SBD/8/Leagues Governing Bodies

STRIKE, WHAT STRIKE? TAMPA BAY, PHOENIX GET EXPANSION NODS

     MLB's Expansion Committee recommended that Tampa Bay and
Phoenix be awarded expansion franchises for the '98 season.  Full
ownership is scheduled to vote on the recommendation on Thursday,
but labor matters could delay that agenda (Mult., 3/8).  Reaction
from the four markets:
     TAMPA BAY:  The area's "18-year-long quest to join the major
leagues appears all but completed," according to Henderson &
Chastain in this morning's TAMPA TRIBUNE.  Managing General
Partner Vince Naimoli:  "I'm absolutely elated.  We are ready to
go forward now."  Naimoli has been told to sign a merchandising
agreement before the meetings' end -- "another strong sign that a
franchise is about to be granted."  Also, area stores and the
Thunderdome have plans to start selling team memorabilia on
Thursday (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/8).  The team will be called the Devil
Rays with the logo featuring a realistic drawing of a manta ray.
The color scheme will include aqua, purple, black, green, yellow
and white.  Caps will feature a picture of a devil ray.  Namoli
says pre-orders for the merchandise "are several times more" than
for any other MLB team (Topkin & Romano, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES,
3/8).  However, in an informal poll in today's TRIBUNE, fans
"overwhelmingly rejected" the choice of Devil Rays.  Out of 82
fans polled, 68 gave the name a grade of D or F.  Naimoli would
not confirm the name, but said the team's logo and colors have
been carefully chosen:  "We've done consumer research that
indicates these colors and logo will be the hottest-selling
merchandise in the sports industry" (Bob Chick, TAMPA TRIBUNE,
3/8).  Naimoli wanted to use "Stingrays," but a Hawaiian Winter
League team already owns that name (AP/ATLANTA CONSTITUTION,
3/8).
     PHOENIX:  Suns Owner Jerry Colangelo reaffirmed his belief
in the Phoenix market, saying that was the reason his group was
willing to pay up to $140M to gain entry into the league: "If
someone handed me one-third of the teams in baseball, I wouldn't
touch them with a 10-foot pole" (Ronald Blum, AP/ATLANTA
CONSTITUTION, 3/8).  Colangelo announced three new investment
partners in his ownership group, including comedian Billy
Crystal.  Also on board:  Bank of America and the owners of
Phoenix radio station KTAR.  Phoenix attorney Joe Garagiola Jr.,
whom Colangelo has hired as the expected team's GM, said the
investors have requests in writing for about 30,000 season
tickets and that they have commitments from area corporations or
individuals to lease all 77 luxury suites in the retractable-dome
stadium that would be built for the team (Eric Miller, ARIZONA
REPUBLIC, 3/7).  Multiple reports say the team will be called the
Arizona Diamondbacks (Mult, 3/8).  ESPN's Peter Gammons reported
that Phoenix "has a huge celebration planned for the weekend"
("SportsCenter," 3/7).
     NORTHERN VIRGINIA:  Sources say that Northern VA is "running
a strong third" in the expansion derby," according to the
WASHINGTON POST.  One owner who participated in the expansion
committee meeting:  "They're going to be in the second round of
expansion.  We'll probably announce that within the next 12
months" (Maske & Lipton, WASHINGTON POST, 3/8).  William Collins,
head of the Virginia Baseball Group told the committee that his
group was ready to "pay now and play later," according to sources
cited by the WASHINGTON TIMES.  Collins says his group is "not
flinching" at the reported $140M entry fee: "Whatever baseball
says, we stand ready, willing and certainly able to put that
money in place immediately" (Thom Loverro, WASHINGTON TIMES,
3/8).
     ORLANDO:  Norton Herrick, lead investor of the Orlando
effort, says he is still "very optimistic" about Orlando's
chances, and "suggested he might have the support" of Marlins'
Owner Wayne Huizenga.  Herrick says he met with Huizenga before
proceeding with Orlando's bid, and received his "blessing to
proceed."  Huizenga said later he would wait until the
committee's recommendations before deciding how to vote.  Paul
Jacobs, a lawyer for the Orlando group, said both Tampa and
Orlando could support MLB teams:  "I don't think either would be
mutually exclusive by any means" (Henderson & Chastain, TAMPA
TRIBUNE, 3/8).
     NATIONAL REAX:  Reactions to MLB expanding in the midst of
the strike were as expected.  Tom Boswell writes, "That's like
Germany announcing a new Volkswagen for the U.S. market in
December, 1944" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/8).  Jayson Stark writes,
"Most businesses in the free world might have a hard time
explaining why they're expanding during what is supposed to be
their darkest hour" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/8).  In DC, Dick
Heller writes, "By proceeding with their expansion pipe dreams,
the owners are telling the world, 'Look how tough we are.  A
little thing like this strike won't interfere with our plans'"
(WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/8).
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