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D.C.'s loss may be gain for AAA bid


Baseball's expansion planners disappointed lots of Washingtonians this week when they recommended the National League's new franchises go to Miami and Denver. At the same time, they may have been assisting investors who are bent on bringing a Class AAA expansion franchise to the Annapolis-Bowie area.

A member of the committee now studying sites for Class AAA expansion said yesterday that he believes the prospects for an Annapolis-Bowie franchise might have been aided by the major-league decision to exclude Washington.

Randy Mobley, commissioner of the Triple-A Alliance, and a member of the Class AAA expansion committee, said: "I'll offer a personal opinion -- I don't see any way that [the Maryland application] is diminished. I think it's enhanced due to the fact that questions about the National League's intentions have been removed. There are certain territorial rights. I'm not sure you could have put a ballclub there if you'd wanted to [if Washington had succeeded]."

Columbia developer Peter Kirk, who leads the Maryland investors seeking the minor-league team, said he didn't see his group benefiting directly from misfortune for Washington.

"The area in which we're proposing to put a Triple-A team wants a Triple-A team and will support it regardless of whether there is a major-league team in Washington," said Kirk, whose group, Maryland Baseball Limited Partnership, owns minor-league franchises in Hagerstown and Frederick.

Annapolis-Bowie is among nine bidders on the short list for two expansion teams in Class AAA -- the highest level of minor-league play -- that are scheduled to make their debuts in 1993. A third area will also get a minor-league team because the Class AAA Denver Zephyrs will be moved to make room for that city's major-league expansion team.

Other areas whose bids for expansion teams still are alive are: Birmingham, Ala.; Charlotte, N.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Memphis, Tenn.; Ottawa; Quad Cities in Iowa and Illinois; South Bend, Ind.; and Tulsa, Okla.

Mobley said the nine-member expansion committee probably would offer the names of three to five finalists at a July 10 meeting with all Class AAA team owners, who must approve the recommendations. The winning areas are expected to be selected Sept. 28-30 at the Class AAA fall meetings in Palm Springs, Calif.

Before getting to that point, Mobley said, the expansion committee must complete its tour of the competing areas and gather information that might have a bearing on the final selections. Last month, the group was in Maryland to ask questions of the prospective owners and to discuss the financing plan for a 10,000-seat stadium planned along U.S. 50.

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