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03/31/08 4:15 PM ET

Sternberg makes Opening Day trek

Rays owner cheers on team in Baltimore, discusses direction

BALTIMORE -- Stuart Sternberg, the Rays' principal owner, took a train from New York to be with the team for Opening Day and he told reporters he likes the direction in which the team is headed.

"How can I not be happy with where we are right now? That's really it," Sternberg said. "... I think B.J. [Upton] said it best, 'Just go out and keep winning.' Stay healthy. I really feel confident that if these guys stay healthy we should have a pretty successful year."

Asked for elaboration on what he considered a good year, Sternberg replied, "Just moving forward in a good way. Don't look at a number or anything. Just want to have each of the guys have what they would consider successful seasons. And cumulatively now, if they do, we'll have a lot to show for it."

The Rays have undergone a major facelift during the offseason, including a name change to Rays, new uniforms, an increase in payroll, and talk of a new stadium. But Sternberg said he doesn't "have a great feel" about whether the changes will translate to a swelling of the team's attendance.

"I know the interest level is up, the Web hits are up dramatically," Sternberg said. "I think it's going to be difficult, because when you look at it and you want to measure something you want to remove as many variables as you can, so you have apples to apples. And certainly, the economy, and what's going on in the economy, specifically in the Tampa bay region, it's going to be difficult to do that apples to apples comparison."

Improvements aside, the Rays still play in the American League East, where the payrolls are high and the talent level is great.

"[It's] always going to be an issue in the American League East," Sternberg said of being competitive. "I think it's about the players. We try to focus on that, and not the dollars spent. But about the quality of the players we have on the field, and as we said last August, most teams really didn't look forward to playing us at the end of last year. And I think they're looking forward to it even less this year. And it's clear, regardless of how our record goes the first week to month, that we're no laughing stock anymore."

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