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Nationals Notebook

Kasten Makes a Deposit to Bid on Team

By Thomas Heath
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 15, 2005; Page D08

Stan Kasten, an Atlanta businessman and attorney with years of experience running pro teams in baseball, the NHL and the NBA, is a serious bidder for the Washington Nationals, joining at least five other groups who have deposited $100,000 for the rights to bid on the team.

Kasten, 53, who has served as president for three Atlanta teams, has filed an application to buy the Nationals, according to sources familiar with the sale process.

Spring training is here for the Nationals, as pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report today; the rest of the 59 hopefuls are due in on Sunday. (Gary Bogdon For The Washington Post)

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Kasten declined to comment yesterday.

It could not be determined yesterday whether Kasten had aligned himself with an investment group or if he hoped to buy the team on his own. Sources said Kasten would be a logical "point man" to run the business side of a baseball team for its owners. Major League Baseball had asked that interested parties submit a deposit and application by Jan. 31.

Kasten served as vice president for sports teams at Turner Broadcasting System and as president of the Braves, Hawks and Thrashers, helped shape those franchises over two decades. He also was instrumental in bringing about the completion of Turner Field and Philips Arena. He is a private businessman living outside Atlanta.

Kasten has spoken with at least one of the investment groups looking to buy the Nationals, and possibly more, about running a team, according to sources.

The Nationals' first game is scheduled for April 4 against the Philadelphia Phillies, with the home opener on April 14.

Five other would-be owners have put in applications and the required $100,000 deposit with MLB, and several groups already have visited baseball's New York headquarters to inspect the Nationals' financial records.

The other known bidders are the Lerner family, which owns a Bethesda-based real estate empire; a consortium of local businessmen led by Fred Malek and Jeffrey D. Zients; Franklin Haney Sr., a Tennessee developer and financier with business ties to Washington; Washington businessman Jonathan Ledecky, a former part-owner of the Washington Capitals and MCI Center; and William Collins, who leads a group of investors that tried unsuccessfully to bring the Nationals to Northern Virginia.

Baseball is also close to reaching an agreement with Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos to offset the adverse financial impact that the Nationals would have on the Baltimore club. Those talks, between Angelos and MLB President Robert DuPuy, have been going on for months but are believed to be in their final stages.

Baseball would like to reach an agreement with the Orioles, especially regarding television broadcasts, so the league can proceed with the sale of the Nationals, which baseball hopes will bring at least $300 million.

Before a television deal can be struck, however, baseball will have to determine the Nationals' television territory and how close to Baltimore that territory will extend, according to sources. Baseball grants certain geographic regions around teams as "exclusive" broadcast rights for that team only, while outer regions are often termed "shared." Angelos and baseball appear to disagree on how far the Orioles' exclusive area extends.

Larkin Had Offers to Play

Barry Larkin, 40, said he had "several" offers to play one more season, including one from the Nationals. In the end, though, he said he only felt comfortable playing for the Cincinnati Reds, where he spent his 19-year career. So he decided to retire, and Sunday accepted a job as a special assistant to Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden.

"I wasn't sure if I could commit 100 percent to another organization as far as playing's concerned," Larkin said. "I didn't want to be in a situation where I get out there and start doubting myself, and I go out there and I couldn't give 100 percent to a team."

Yesterday, the Nationals held their first organizational meeting of the spring, which included Bowden; assistant general manager Tony Siegle; special assistants Bob Boone, Jose Rijo and Larkin; assistant scouting director Brian Parker; and Manager Frank Robinson and the entire coaching staff. The group took several hours to go over each of the 59 players who will be in major league camp.

"I've never been in a meeting like that," Larkin said. "I'd like to be exposed to what the general manager does, become familiar with the responsibilities. I'd like to witness some of the dealings that go into being a general manager first-hand. . . . I need to see if it's something I want to make a career out of."

Osuna Is Delayed

Bowden said reliever Antonio Osuna, signed as a free agent from San Diego, is having visa troubles in Mexico and is not expected to be in camp today, when pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report. The players will have physicals tomorrow and will work out for the first time on Thursday. Bowden would not say whether there were other pitchers who will not be in camp today. . . .

One player who arrived early was right-hander Esteban Loaiza, who hopes to revive his career after a difficult stint with the New York Yankees. "This is the beginning of a new beginning," Loaiza said. . . .

The Nationals haven't worked out a local television contract, but the team's first spring training game, March 2 against the New York Mets, will be broadcast by ESPN.

Staff writer Barry Svrluga contributed to this report from Viera, Fla.

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