In sad news off of the morning press, former Tampa Bay Rays owner Vince Naimoli has passed away at 81 years of age from complications with progressive supra-nuclear palsy, a rare neurological disorder that he’s been dealing with since being diagnosed with it in 2014.
A businessman known for his thriftiness (which would later be the blueprint for first 20 years of the Tampa Bay Rays), avid baseball fans know him as the man who brought Major League Baseball to the general area of Tampa Bay—as in 1996 MLB announced two new expansion teams, one of which was in St. Petersburg, Florida; a mere 30 minute drive from the Tampa metropolitan area.
Though Naimoli founded the franchise, it’s said by those who worked with him that his oft-brash, confrontational way of doing business was a great way to win the expansion team in 1995, but not the best to run it when the Rays officially started play in 1998. During his time as owner, the Rays never won more than 70 games in a single season. To say that he didn’t at least try to put a team together would be a lie, as he went after veterans such as Fred McGriff, John Flaherty, Tino Martinez and future Hall of Famer Wade Boggs.
It seems like everything during Naimoli’s run was snakebit, whether it be the failure of Lou Piniella, the freak injury suffered by Tony Saunders or the lack of sustaining a consistent fanbase (an issue the Rays still notoriously have to this day). That said, a lot of Naimoli’s business strategies are still in place to this day. such as his Kane’s Furniture promotion and the deal he originally with Tropicana for the naming rights to Tropicana Field. Perhaps the best move, however, under Naimoli’s leadership was drafting stud outfielder Carl Crawford in 1999, who would go on to become arguably the greatest Ray of all-time and an integral cog in the teams coming out party in 2008.
Naimoli sold the team to current Stuart Sternberg in 2005 and has since been enjoying retirement.
His contributions may have been short-lived, but if it wasn’t for him, Tampa Bay would not have a team at all. We here at Pro Sports Extra extend our condolences to the entire Naimoli family.
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