- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2001

SEATTLE While baseball was showcasing the best players in the world from its 30 major-league teams last night, a group of Washingtonians was busy showcasing what they believe should be the game's 31st city.
Representatives of the two major ownership groups seeking to bring a team to the Washington area were in town for the All-Star Game and came away feeling good about the progress they've made with baseball executives.
"I don't think we're necessarily close [to securing a franchise], but I think the perceptions are certainly changing," said Winston Lord, executive director of the Washington Baseball Club, headed by prospective owner Fred Malek. "People see that D.C. is a town that can support baseball."
Along with the Malek group, Virginia Baseball's William Collins and Mike Scanlon came to Seattle this week, as did Robert Goldwater and William Hall of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission.
Attendance at baseball's major events is nothing new for these groups; they've been coming for years. This time around, though, there is a sense that Washington is as close to getting a team since the Senators left for Texas 30 years ago.
The reasons behind all the optimism? Several recent statements by commissioner Bud Selig that suggest baseball is open to the relocation of struggling franchises, most notably the Montreal Expos.
And along with the commissioner's sentiments, a pair of recent studies one by the D.C. group, one by the Northern Virginia group both make a strong case for a team in the area, insisting it would not have a substantial impact on ticket sales for the Baltimore Orioles.
The Northern Virginia study, released in May, claims the Orioles would stand to lose about 900 fans per game if a team is playing in suburban Arlington at the same time. The D.C. group's previous study said that number would stand near 1,000 fans per game with a team in the District.
"I think we've come away with two things from being out here," Lord said. "Number one is that there is an awareness of the study the Northern Virginia people have done, and they are impressed. And the second is that they're talking about how there's really no difference between their study and ours."
The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission has spearheaded recent renovations to RFK Stadium, where a prospective baseball team could likely play until a new stadium is built. Attempts to reach representatives of the Northern Virginia group in Seattle were unsuccessful.
Despite the apparent recent progress made by the various groups, neither expects much to happen until baseball's owners and players' union reach a collective bargaining agreement following the season.
"I don't think there will be [anything before the agreement], but at the same time, we're still going to be very active," Lord said. "We're making sure that people in baseball still know we're around. And I think that baseball is seeing that Washington can be a solution, not a problem."

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