ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - His critics claim he's not doing enough to keep the Rays in-town for generations to come, but Mayor Bill Foster spent the week leading up to the season opener proving he's intent on supporting the team.
In addition to game-day block parties and events at local businesses, St. Petersburg's mayor gathered four of his fellow community leaders to shoot a public service announcement for the team.
Foster - along with Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, Pinellas Co. Commissioner Susan Latvala, and Hillsborough Co. Commissioner Ken Hagen - shot the 30-second spot last week at Tropicana Field, encourging fans to "support our Rays."
"It's not about a stadium or a location. It's about this team, this year," Foster said. "We have to demonstrate that this region can support Major League Baseball. "
He continued to say that the long-term future of the team won't be decided by a St. Pete/Tampa tug-of-war, but by the willingness of fans - from all over Tampa Bay - to attend games.
"We're trying to really get hands across the Bay so (the Rays) see the decision-makers cooperating," he said.
Foster maintained he was still "working behind the scenes" on long-term designs for the Rays, but one local newspaper cited team owner Stu Sternberg as saying he "was not involved in any behind-the-scenes efforts."
Previously, Foster told 10 Connects his door was open to the Rays whenever they were ready to talk. He also said he had read the ABC Coalition's final report cover-to-cover already and that's why he didn't need to meet with them.
Follow 10 Connects reporter Noah Pransky on Twitter at www.twitter.com/noahpransky, Facebook at www.facebook.com/noahpransky, or on his Sports vs. News blog, Shadow of the Stadium.
Noah Pransky, 10 Connects