Red Wings open season with loss, concern about financial woes


ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The Rochester Red Wings began defense of their International League championship yesterday amid concern for the club's long-term financial health and its future in Rochester.

The Red Wings opened their 104th International League season with an 11-10 loss to the Pawtucket Red Sox yesterday at Silver Stadium.

Chito Martinez hit two two-run homers, the second with one out in the ninth inning to cut Pawtucket's lead to 11-10.

"I'm not looking to be the sole guy on the team," Martinez said. "It will take every guy on this team."

David Segui hit a two-run homer and Shane Turner drove in three runs.

Red Wings starter Mike Mussina left after six innings with a 6-3 lead.

After giving up a leadoff homer to Mo Vaughn in the fourth, Mussina retired nine of his last 10 batters.

"I said to myself, that's all I'm giving up," Mussina said. "I said I'd hold them and get some help from the bullpen."

The Red Sox scored five runs against reliever Rob Woodward in the seventh, the last three coming when left-hander Joe Price allowed a two-run single and a a sacrifice fly to a pair of left-handed batters.

The return of baseball may be a break from the off-season news of the Red Wings' increasing financial difficulties.

"I'm curious, now that there will be baseball every day, to see what the fans' reactions are to what we've been up against," general manager Dan Lunetta said before the opener. "I would hope people in this community are paying attention. I believe that they are."

Rochester Community Baseball, the corporation of nearly 8,000 stockholders that owns the Red Wings, owes $4 million on its $4.5 million loan for the 1986-87 renovation of Silver Stadium.

In addition, RCB faces additional expenses, approximately $50,000 this year, because of the new Professional Baseball Agreement between the major and minor leagues. RCB has lost money each of the past three years as it has begun to repay its debt.

RCB officials say they need help with that debt to assure their future in Rochester. The club is working with the city, the County of Monroe and area business leaders to form a plan that would keep the Red Wings in Rochester.

"I don't know if that's exactly what they do need," Monroe County Executive Thomas R. Frey said. "It's true that with their present financial situation, maybe just being relieved of that debt and them continuing in ownership would do it."

The Red Wings had a cash-reserve cushion of $472,000 when their books closed last October.

Any city or county help would in volve taxpayers' dollars in a time when municipal budgets in New York state are being tightened. People in the city and county may have to ask themselves how much baseball means to them.

"I think people would be devastated to lose a Triple-A organization," RCB president Elliot Curwin said. According to the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, the Red Wings generate between $5 million and $10 million in revenue each year.

"There's no question it's a valuable asset, and it should be preserved," said Rochester Mayor Thomas P. Ryan Jr. before adding, "I'm not going to tell anyone there's a blank check."

The city/county commission is scheduled to makes its report by July 30.

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