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Rays buy piece of UFL team – really

What’s a tusker? More importantly, why is Stuart Sternberg buying into a fledgling pro football team named the Tuskers that will start play this fall when he could use his disposable income more wisely by resigning Carl Crawford and investing in a front-of-the-rotation starter?

And maybe a big arm for the back of the bullpen.

And a catcher.

Not that we’re telling Stu how to spend his money. We are not.

It’s just that ... a football team?

“We think it is a perfect match,” said Michael Kalt, the Rays senior vice president of development and business affairs.

The match is the United Football League, which plays its inaugural season this fall in four cities — Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco and Orlando — and the local major league franchise that is searching for ways to leverage their existing resources, Kalt said.

So, the Rays have an ownership interest in the Orlando Tuskers, named for the wild boar common to this state.

The Tusks will be coached by former New Orleans Saints coach Jim Haslett, who said during a press conference Wednesday in Orlando that he is very much interested in quarterback Michael Vick.

The teams will play a six-game schedule that begins Oct. 10. One of those Tuskers games — Oct. 30 against the Las Vegas Locomotives — will be at Tropicana Field. Don’t worry, the Rays have checked, Oct. 30 is the travel day between Games 2 and 3 of the World Series.

Kalt said the UFL approached the Rays about investing in a team. The Rays liked the UFL’s business plan and decided, why not?

Having the Tusks play at the Trop is one way for the Rays to utilize a facility that, according to Kalt, sits empty 200 days a year.

We know this: Sternberg does not do things willy-nilly. People laughed when he brought the Rays. Now other major league teams are using the Rays as a model to build a winner.

“We’re not taken a flier on this,” Kalt said. “We feel very good about the business plan, very good about the level of interest.”

And ...

“It’s not going to take away from our baseball interest,” Kalt said.

Which means Sternberg won’t take money away from Peter — the Rays — to pay Paul — the Tusks.

But the league is going against prep football, college football and the NFL. Good luck.

The Rays investment isn’t that steep, so they won’t have to sell Evan Longoria if the league goes under. And Sternberg sees this as a money-maker, and the guy is pretty sharp when it comes to making money.

So, maybe the Tusks will generate some revenue to help Sternberg resign Crawford and invest in a front-of-the-rotation starter.

And a catcher.