The Pursuit Of Baseball In Tampa

The State of Florida has been the home of Spring Training since the early part of the 1900s. Up until 1993 Florida never had a professional baseball team to call their own.  The Florida Marlins who were based in the Miami area were the first.  The Tampa Bay Devil Rays were soon to follow in 1998.  But Florida has a deep history of pursuing Major League Baseball before they received their teams in the 1990s.
It started in 1983 in the Tampa Bay area when local city officials considered building a baseball stadium to house a pro team.  Construction began in 1986 on what is now known as Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.  It was completed in 1990.  At the time there were no expansion franchises being granted for any city.  So they sought a team the best way they could, trying to lure a team from their current city.
Tropicana Filed,  The stadium that would bring baseball to the Tampa Bay area. (Getty Images)

Tropicana Filed, The stadium that would bring baseball to the Tampa Bay area. (Getty Images)

The Chicago White Sox were the first team that Tampa pursued.  In 1989 The White Sox were not happy in the old Comiskey Park and wanted a new stadium.  They flirted with Tampa for a while before ultimately getting their new stadium and staying in Chicago.
The next team that was rumored was the Seattle Mariners.  The talks did not go very far and the Mariners remained in Washington.
Tampa had their hearts broken in 1991 when they were denied an expansion franchise.  The Miami area won out instead of Tampa and the Florida Marlins came into existence.  The Marlins played the first ever regular season game in Florida in April of 1993.
The closest that Tampa ever came to stealing a team away from a city was in 1993.  The San Francisco Giants owners were looking to sell and a group of investors from Tampa were looking to buy them.   The deal was almost done.  The local baseball fans were already celebrating and then the bad news came.  The sale was vetoed by the National League Owners.  The Giants remained in San Francisco and Tampa was still without a team.
That was until in 1995 when they were granted an expansion franchise.  The Tampa Bay Devil Rays played their first regular season game in 1998.
The past does make one wonder how different things would be if the White Sox, Mariners or Giants would have relocated to Tampa.  If the White Sox or Mariners would have moved would there have been a team in Miami in 1993?  Probably not, there more than likely would have been years later though.  The Giants move would have been interesting.  The city of San Francisco would probably have a different team right now.  There is no way that City would be without a team for too long, not with their tradition and history.

It’s really incredible how things turned out for Tampa.  They took a huge risk by building a stadium without having a team for it.  For many years they looked like failures.  Many in the city thought they would never have a team to call their own.  But Tampa proved to be very persistent and got what they wanted in the end.

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