Maryland may be rated Class AAA this week Kirk awaits word on minor-league bid

April 01, 1991|By Mark Hyman

Peter Kirk will be staying within arm's reach of a telephone today and, if necessary, tomorrow.

Kirk, Maryland's minor-league baseball impresario, is waiting for the call that will tell him whether his bid to locate a Class AAA team in the Annapolis area still is alive.

Kirk, who leads Maryland Baseball Partnership Limited, which owns the state's minor-league franchises in Hagerstown and Frederick, is among the bidders for Class AAA teams that will be created when the National League expands by two teams in 1993.

By tomorrow at the latest, the Class AAA Expansion Committee expects to move to the next stage in the selection process by completing its "short list" of applicants still in the running for the new teams. Initially, the committee received proposals from 18 cities. Only four are known to have made the short list: Birmingham, Ala.; Charlotte, N.C.; Quad Cities, Iowa; and Tulsa, Okla.

Kirk's bid, as well as nine others, have been in a "must perform" category. The expansion committee asked those bidders to submit information about the stadiums in which their teams would play and to tell how their teams would be supported by state and local governments.

The expansion committee's chairman, Nashville Sounds president Larry Schmittou, said the panel's schedule calls for it to visit all cities on its short list in June and to select the expansion teams -- as few as two or as many as four -- in September.

If Kirk is successful, the presence of a Class AAA franchise in Maryland would raise interesting possibilities for the Baltimore Orioles. Kirk's other teams -- the Class A Frederick Keys and Class AA Hagerstown Suns -- are affiliated with the Orioles. Having them nearby has allowed Orioles officials to see more games and get to know their minor-league players better, and the same would be true for a Class AAA franchise.

On the other hand, the Orioles say they're pleased with their present Class AAA arrangement in Rochester, N.Y. "We continue to like our situation in Rochester," said Doug Melvin, Orioles player personnel director.

The Orioles' contract with Rochester expires after the 1993 season, and Melvin wasn't ruling out anything. "We haven't talked to Pete, but if he does get a Triple-A expansion team, there could be some interest," Melvin said. "You always have to be open-minded."

Kirk said his group "hadn't done a lot of thinking" about an affiliation. But he added: "It's safe to say the highest candidates on our list to talk to would be a National League team in Washington. And, if the Orioles are available, we'll talk to them."

In that vein, Kirk affirmed his support for Washington and the city's bid for an expansion team. "I'm personally supportive of that," he said. Kirk discounted suggestions that Washington's chances might be shot, or at least diminished, if the Class AAA Expansion Committee chooses the Annapolis area.

"The major leagues will make their selection first. It will be a known quantity before Triple-A acts," Kirk said, adding, "If anything, I do believe the enthusiasm we have been able to demonstrate is a slight plus for Washington's chances."

The number of Class AAA teams awarded will vary, depending on whether the National League expands into cities that now have minor-league baseball. A decision to locate an NL team in Buffalo, N.Y., for example, would create two Class AAA vacancies -- one for expansion reasons, another to replace the Buffalo Bisons, the Pittsburgh Pirates' Class AAA affiliate.

Schmittou offered little about the progress of the expansion committee or how Annapolis stacks up. "The best thing I can say is they're an applicant and they furnished the additional information," he said. Kirk, president of KMS, a real-estate development firm, said: "We feel good about the support we're getting and the schedule we've set for ourselves. Now we'll see if our schedule matches theirs [the expansion committee's]."

If a Class AAA team is awarded to Maryland, Kirk says it will play in a new, 10,000-seat stadium to be built "in the Bowie-Annapolis area" along Route 50. He said several sites are under consideration, all about 30 miles from Baltimore. Kirk estimated construction costs for the stadium at $9 million. In talks last month with Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Kirk said he discussed with the governor "in conceptual terms" the state possibly paying half of that, with private investment and local government making up the rest.

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