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Friedman talks with BDD

Q&A Part I:

JH: Now for a couple more difficult questions. You're now part of an organization that, let's face it, has been very unsuccessful for a number of years. What do you feel you can do differently to change the future of this club? How do you get people to feel for this team?

AF: The biggest thing to constantly remind ourselves of is that our goal is to build a competitive organization , but what's most important is that we're able to sustain that success year over year. We've got to look at this realistically and kind of look at a ten year success cycle window, and figure out the lay of the land. Every market has its own challenges, and we're not unique to that. We're excited to show the rest of baseball what a fantastic market this could be. We don't feel like we've really been given an ample opportunity to show that to date.

That's our challenge. Our challenge is to get buy-in from the community and reconnect to the entire region. [We] want to create the situation where they feel like they have ownership in the product and are proud to call the Devil Rays their own team. We're starting to see a major transformation in that area especially when we play the Red Sox and Yankees. In years past you'd see 80-85% of the people rooting for those teams. This year it's starting to change some. There's a lot of Devil Ray pride out there. Now it's probably 70% Devil Rays fans. We've had some little promotions like "Trade in your Red Sox hat for a Devil Rays hat" and things like that. We're excited about the prospects of this market.

We've also got an exciting young nucleus of players at the Major League level and some more kind of knocking on the door. We have to continue to be proactive, continue to add talented young players to this group and not necessarily top end guys but good complementary pieces. We need to go out into the free agent market and supplement our team and not build our team through that [process].