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Tampa Bay Rays franchise founder Vince Naimoli has died

The Rays will honor Naimoli with a patch on their uniform for the rest of the season

Vincent Caffiero (Tampa Bay Rays)

The Tampa Bay Rays will be paying their respects to the founder of the franchise, Vince Naimoli, who passed away Sunday evening at the age of 81 years old.

A shrewd businessman, Naimoli used his years of experience to help negotiate with Major League Baseball and land a franchise for the Tampa Bay region. In 1995, MLB owners voted 28-0 to grant a franchise to Tampa Bay and make them a part of the American League. Naimoli was strongly involved in all facets of the franchise, until selling his majority of the stake in the team in 2005 to the Rays current ownership.

The Tampa Bay Rays released the following statement:

“The Tampa Bay Rays are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former owner and CEO, Vince Naimoli. Vince was unyielding in his pursuit of a Major League Baseball franchise for Tampa Bay, and his success in landing the then Devil Rays changed the region’s sports landscape forever. In addition to his distinguished business and baseball careers, his family’s philanthropic efforts in the community will be felt for generations. We are grateful for his leadership and wish his family peace during this difficult time.”

The Rays current principal owner, Stewart Sternberg released the following statement

“Vince Naimoli was instrumental in bringing baseball to Tampa Bay. I am forever grateful that he entrusted me with the franchise in 2005. It was my pleasure to have worked with Vince and to have been his partner.”

MLB via Getty Images

In lieu of an obituary sure to arrive in the coming days, please enjoy this page from the Rays media guide in 2005, Naimoli’s final appearance in the annual book before the team was sold.