Back in November of 2007, it was reported that the Rays first alternate jersey would debut in 2009 and that it would say “Tampa Bay” across the front. The Rays did introduce a navy blue alternate in 2009, but like the two regular jerseys, it included the standard “Rays” logo, albeit with a larger sunburst. A year later, the Rays are set to introduce a second alternate jersey, this one powder blue. And again, like its three predecessors, this one will not read “Tampa Bay” across the front.
Now it looks like we will never see a “Tampa Bay” jersey. At least as long as Stuart Sternberg owns the team.
The Rays are run by business people, not baseball people. The Rays are more interested in creating a recognizable “brand” and less worried about civic pride. In business 101, they teach you not to include city or regional references in a business name (e.g. Tampa Auto Parts). That type of name is too limiting. Tampa Auto Parts would never sell in St Pete or Orlando or Miami or New York. So even if the business is great, it will have trouble expanding beyond the self-imposed geographical borders.
The last thing in the world the Rays want, is to limit their potential fan base. Aligning themselves more closely to the Tampa Bay area will distance themselves from fans outside the area. And there are a lot of non-denominational baseball fans outside of the Bay Area that could potentially buy jerseys, either as casual fans of an exciting young team, or as a fashion piece. Either way, they are more likely to buy a jersey that says “Rays” than one that says “Tampa Bay.”
In fact, we predict that the Rays will introduce a powder blue alternate cap next year with sunburst instead of TB, removing the only remaining link to the area. It only makes sense for a team that has enlarged the sunburst on both alternate jerseys, features a sunburst emblazoned in the outfield at The Trop and run a side-business called “Sunburst Entertainment Group.”
In the end, the Rays are taking advantage of the fact that local support for the team is based more on the product on the field and less on what it says across the front of the jersey. So while you may want a “Tampa Bay” jersey, your fandom is not dependent on it.