Friday, June 11, 2004

Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, for years the most heated opponent of baseball in greater Washington, is softening his long-held objections.

Angelos yesterday told the Associated Press he will grudgingly accept the relocation of the Montreal Expos to the Washington area. Major League Baseball is expected to select a new home this summer for the struggling, orphaned Expos. And in recent weeks, numerous industry sources have pointed to the race being realistically between the front-running District and Northern Virginia, with fascinations with areas like Las Vegas and Monterrey, Mexico, fading.

“Unfortunately, I have no choice” but to accept a move to greater Washington, Angelos said. “After all, Washington is also my capital.”

The comments also appear to put to rest the likelihood of a legal challenge from Angelos should the Expos move to the District or Northern Virginia. For years, whispers within baseball have pointed to Angelos, a highly successful attorney, attempting to use his legal acumen to block relocation to the local area.

The Orioles’ listed market territory — Baltimore city and county and Anne Arundel, Harford, Carroll and Howard counties — limit his legal options considerably. But he likely would have used the Orioles’ TV and radio coverage, which extends into Virginia, as an opening for a challenge.

Instead, Angelos’ latest comments are by far the most resigned he has offered on the issue. For years, he has opined that two franchises in the Baltimore/Washington area would consign both to mediocrity and said so again yesterday. He also continues his public support of the bid from Norfolk for the Expos. But never before has his anger been mixed with such concession.

For several months, MLB commissioner Bud Selig has said Angelos would accept any decision he and the relocation committee made on the Expos, but until now, Angelos had not corroborated that in any meaningful way.

“This is certainly good news,” Gabe Paul Jr., executive director of the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, said of Angelos’ comments. “We obviously believe this area is by far the best option for the Expos, and one of our proposed sites [near Dulles International Airport] would be 60 miles from Baltimore and have minimal impact on the Orioles. I think baseball is beginning to really realize how important this area is and can be.”

District officials were not available for comment last night.

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