Organizers of efforts to bring a Major League Baseball team to the Washington area said yesterday they are undeterred by Commissioner Bud Selig's concerns that bringing baseball here could adversely affect the Baltimore Orioles, one of the most successful franchises in sports.
Gabe Paul Jr., executive director of the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, which is trying to bring a team to Northern Virginia, said that despite Selig's reservations, he is optimistic because the commissioner acknowledged that two major league teams could coexist in the region.
"That is a very positive statement," Paul said. "This is the first time I can recall his publicly coming out and saying the market is big enough where they can coexist."
Selig praised the Washington market as one "that deserves a major league franchise," but he said in the same interview at his New York offices earlier this week that "of course I'm concerned with Baltimore. However, that doesn't mean I would keep a team from going to Washington just because I'm concerned.
"I am very protective of all the existing franchises."
Orioles owner Peter Angelos strongly opposes a Washington team because he feels it would significantly hurt his ticket sales and broadcast revenues.
The Washington-Northern Virginia region ranks eighth nationally in population at about 4.6 million people.
When Baltimore is included, the number grows to 7 million and stretches from northern Maryland down almost to Fredericksburg, Va., according to Market Statistics.
Selig also said during the interview that the Washington area is not likely to get a team anytime soon because there are no current plans for expansion.
Stephen Porter, a local attorney participating in a group to bring baseball to the District, said yesterday that his group "is here for the long haul."
Porter's group is led by financier Fred Malek and is officially known as the Washington Baseball Club Limited Liability Co. The six-member group has an estimated net worth of more than $3 billion.
"We are all of the belief that Washington, D.C., deserves a baseball team and that it is important to the city, even if it takes a long time," said Porter, whose group tried to lure the Montreal Expos here last summer.
Montreal has since found a buyer and appears to be staying put.
"We have the business leadership and the political leadership that has the will to do it," Porter said.
"If there's another franchise in financial distress that cannot pull off what Montreal pulled off, we'll try again."
In addition to Porter and Malek, the Washington group includes Jim Kimsey, co-founder of American Online; Franklin D. Raines, chief executive officer of Fannie Mae and former director of the federal Office of Management and Budget; real estate executive Joseph E. Robert Jr.; and Paul M. Wolff, a senior partner at Williams & Connolly.
"We went into this, all of us, as a civic enterprise, not the kind of business that one seeks to do if you're only in it to maximize profits," Porter said.
The Northern Virginia group is led by William Collins III, owner of MetroCall.