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Stuart Sternberg
Rays owner leads team to top

By Mychael Urban / MLB.com

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg was born in New York in 1959, two years after the Giants and Dodgers ditched Gotham for the West Coast and left the Yankees as the only team in town.

Forty-nine years later, Sternberg takes a small measure of satisfaction in knowing that the Rays, for whom he serves as the face of the majority ownership group, passed the Yankees on the way to the World Series.

"Oh, yeah, oh yeah," Sternberg told the Associated Press. "I think for any owner, just to be in this position in the American League East is something. And to have beaten out the Yankees, and to beat them out and be a New Yorker."

Sternberg is a New Yorker through and through. He was born and raised in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn and currently lives in the suburb of Rye, N.Y., not far from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

While discussing his team's meteoric rise to the top of what many considered to be the toughest division in baseball, Sternberg recalled that during the darkest days of the Devil Rays -- the "Devil" was dropped after the club finished with the worst record in the Majors last season -- his players were treated like kid brothers when they visited The House that Ruth Built.

"Everybody sort of gives you a pat on the back -- 'Yeah, one day you'll win a few games, maybe one day," he said. "But this year was a little bit different."

It was more than a little different. In 2007, the Rays went 66-96 to finish 30 games behind the division-champion Red Sox and 28 back of the Bronx Bombers. In 2008, the Rays went 97-65, edged the Red Sox by two games to win the AL East and finished eight games ahead of the Yankees.

"You have to give the ownership a lot of credit," Rays manager Joe Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times. "It's true that everything starts at the top."

Age: 49

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Purchased Rays: 2004

2008 Record:
97-65

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New York got a new National League team when Sternberg was 3 years old, and that team had an excited new fan three years later. Sternberg attended his first Mets game at Shea Stadium in 1965, and it remains one of his fondest baseball memories in part because Sandy Koufax was on the mound for the Dodgers.

So into the Mets was Sternberg -- who made his living in the financial services industry and retired as a partner with Goldman Sachs in 2002 -- that he considered buying into the team in 2002.

"I called a couple of bankers to please check into it, and I was told the ship had sort of sailed," Sternberg recalled. "They said, 'But gee, if you're interested in sports teams, we can show you a few on the baseball side. You can actually meet with the CFO and owner of the Devil Rays to really get a firsthand account of what's going on."

Initially, Sternberg wasn't wild about the idea.

"I was like, 'Oh, the Devil Rays? They're in Tampa. They're pretty bad,'" he said. "And they said, 'Yeah, but look, you'll speak to them and maybe you'll see something.' So I did. I sat down with them, and I saw immediately that it could have been a real good opportunity."

It was, but every opportunity requires expert execution to realize its full potential, and Sternberg's group steadily reversed the losing culture of the club.

Now the Rays are loaded with gifted young players, drawing the largest crowds in their history and working on plans for a $450 million waterfront ballpark in St. Pete.

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