Former D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission member Paul M. Wolff's characterization of market data compiled by the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority as "D.C. bashing" [Sports, Aug. 10] is not only incorrect. Wolff missed the main challenge facing all those who want to see America's pastime return to the national capital area.

Our authority prepared the booklet "The Case for Baseball in Virginia" so that Major League Baseball's ultimate decision-makers -- the 30 club owners -- would know the facts about the Northern Virginia-D.C. market when they face possible decisions on franchise relocation or expansion. Much as some in the District would like to ignore or deny Washington's troubled baseball history, the District lost two Major League franchises in 11 years (1960-1971). That's a difficult legacy for our region to overcome.

Now one of the questions frequently asked by baseball executives is: "Has anything changed since '71?" -- when the second Senators franchise packed its bags for Texas.

The answer is that while a great deal of growth has occurred in the region, that growth has been concentrated in Northern Virginia. Since 1971:

Northern Virginia's population of 1.94 million has almost doubled (89 percent growth) while the District's population of 539,000 has declined by more than one-fourth (28 percent).

Northern Virginia's employment has exploded by 178 percent, to 1.3 million jobs, while the District has managed only a 6.7 percent increase, to 713,490 jobs.

Personal income in Northern Virginia -- $68.4 billion in 1998 -- has shot up by 194 percent, when adjusted for inflation, while the District's $19.3 billion grew by only 8.7 percent.

As The Post reported in an Aug. 26 front-page story, Fairfax County -- the heart of Northern Virginia -- now has the highest median income in the country ($87,569), and in 1998, it produced goods and services of more than $45.8 billion -- larger than the production level of 16 states. Fairfax and Northern Virginia now are home to more than 8,800 technology-related businesses that employ almost 150,000 workers in high-paying jobs. The Northern Virginia landscape is dotted with high-tech corporate headquarters -- likely candidates to fill the corporate suites and club seats necessary for a modern franchise to succeed.

Baseball must preserve the profitability of its present franchises while making sure that any new teams maximize their markets' profit potential. In our region, that means placing a team where it will least effect the Orioles' games in Baltimore while still providing good access to the greatest number of potential baseball fans. That means a location in Northern Virginia.

If we are to succeed in bringing baseball back to our area, reality must prevail over nostalgia. Our fellow baseball fans in the District should stop wondering what might have been if the Senators had not deserted Washington almost three decades ago. Our best chance to reclaim baseball for ourselves and for future generations lies in uniting behind Northern Virginia's bid for a Major League team.

-- Michael R. Frey

a member of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, chairs the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority.