The National League Expansion Committee yesterday announced the schedule for its visits to three of the six cities still in contention for the two franchises that will begin play in 1993, but its visit to Washington remains unscheduled.
The committee will visit Miami and Orlando on Feb. 25 and Tampa-St. Petersburg on Feb. 26, NL spokeswoman Katy Feeney said. She said visits to Washington, Buffalo and Denver will be scheduled after the Florida trips, and probably will be in early March.
She said there was nothing to be read from the committee's schedule. The Florida cities' proximity to each other was a factor, she said. Weather presumably played a role as well, since the committee will make stadium site inspections in each city. Washington and Buffalo have outdoor stadiums, and Denver is planning one.
"It didn't make any difference what slot you had when we made the presentations" to the committee last fall in New York, said John "Chip" Akridge, leader of Washington's prospective ownership group. "I don't think this will either." He added that his group might be helped by the additional preparation time it will have.
He said he was "a little surprised" that the committee apparently will spend as little as half a day in each city. He said he had been anticipating that the committee would spend a day in each.
But Feeney said the committee hopes to conduct its visits with as little fanfare as possible. "I don't think they want to do a whole fancy thing," she said. "That's what they had the presentations for. This is mostly nuts and bolts. They want to get down to it."
Besides visiting stadium sites, Feeney said the committee "basically wants to sit down with the ownership group and get any further information from them -- anything that's changed, any questions that weren't fully answered previously, questions about financing."
Akridge said it was too early to tell how all of this will affect his group's plan for the committee's visit.
In another development, Bart Fisher, the leader of a group that had been seeking an expansion franchise for Northern Virginia, said yesterday his group continues to exist and is "looking at several options to get back in the picture" for a major league team.
Akridge's group was selected over Fisher's, but Fisher said that, if Akridge's group is unsuccessful, his group may seek to buy a team and move it.
"We have had indirect contact with the ownership of a current team, but my line is to wait," said Fisher, who declined to identify the team. "We recognize the D.C. entry has to play out this expansion process, and we will do nothing to undercut it. At the same time, we are devoted to bringing baseball to Northern Virginia."
Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) has sent a letter of support to Akridge, but Warner's staff director Grayson Winterling said Warner is still working with Fisher. "We're supporting Akridge," Winterling said, "but if something changes, we'll support Bart."
Virginia Lt. Gov. Don Beyer, who had backed a Northern Virginia expansion effort, said: "It makes the most sense to support Chip's effort. In a perfect world, I would prefer to have a team in Northern Virginia, but if Chip can make it work at RFK, great."
Akridge said he is not concerned by Fisher's continuing efforts. "Whatever he wants to do, he's entitled to do," he said.