Dream Big: Magic Co-Founder Wants To Bring MLB To Orlando
Magic co-Founder Pat Williams started his bid to bring an MLB team to Orlando by "unveiling a potential logo and a potential name -- the Orlando Dreamers," according to Mike Bianchi of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. The name is a "tribute to Orlando visionaries like Walt Disney, Arnold Palmer and astronaut John Young -- men who made their wildest dreams come true" in central Florida. Williams at yesterday's press conference "quickly made his real intentions known when he talked about baseball's failed attempts in two other Florida markets -- Tampa Bay and Miami." Williams said, "Baseball hasn't worked in either city. I'm convinced this market is different." He "made it clear" that the DeVos family, who owns the Magic, has "nothing to do with his current baseball effort." He also "admitted that luring the Rays or being awarded an expansion franchise is a years-long process -- if it happens at all." Williams said that before he begins the "massive undertaking" of building a ballpark and putting together an ownership group, he "first wants to know if Orlando sports fans are truly ready to step to the plate" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 11/21). The AP's Mike Schneider noted Williams yesterday also "unveiled a red baseball cap with a black 'O' as the logo, as well as a website." MLB VP/Communications Mike Teevan said that the league "didn't have an immediate comment" on the situation. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has said repeatedly that expansion "won't be considered" until the A's and Rays "get new ballparks" (AP, 11/20).
CONVINCED IT WILL WORK: In Tampa, Marc Topkin noted Williams did not have "specifics on key issues" with his proposed team, such as "who would own the team or where it would play." When asked about trying to lure the Rays, Williams "took basically a hands-off approach." Williams said that he is "convinced a team in Orlando would be a huge success." He also said that he "had not yet talked to MLB officials," but called yesterday morning and "left a 'thorough' message" for Manfred about his plans (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 11/20). In DC, Matt Bonesteel notes the Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne media market "ranks as the nation's 18th largest, with nearly 1.5 million television homes." It is the "largest media market to not have an MLB team and is larger in size than numerous other MLB cities," including Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, San Diego and K.C. (WASHINGTON POST, 11/21).
RAY TRACING: THE ATHLETIC's Tolentino & Robbins noted Williams' plan, "though still speculative," could give Rays officials an "option, or perhaps leverage, as they map out their franchise's long-term future" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/20). In Tampa, John Romano writes the argument could be made that Orlando has one "critical component that Tampa Bay seems to lack ... Enthusiasm." Romano: "We should not allow this to happen due to complacency or apathy. ... After seeing the groundswell in Portland, Nashville and other places, we should not allow this to happen without a fight" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 11/21).