Washington has been mentioned as a potential franchise for the new North American Baseball League, but officials trying to bring major league baseball back to this city say they have not been contacted by anyone from the new league and know nothing about it.
A spokesman for the NABL, Emile Bernard, said Monday teams were being planned for Washington, Brooklyn, Vancouver, Tampa, Miami, New Orleans, Denver, Buffalo, Indianapolis and Mexico City. Most of these cities have been mentioned as potential sites of major league expansion franchises.
"Bernard is the same guy who said he was going to deliver the San Francisco Giants to Washington about five years ago," said Morris Siegel, consultant to the D.C. Baseball Commission, an organization trying to bring the sport back to Washington. "The D.C. Baseball Commission has not heard of it and we would assume that anyone trying to move into this city would contact us."
Lonn Berney, a New York trial attorney who has been described as the league's acting commissioner, said the person interested in the Washington franchise is not based in this area. He would say only that it is "a well-known person in the entertainment field."
Jim Dalrymple, general manager for the Starplex facility that includes RFK Stadium, also has not been contacted by the NABL. "It sounds more like a fishing expedition than anything else," he said. "Right now, because of the football configuration, we could not play baseball in RFK. We prefer to sit in a football configuration because that's reality."
Although the NABL appears to have aspirations similar to the U.S. Football League's -- tapping the vast amateur market, investing large amounts of money and seeking credibility through the television medium -- no players have been signed, no stadiums have been leased and no money has officially changed hands.
Although Berney said, "We're talking to two agents about the possibility of signing 120 to 150 players with one big signing," he would not disclose the names of the agents.
Berney also said both network and cable stations have been contacted about the possibility of televising NABL games. He mentioned ESPN as the possible cable station.
ESPN communications representative Mike Soltys said, "We're aware of what they're doing, but in terms of talking or negotiating with them, it's not true. We will listen to any proposition. We listened to the USFL. . . .they were the only instance where a brand new league got a TV contract, and they only got it because the ownership in the league was so strong."