Toronto FC has "indefinitely suspended recognized supporter group privileges and announced plans for a review of the program Thursday after fires briefly burned in the stands during a Canadian Championship game at Ottawa’s TD Place Stadium," according to Gregory Strong of the CP. Ottawa police "were investigating Wednesday night’s incident, which led to a delay late in the second half of the two-leg semifinal opener" between TFC and USL club Ottawa Fury (CP, 7/19). PRO SOCCER USA's Oliver Platt noted fire services "were called to TD Place when banners hung by TFC fans appeared to set on fire as flares were let off in the away supporters’ section." One video "showed a flare bouncing onto the pitch before exploding, causing damage to the stadium’s artificial turf." Multiple fans were "ejected but no arrests were made" (PROSOCCERUSA.com, 7/19).
CHANGING PROTOCOL: Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group CEO Mark Goudie said that OSEG is "taking stock of its own security protocols at TD Place" after Wednesday's incident. Goudie: "Ultimately, there will be MLS, and Toronto will play here again, and we will have to spend some time debriefing and figure out how we’re better equipped to deal with it and handle it next time" (OTTAWA SUN, 7/20).
Orioles Exec VP/Baseball Operations Dan Duquette plans to use the trade of SS Manny Machado to "herald in a sweeping set of practical and philosophical changes for the organization to follow on what will be a rebuild of not only the on-field, but also the off-field product," according to Jon Meoli of the BALTIMORE SUN. Duquette: "When you finally decide to go in another direction and set sail in another direction, it's difficult to get to that point where you say, 'OK, we're not going to be trying to win today.' ... That's a very tough decision to make. All professional organizations have to make it, but we've recognized it." Meoli notes the changes for the Orioles -- who have "one of the smallest scouting staffs in the game, have little presence in the Latin American markets ... and lag in several other areas -- will touch every facet of the organization." Duquette: "We had identified the areas that we needed to improve in -- technology, international scouting, facilities, the draft, strengthening our analytics, investing in international scouting, investing in more front office staff to be more in line with our competitors, expanding our nutrition and wellness resources at every level of the organization. Those are areas that we identified that we could improve in, and the ownership understands those are areas that we need to put more resources into." Duquette said that "part of the appeal" in trading for OF Yusniel Diaz, who defected from Cuba, was that the Orioles "don't typically have access" to Latin markets. Building up a Latin American operation will "not only take facilities upgrades," but a "commitment to building roots there." It is "incredibly ambitious for an organization that's been left behind by the rest of the league in many of these trends" (BALTIMORE SUN, 7/20).
The Cardinals are "being considered for at least one of baseball's international series" in '19, with Mexico as the "possible destination," according to Derrick Goold of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. MLB has "made moving several series abroad to promote the game an emphasis in the coming years," and an agreement with the MLBPA has already "set Yankees-Red Sox" in London in June '19. Japan also will host a season-opening A's-Mariners series. The agreement "calls for a series in Mexico" in May '19, though the two teams and dates for the series "have not been finalized." The Dodgers and Padres "played a three-game series in Monterrey, Mexico this past season." The Cardinals have "made their interest in playing an international series known" to the league, and "hope to be included in at least one in the coming two seasons." Also "of interest to the Cardinals" is a series in Puerto Rico, where C Yadier Molina "could play in his homeland" (STLTODAY.com, 7/20).
The A's are 55-42 and turning a "strong first half into a home run that is driving higher TV ratings and attendance," according to Ron Leuty of the S.F. BUSINESS TIMES. A "triple-play improvement in all three categories -- in wins, ratings and attendance -- would be big victories for a new A's front-office lineup hoping to correct past management errors with an anxious fan base while loading the bases" for a potential new ballpark. A's COO Chris Giles said, "We were brought on to run the team to fix the issues the team has had historically." Leuty noted indicators of those improvements "could come" during a home series against the Giants starting Friday, when the A's open their Mount Davis seating section for the "first time in 13 years." Tickets for Mount Davis, with a capacity of 8,190, cost $10. Giles said, "That's trending toward a sellout of the entire building. We have an opportunity to break the all-time attendance record for baseball at the Coliseum." Meanwhile, the team's broadcasts from mid-June to this week's All-Star break on NBC Sports California "scored a 0.7 household rating," up from a 0.6 last year. Those ratings represent only a small boost, but for a franchise "historically stuck at the bottom" of MLB's ratings lineup, it is a "big deal." Giles said that the A's also later this month will "roll out a 'fundamentally new approach' to ticket sales" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 7/19).
FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES: A’s President Dave Kaval this week during All-Star Game events in DC met with several Congressional leaders, including Bay Area-based Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), as the club seeks to build political support for a potential ballpark project in Oakland. Kaval also spoke before the Future Forum, a Swalwell-chaired group of House Democrats focused on issues facing millennial Americans. “This was a really important setting to be able to talk about what baseball is doing to engage with young people,” Kaval said (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
The Buccaneers released "four short promotional videos for the season ahead," and QB Jameis Winston, suspended for the first three games of the season, "wasn't among the players featured," according to Greg Auman of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. The "Wreak Havoc"-themed videos feature other players like DT Gerald McCoy, LB Kwon Alexander and WR Mike Evans. The team "isn't expected to release any additional videos before the season, but Winston could be included in videos released during the season." Winston is "still featured on the southwest corner of Raymond James Stadium as one of the team's four large murals from last season." But it "makes sense that the Bucs would shift away from featuring him prominently in their promotions, given the gravity of a three-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy, and a wide variety of reaction from fans since." Meanwhile, Tampa-based Bill Currie Ford car dealership has "had an endorsement deal with Winston since before his rookie season," and the QB was "featured (with former Rays star Evan Longoria) on a billboard on southbound I-275, just north of Hillsborough Avenue, but that billboard has been replaced recently with a generic billboard with no athletes." The billboard had "remained up at least six months" after Longoria was traded to the Giants (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/19).
LIMITED AVAILABILITY: The TIMES' Auman notes free passes to a "limited window for the general public to see the Bucs practice in training camp are already almost gone." Only six practices will be "open to the general public" and as of Wednesday night, "four of those six (including all three weekend dates) had no tickets available, leaving only two weekday sessions." The cutoff is "around 3,000 for the free practices, which will conclude with a final 45 minutes or more held" in the team's new $20M air-conditioned indoor facility, which "opened last year." The "high demand for free tickets explains why some NFL teams are able to even charge fans for access to training camp" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/20).