New leagues still on hold

The Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. ─Buffalo wants baseball, but not that way. Pittsburgh needs money, but not if it means sinking the Pirates. In St. Petersburg, Fla., and Phoenix, they'd rather wait for the real thing.

Anyone trying to organize a rival baseball league in the wake of this season's major league meltdown won't find stadium doors swinging open to welcome them. Whatever problems the big leagues have, they still have friends in many, many places.

"At this point in time, our interest is pretty low," Rick Dodge, the city administrator in St. Petersburg, where they are trying to find a tenant for the Thunder Dome, said Thursday. "Our interest right now continues to be pursuit of major league baseball as we currently know it."

Since the baseball strike began, there have been water-cooler discussions about whether the players would form their own league. After the owners canceled the rest of the season Wednesday, those discussions became more serious.

Player agent Dick Moss is trying to set up an eight- to 12-team league for next season. He did not return calls seeking comment, but potential sites mentioned include Buffalo, St. Petersburg and cities where the stadium isn't owned by the team.

"Every time somebody wants to start a new league, they call Buffalo," said Robert Rich Jr., who owns the Triple-A Bisons and their home, Pilot Field. "It's natural. We're not in it, and we have a beautiful stadium.

"But would we be burning our bridges and potentially eliminating ourselves from consideration for a


major league baseball team? That would be a consideration for me," he said. "I'd have to think about it."

Phoenix is a front-runner for baseball's next expansion, and they've already approved plans to build a stadium ─ but only for a big league club. What if a new league promised them a team right away?

"I think the board that manages the stadium district would be reluctant to say, 'We're going to kick in this tax that's going to raise a quarter of a billion dollars for a new team in a start-up league,'" said Eric Anderson, executive director of the Maricopa County Stadium District.

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