WHEN YOU DRIVE down the coast of booming West Florida, the last stop is posh Naples. Turn off the interstate at Exit 17 (Naples Park) onto Immakolee Road and there's not a baseball in sight. But there will be in a couple of years.
Welcome to the soon-to-be spring-training home of the Baltimore Orioles. When Naples voters overwhelmingly approved a 3 percent room tax last month, it paved the way for the flight of the Os from Miami directly across the state.
A third of that new tax (which will be paid by tourists and winter visitors, not permanent residents) will finance a spanking new baseball park and practice complex, with a few eateries and hostelries thrown in.
The players and fanatic Orioles fans will love the new locale. In winter, Naples has near-perfect climate. Great restaurants. Shops for the super-rich. Accommodations from the five-star Ritz-Carlton on the gulf to the Econo Lodge inland. Estates of the seven-figure variety in Port Royal and cheaper homes that offer incredible value by Maryland standards (why not when you don't need cold-weather insulation, second floors or basements?).
Then there's the greyhound race track ten minutes away in Bonita Springs when the team has a night off, and an outdoorsman's delight in Everglades City to the south (is Ben McDonald listening?). And then there's the biggest draw of all -- the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, with miles and miles of beautiful beaches.
Naples seems to have it all. We just hope the Orioles will agree to leave when it's time to return to Baltimore.
*IN PUNISHMENT for troubled Kosovo province's attempt to secede, the parliament of Yugoslavia's biggest republic, Serbia, adopted a new constitution further reducing Kosovo's autonomy. Something like 1.7 million ethnic Albanians live in Kosovo versus 200,000 Serbs and Montenegrins and the move risks a backlash by ethnic Albanians, but the Serbs consider it the cradle of their culture.
Curiously, the constitution pledges loyalty to the federal Yugoslav state but contains a provision that Serbia can "turn its back" on the federation if the republic was threatened, according to the Yugoslavian news agency Tanjug. The clause would appear to allow Serbia to secede from the rest of Yugoslavia. Hmmm -- the Serbs say the Albanians of their province can't secede, but think it's all right for Serbia to secede from Yugoslavia. Nothing like logic to liven up a political discussion.
*SIGN OUTSIDE a Taco Bell restaurant in Southwest Baltimore:
"Tart Working Now.