- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 21, 2001

Major League Baseball apparently is willing to consider a whole new type of market for its franchises.
New York large market. Kansas City small market.
Hampton Roads mini market.
Reports have surfaced in the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk that the Hampton Roads area is on a "short list" of regions where teams might relocate.
I think they may have misinterpreted the concept of "short" list. I think baseball meant short as in tiny, as in mini, as in the smallest, tiniest places to put a major league team.
I'll bet Frostburg is on the short list, too.
Baseball supporters in Hampton Roads have been buoyed by comments made by Corey Busch, a former executive with the San Francisco Giants who has been working for the commissioner, scouting out different locations that are possible sites for franchises to relocate. According to the Virginian-Pilot report, James Eason, president of the Hampton Roads Partnership, said that Busch has visited twice in the past year and was impressed.
I'll bet. A nice room overlooking the ocean on Virginia Beach probably beats the Key Bridge Marriott any day.
Maybe Busch thought they named Busch Gardens after him just for his visit.
Busch has been visiting communities including Washington and Northern Virginia on this fact-finding mission even though a franchise hasn't moved since the Washington Senators left town after the 1971 season and even though baseball commissioner Bud Selig has been pushing his contraction snake oil to all the saps who are willing to buy into it.
If baseball is going to contract, why did Selig send Busch on this trip around the country? To get him out of the office?
Actually, putting a team in Hampton Roads would sort of be like contracting.
Could you see Selig going to the owners and asking them to approve the move of, let's say, the Montreal Expos to Hampton Roads? New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner would go ballistic. He'd say, "You mean you want to put a team on Long Island, where all those rich people run over each other? That's my market."
Others might wonder why the Expos were being moved from one foreign country to another.
This report might seem to put a few people in a difficult position possibly the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, which was created as part of the effort to bring a franchise to Northern Virginia. After all, it's not the Northern Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority (though Bill Collins' group has put up much of the funding and has an exclusive deal with the authority), and it may have to tread lightly politically, since Gov. James Gilmore has appointed the Virginia Commerce Secretary Barry DuVal the former mayor of Newport News as his point man for bringing baseball to the state.
Gabe Paul, stadium authority executive director, was cautious in his comments about the Hampton Roads effort, which he said he has known of for some time now. "We wish them well in their acquisition of a sports franchise," Paul said. "I don't think it is really competitive from a standpoint of size. But we certainly wish them well."
It all depends on what you consider competitive. Washington/ Northern Virginia is the eighth-ranked market in the country. Hampton Roads is 39th. There are minor league baseball cities that rank higher than Hampton Roads, such as Salt Lake City (29th) and Nashville (33rd).
I don't know where Frostburg is ranked, but I'm sure it's competitive.
On other other hand, if another part of the state gets behind the effort to fund a ballpark, that can only help Northern Virginia. It changes the issue of using state money for a ballpark from just a Northern Virginia issue which often brings resentment from other parts of the state to a statewide issue. And if the Hampton Roads area politicians support bringing baseball to Virginia, they're not going to back out at the last minute when Corey Busch says thanks for the tan, but if a team is going to be anywhere in Virginia, it's going to be put in a place that can corporately support a franchise. That's Northern Virginia, not Hampton Roads.
I'm not sure where St. Petersburg ranks, but apparently it has never been too far from the heart of Washington lawyer Steve Porter, who led an unsuccessful effort for an expansion team for the Tampa Bay area in 1991. Porter has since relocated to Washington and has helped form the Washington group led by financier Fred Malek that wants to bring a team to the District. Porter recently made overtures about buying a minority share of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, one of baseball's troubled franchises, with the idea being that being an active minority owner would ease the process when the opportunity to purchase and move a team to Washington became available.
They draw 15,332 people a game in St. Petersburg. That's bad. That's a small market figure.
But it's not mini market.

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