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.

Why? Simple.

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.

 
 

18 Comments

  1. Ian P. says:

    Tell that to:
    California Pizza Kitchen
    L.A. Fitness
    Palm Beach Tan
    Jersey Mike’s Subs
    Big Apple Bagels
    Boston Market

    • Every rule has exceptions. Sometimes businesses can overcome a deficiency just like sometimes a starting RH pitcher can make it to the big leagues without a 90mph fastball. But how many teams are going to gamble on that guy?

      • Beth says:

        Ian P and Rome — I was thinking just the same thing. Place names are great for branding if they already have positive associations. Problem here is: 1. there’s actual not a place called Tampa Bay (well, there is but it’s a body of water — no one is “from” there), and 2. none of the actual municipalities that are part of this region really bring anything particularly appealing to mind. So association with a place makes a lot of sense if that place is Chicago or Seattle, but less sense if that place is St. Petersburg or Tampa.

        • Beat me to it. Sometimes certain products have positive associations with certain cities/states/regions (coffee and Seattle, pizza/bagels and new York, etc.) so it is good to include it in the name. In this case, I would not say that “Tampa Bay” has a positive association with baseball.

    • Rome says:

      New York Life, Boston’s Bar and Grill, Gatoraid shure never worked or did it? Miami Subs, Texas Pete, Seattles Best Coffee… Corks, good points though…

  2. Jim says:

    I really don’t care all that much about the Tampa Bay vs. Rays on the jerseys, but if they change the “TB” on the hat to something like a sunburst, I don’t know if I could buy a new Rays hat.

    • If they introduce a sunburst cap next year, I suspect it will only be worn during Sunday home games along with the powder blue jersey.

    • Michael says:

      I think a hat with the sunburst logo instead of the TB would be pretty sharp. Actually, I’ve been wishing since they came out with the new logo that they’d sell a decent sized sunburst-only sticker I could put on the back of my car (which is dark blue). I don’t know why they don’t offer those. Knowing my luck they’ll give them away as promo items this year but it will be a kids-only giveaway.

  3. Scot (who can't find enough time to respond) says:

    Personally, I find it fascinating that the Rays are becoming a team which operates in a virtual world. As a SoCal resident who follows them via MLB.com and other sources, their location is irrelevant. I have not purchased a cap because I don’t care for the TB, but would purchase a sunburst cap (and maybe the Rays+sunburst jersey.) Given their weaker than average attendance, I wonder if a majority of the Rays fans are also non-Fla residents. While NYY and BOS are the most popular teams (last time I read, 50% of all MLB fans name NYY and BOS as their team) I suspect there is still a “residence” connection with these teams, e.g., I grew up in New England and Fenway Park / Yankee stadium are historical landmarks. The Braves became America’s team via TV, could the Rays become the network connected, intellectual elite – Obama nation – team? :)

    • sweez says:

      I’m also a SoCal resident who loves the Rays. I’ve got a ton of Rays gear, and love lookin great in it. I don’t care much for the TB. In the same way it seems Tampa Bay doesn’t care much for the Rays. They are seriously one of the most exciting teams ever assembled and it’s absurd you get 18,000 a night in TB. The Rays represent much more than a city or region. They represent hope, justice and anti-big money/high society. The Rays are the shiz.

  4. Political_Man says:

    You’ve got 4 different uniforms, having 1 alternate jersey with “Tampa Bay” on it worn a couple of times a month wouldn’t break break their “recognizable brand.”

    I think it’s more likely that because the city of St. Petersburg is so touchy about the team being named “Tampa Bay,” with the stadium deal being in flux and seeing as how the Marlins have been forced to change their name from “Florida” to “Miami” for their stadium deal, Stu and the boys don’t want to antagonize the city with the “Tampa” Bay name.

    I’ll bet if they had a stadium deal in place and could do what they wanted to do, they would have “Tampa Bay” emblazoned on the road Unis.

    • Beth says:

      Political_man, I don’t agree. You seem to be assuming that Sternberg et al are dying to associate with the Tampa Bay name but are held back by St. Pete. I think their effort to play games in Orlando and move spring training to Port Charlotte show that they home to develop a larger regional market. Given the demographics of the Tampa Bay MSA, they are wise to do so.

      I like having real place name association, but if their strategy makes it more likely we’ll still have a viable team in five years, I support it. And besides, am I the only one who associates the letters “TB” with a disease?

  5. TheRevTy says:

    This reminds me of the Golden State Warriors. They’d probably rather associate themselves with San Francisco, the cleaner and more reputable city, but actually play in Oakland. Obviously they are not the only NBA team in California, so their name is a bit of a farce, but that is the way they handle it. The Rays try and get around it by naming themselves after the body of water that connects the 2 cities, and sadly, it is probably the best option, as not much else makes sense. Florida Rays, now that the Marlins are Miami? Too much rebranding. Central Florida Rays? Sounds goofy. Gulf Rays?

  6. stunna says:

    If ONE of their FOUR uniforms said “Tampa Bay” I would buy one. I don’t think they are going to lose any fans by wearing a Tampa Bay jersey a dozen times a season, nor will they break their “recognizable brand,” just like Political Man pointed out. Why not switch it up a bit and add a little variety? And I don’t mean just changing the uniform color. It’s not like having a jersey with your team’s location on it is crazy or unconventional.

    I prefer the “TB” and fish logos over the “Rays” and sunburst logos. That’s just me. I guess I’m still in denial about the team’s nickname referring to a sunray instead of a stingray, but I still don’t care for the sunburst logo. And for whatever reason I’ve always preferred the Tampa Bay logos over the Devil Rays and Rays logos. Not that it matters, but for the record, I live in Ohio.

  7. Bobby Fenton says:

    There is a flip-side to this, and it’s the people who live in the Tampa Bay area and actrually identify with their place of residence. You know, the people who compose like 80% of the fanbase.

    So while they’re trying to sell more jerseys in Orlando or Port Charlotte or god knows wherever else where like 25 people who watch the team reside, people like me will feel less of a connection to the team.

    Penny-wise and pound foolish.

    Oh, and the entire uniform set or “brand”, as they say, is one of the most bland and boring in professional sports. Nice going, guys.

  8. Joe says:

    This has been a king issue for me. I am no longer in the Bay area, and I am flat out disgusted and pissed that the ownership group has WHIFFED and has tried to distort or even wind the clock down on this issue. They are flat out wrong.

    In times like this, the road uniform mark is an identifier of not just who you are or what you are, but acts as a bond of who you play for. When I see the Rays at Camden Yards, Fenway, or Yankee Stadium, I get a tremendous sense of pride seeing the words “Tampa Bay” on their jersey. Having “Rays” simply adds a layer of mundanity and neutrailty to what I think is actually a bland uniform mark.

    What I don’t get is that there is some serious flak about this, not just from me but from others. Marc Topkin seems ignorant of it, and I insist I am not alone. Bobby has championed this as well as dozens of others… The Rays organization has to come out on front and make a press release and say they will bring back Tampa Bay to the team’s road uniform marking

  9. Joe says:

    26 of the 30 teams in MLB have their geographic identifier on their road uniforms…The Cardinals are flirting with the idea of putting St. Louis on theirs, Philadelphia is a matter of practicality and the name of the team being a part of the city…Anaheim is embroiled in a legal dispute with Arte Moreno and that leaves Milwaukee, and some fans there aren’t happy about it.

    The Rays are in very, very minute and FLIMSY territory with their reasoning, or lack thereof. Players come and go, but the one thing, the constant that remains the same is where the players play. And as someone who spent 6 years in the service, IT MEANS THE FREAKING WORLD to me. And as someone who is college educated, I know there is good reason to use the geographic identifier in a positive erstwhile manner that can enhance the team’s image while adding color and enhancement to the players, the staff, anyone involved with the club.

    Tampa Bay is more than a body of water. Tell that to Tom McEwen, who realized that 35 plus years ago in the quest to bring a pro football team to the area. Do the Twins play for all of Minnesota or do the Diamondbacks play for all of Arizona? In a way they do, they cater and play to them, hence the nod. So with all due respect, I can’t buy the neutered interpretation. In a way, it is offensive.

  10. tampa lgt says:

    Lost in everyone else’s sucking is that Prado is not having a very good year.

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