Orioles not rushing to train in Tucson

December 14, 1990|By Mark Hyman

There are a couple of problems with a report from Tucson, Ariz., yesterday indicating that desert city is ready to become the spring-training home of the Baltimore Orioles.

One is that the East Coast teams are moving out of Arizona, not in. When the Cleveland Indians leave Tucson in 1993, the easternmost team with headquarters in Arizona will be the Chicago Cubs.

Another is that there have been no talks yet with the Orioles official who is overseeing the spring-training home hunt.

Tom Daffron, Orioles vice president, said yesterday that he'd not had "a scintilla of discussion" with Tucson officials.

Jim Ronstadt, director of the Tucson Parks and Recreation Department, was among city officials who helped to set off speculation this week when he said talks had been held with the Orioles about moving to Arizona and that "they may be interested."

Yesterday, Ronstadt downplayed those remarks, saying city officials had only a preliminary discussion last week in Chicago with manager Frank Robinson during the baseball winter meetings. Ronstadt said he'd also spoken by phone with Orioles player personnel director Doug Melvin.

Ronstadt said the contacts were "preliminary" and that a Tucson search committee soon would send a letter to the Orioles expressing interest in opening formal talks.

The Orioles, who will play their "home" exhibition games at various ballparks on the west coast of Florida next spring, are searching for a permanent location for their training headquarters. Recently, their efforts have focused generally on the west coast of Florida and specifically on a proposed stadium complex in Naples, Fla., in Collier County.

Last week, those plans suffered a setback when USF&G Corp., a potential partner in the project, announced it would not pick up options on real estate on which the complex was to be built.

Daffron said the Orioles are hopeful that an investor can be found to replace USF&G, and that the team eventually will end up with a complex in Naples. He was polite, but less hopeful, about Tucson's chances, saying: "I suppose you never say never. But our principal focus is on seeing if we can make this thing work in Collier County."

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