- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2002

Donald Watkins, a prominent Alabama businessman who has spent the last year seeking to buy the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Minnesota Twins, could ultimately become the latest player in Washington's 30-year quest to bring back Major League Baseball.
District Mayor Anthony Williams met last week with Watkins, chairman of Birmingham, Ala.-based Alamerica Bank, to discuss Washington's ongoing efforts to land a baseball team. Watkins' clear first choice is to buy the Twins, a team commissioner Bud Selig wants to eliminate before the upcoming season. But if Watkins fails in Minnesota either through contraction actually happening or his failing to reach a deal with current Twins owner Carl Pohlad he said he would consider any other opportunities for ownership within baseball.
"It was basically the same pitch if the Twins situation does not work out, would I ask for Montreal and relocate them to Washington, D.C.?," Watkins told the St. Paul Pioneer Press of his meeting with Williams.
Watkins was in New York yesterday and not available for comment. Watkins is preparing for a meeting today with Tom Ostertag, baseball's chief counsel, and Bill Bartholomay, chairman of the Atlanta Braves and head of baseball's ownership committee, to discuss his overtures toward the Twins and baseball in general.
Sources close to both Watkins and Mayor Williams, however, characterized the meeting as a casual one that promises no immediate changes to the lineup of a District-based bidding group led by financier Fred Malek. Rather, the District's Sports & Entertainment Commission is closing in on a deal that will grant exclusive short-term use of RFK Stadium to Malek's group if the area gets a team. The accord, expected within days, will also provide the basic framework for the two sides to jointly build a baseball-only stadium in the city.
As a result, the outspoken Watkins, who has had similar talks with a baseball relocation lobby in Portland, Ore., would likely join the District effort only at Malek's approval and to provide a late extra push.
"Our group has been the same six members [since its 1999 formation] with no plans to add any people at this time," Malek said yesterday. "We have never met or spoken with Donald Watkins."
Malek's group includes AOL founder Jim Kimsey, area developer Joe Robert, District attorneys Stephen Porter and Paul Wolff, and Fannie Mae chairman Franklin Raines.
A Northern Virginia effort for baseball, led by telecommunications executive William Collins, also has had no contact with Watkins.
Williams, through a spokesman, declined to elaborate much further on the meeting.
"There was a meeting, there was some discussion about baseball. Beyond that, the mayor wants to keep this private," said Williams spokesman Tony Bullock.
Watkins is also a practicing attorney in Birmingham and president of Watkins Pencor LLC, an energy investment company based there. Prior to his forming Alamerica three years ago, Watkins was a trustee at Alabama State University and special counsel to the mayor of Birmingham.
The Washington area's efforts to land a team, despite a flurry of activity in recent months, remains as grounded as they have been since the second Senators left in 1971. Selig, as he has been for years, is still opposed to any near-term team relocation. And the embattled Selig is now juggling a litany of more pressing issues, ranging from negotiating a new labor deal with the players to heated questions over a potentially improper loan in 1995 to Selig's Milwaukee Brewers from a firm controlled by Pohlad.
But Selig's distractions have not stopped local leaders from still pressing their case. Besides the pending District-Malek deal, politicians from both the District and Northern Virginia are continuing to lobby baseball to reconsider its ongoing aversion to the Washington area.

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