NEW YORK, SEPT. 19 -- A day Washington's prospective baseball ownership groups had been waiting and working for finally arrived today. They stated their cases before the National League Expansion Committee.
Representatives of Capital Region Baseball, the group that would like to initially locate a team at RFK Stadium then move to a facility in Northern Virginia, attempted to educate the committee about Northern Virginia's economic boom.
Representatives of Metropolitan Washington Baseball, the consortium seeking a team that would play at RFK Stadium permanently, tried to set the record straight about Washington's baseball history.
Both groups met the issue of the Baltimore Orioles head on, each saying it brought up the subject before the committee could ask about it. Both discussed stadiums, the size of Washington's television market and the area's rich demographics. Both left here feeling satisfied with their performances and confident, albeit uncertain, about the future.
"I don't think anybody can draw any reasonable conclusions," Capital Region Baseball Vice President Ira Saul said.
But the group's president, Mark Tracz, said: "We feel good about our chances. If we didn't, I don't think we'd be here."
"We made a very credible presentation," Metropolitan Region Baseball's leader John Akridge said. "The city can be proud."
Whether it can make the short list of four or five finalists that is scheduled to be announced by the end of the year is another matter.
Presentations from Denver, Buffalo, Miami and Sacramento were made Tuesday. Groups from Orlando, Charlotte and Nashville also appeared today. All believe they have made compelling impressions on the committee, made up of the Pittsburgh Pirates' Douglas Danforth (chairman), National League President Bill White, the Houston Astros' John McMullen and the New York Mets' Fred Wilpon. The committee, of course, isn't saying yet.
With NL Vice President and Secretary Phyllis Collins, NL Counsel Louis Hoynes and Major League Baseball General Counsel Tom Ostertag sitting in on the meetings at Hoynes's law offices, the applicants have summoned videos, charts, maps, diagrams, statistics and all kinds of testimonials.
New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, Colorado Gov. Roy Roemer and Tennessee Gov. Ned McWhirter have been here. North Carolina Gov. Jim Martin, South Carolina Gov. Carroll Campbell, Senators Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), Terry Sanford (D-N.C.), Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) and Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) and NBA Commissioner David Stern have been here on videotape, courtesy of Charlotte's group. There was 1964 footage of Walt Disney standing before a map of Florida and explaining why his world would be coming to Orlando.
The atmosphere was universally described as "cordial." The groups made their presentations, with the committee and officials asking questions along the way. When the presenters were finished, they faced more questions. Today's groups each spent about 75 minutes advocating their positions. Groups from Tampa-St. Petersburg and Phoenix will get their turns here Sept. 28.
Akridge was accompanied today by two of his group's organizers and investors -- Sovran Bank President Robert Pincus and Donald Dell, chairman of the board of the Arlington-based sports marketing and management firm ProServ -- and two of its consultants -- Terry Miller, director of sports architecture for the firm HNTB, and Jack Haeseler of Economics Research Associates' Vienna, Va., office.
Akridge said his group discussed "specifically" its ideas about working with the Orioles.
"We can have a cooperative effort in marketing our teams together," Pincus said.
The idea, of course, is to minimize the economic effect a Washington franchise would have on the Orioles and maximize awareness of baseball in Washington and Baltimore.
Tracz and Saul, who were accompanied by investor and former NBC Sports president Arthur Watson and legal counsel Tom Newell, approached the subject of the Orioles in a different manner.
"We basically endeavored to show the terrific opportunities to the south and west of Washington," he said, adding that the Washington Redskins' radio network stretches deep into Virginia and North Carolina. "We think there are a lot of baseball fans that aren't going to Orioles games right now that would come to our facility."
Saul said the group faced extensive questioning about its proposed stadium. The committee wanted to know about financing, location and the construction timetable. Tracz said he discussed several sites for the facility, including a 170-acre parcel near Dulles Airport and a 900-acre portion of the Fort Belvoir Proving Grounds. He said it would be privately financed and ready for the 1994 season.
The committee was "comfortable" with that, Saul said.
Akridge made the case for RFK Stadium, saying it already exists and will be refurbished, it is located centrally, it is reachable by MetroRail, it is safe and its use by Akridge's group is supported by the D.C. Armory Board and the D.C. government.
As for the TV market and its importance, Dell reached for a current example. The International Olympic Committee's selection of Atlanta as host for the 1996 Summer Games demonstrates "the sports world is TV and media driven, and Washington is the strongest applicant in that regard."
Said Watson: "It's not even close. There's Washington, then everyone else."
But Washington also has lost two major league franchises while the other applicants never have had one. To this, Akridge responded: "If you want to use losing two baseball teams as a standard for failure in baseball, it seems to me New York failed too."
He said the Senators moved to Texas for the same reasons the Giants moved to San Francisco and the Dodgers to Los Angeles, because their owners could get better deals. He also pointed out that when the usually dismal Senators won 86 games and finished fourth in 1969, they drew 918,106 -- a little less than the Orioles seated that year while winning the American League championship.
However, for all of the urgency in the presentations, the awarding of the new teams remains at least a year away.
"My basic attitude is one step at a time," Tracz said. "For now, we just want to get on that short list."