Rays president Silverman discusses tenure with club
Tampa Bay looks to continue to improve and ultimately earn first World Series title
In honor of Presidents Day, MLB.com is catching up with a high-ranking official from each club.
MLB: You've wanted to grow the fanbase since taking over as team president prior to the 2006 season. How has that grown and how do you see the future of that base?
Rays president Matthew Silverman: We've seen large, consistent growth in our fanbase throughout Tampa Bay and all across Central Florida. Everywhere I go, I see Rays fans proudly wearing Rays gear. There's a strong bond between our region and the team, and we will continue to nurture that bond and grow our legions of fans. It is absolutely critical to us in the near-term, and it's even more important as we look ahead to future generations of Rays fans.
MS: I'm very proud of our creativity, innovation and willingness to try new things. It's that spirit that gave rise to the Zim Bear and the Joe Gnome, and that same pioneering spirit is driving our efforts with the Flex Packs. We're pushing into new frontiers with ticketing products and technology. The goal is to continue making it convenient and affordable for our fans to enjoy Rays baseball at Tropicana Field.
MLB: When Stuart Sternberg's group took control of the team prior to the 2006 season, he inserted you as team president and promoted Andrew Friedman to general manager. Shortly thereafter, Joe Maddon became the manager. None of you really had any experience in your current positions, yet all of you have excelled. Does any part of you marvel at how things have turned out? And was there a time when you thought, "What have I gotten myself into?
MS: We've certainly been on a wonderful ride, and I could not have anticipated the long run of success. It's rare for any team, especially for a low-revenue club.
Back in 2006 and 2007, we had our share of growing pains, and I remember the media questioning everything we were doing including whether Joe Maddon was the right guy for the job.
We had the belief in 2007 that the needle was turning, and sure enough it did in 2008 and we haven't looked back. But that doesn't mean we have forgotten the Devil Ray years. In fact, it's a big part of our motivation. We remember what it was like, and we pour everything we can into the organization to keep achieving and progressing.
MLB.com: Nationally, everybody looks at the attendance figures and wonders what's next for the team. Is the situation that dire? And if so, what do you see as a possible solution? Does the team's popularity on TV help soften the blow?
MS: It's no secret we're at the bottom of baseball in attendance. It's not tenable for us to remain there on a continuing basis. The troubling part is that this is happening when we have had six years of continuous success on the field. Growing attendance has been a focus of ours and we will continue to do all that we can to draw more fans to the ballpark. It's vital to our future, and that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.
MLB.com: As the team enters the 2014 season, what do you see as positives about the team, the area, and the future?
MS: We're expecting another thrilling season. The AL East is going to be a dog fight and I expect we'll be in the thick of things again. That's all we can ask for as we open camp in Port Charlotte. We're returning most of last year's playoff team. We've made some big additions and we're looking at the highest payroll in franchise history. I'm excited to see the team take the field and for our community to further rally around the club. It's a big year for the Rays organization.
MLB.com: What would winning a World Series do for this franchise?
MS: It would be a dream come true.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.