorrow we're going back to business in trying to win the American League East title, our Division Series, our [AL] Championship Series and ultimately the World Series.

"I think in some ways it's going to allow these guys to play a little looser tomorrow. When you start Spring Training, this is your goal. You want to be one of eight teams to play in the postseason. Now that we've accomplished that, it's about winning the division title. Once that's settled, you start the playoffs and it's something that I think everyone in here remains extremely focused on what's at hand, but we just want to enjoy it tonight."

Sternberg was not in attendance Saturday, but Friedman said Silverman and he had talked to the Rays principal owner prior to the game.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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