Spirit to sign Wittman Former Blast standout coming home to play

September 23, 1992|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

Former Baltimore Blast and San Diego Sockers star Tim Wittman is coming home.

The Spirit, the new National Professional Soccer League franchise in Baltimore, is expected to announce Wittman's signing today at a noon news conference.

Wittman said last night that he is "99 percent sure" a contract will be made final this morning.

"It looks good, and I'm hoping," Wittman said. "There is one point yet to be worked out, but they've called a news conference, so I hope that means we'll reach agreement. I really want to be involved."

The Spirit is expected to make several other announcements, including a television deal with Home Team Sports and possibly the release of the regular-season schedule.

Spirit vice president Drew Forrester would neither confirm nor deny Wittman's signing.

"Timmy and I have met a couple times, and we've both exchanged the information we both wanted to hear," Forrester said. "That was that I told him we had an interest in him playing for the Spirit, and he said this is where he wanted to play. We've met a couple times. We've talked about the Spirit and the NPSL, and that's about all I can tell you."

Wittman, 29, virtually grew up before the eyes of soccer fans here. He was born and raised in the Herring Run section of town, played high school soccer for Calvert Hall and joined the Blast right after graduation at the age of 17.

He played 10 seasons for the Blast, earning league-wide respect for his speed and ability to score while coming out of the back. A three-time Major Soccer League All-Star, he is one of five players in Blast history to score 40 goals in one season. In 1988-89, he set an MSL record for short-handed goals in a season with seven, earned team MVP honors in 1987-88, was team Defender of the Year in 1986-87 and was a member of the franchise's only championship team in 1983-84.

But during the 1990-91 season, differences developed between Wittman and Blast owner Ed Hale, and Wittman was allowed to become a free agent. He signed with Baltimore's archrivals, the San Diego Sockers, for the 1991-92 season.

When the MSL folded this summer, Wittman returned to Baltimore and expressed his desire to play for the new NPSL franchise.

"I personally think this league will work and that it will be just as good a product as the MSL," he said. "I think this is the proper route for the owners. They've got 13 teams, and, by controlling cost, they can probably grow to 17 or 22 eventually. It's unfortunate for the players that the salaries as so low . . . but I want to remain a part of it."

Wittman, who owns Studio 1612, a hairstyling business in Mount Washington, is in the process of expanding his business base, having submitted a proposal to the Du Burns Arena to establish a restaurant and concession stand in the new indoor soccer facility.

Wittman's signing will bring to five the number of former Blast players signed by the new franchise. Wittman joins forward Rusty Troy, defender Doug Neely, midfielder Joe Koziol and goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro.

The Spirit has sold 1,000 season tickets. Forrester said the club will begin an extensive advertising campaign within the next week that will last through the end of October.

The Spirit has been waiting for the NPSL to release its schedule before beginning its major marketing campaign leading up to the home opener, Nov. 7 against Chicago.

Tim Wittman's career statistics

Year,.. ..Team.. .... .G.. .. ..A.. .. .. .. ..Pts

1981-82...Balt... .. ..1.. .. .0.. .. .. .. .. .1

1983-84...Balt... .. .20.. .. .13.. .. .. .. .. 33

1984-85...Balt... .. ..5.. .. ..7.. .. .. .. ...12

1985-86...Balt... .. .26.. .. .13.. .. .. .. .. 39

1986-87,..Balt... .. .11.. .. .13.. .. .. .. .. 24

1987-88...Balt... .. .36.. .. .11.. .. .. .. .. 47

1988-89,..Balt... .. .29.. .. .11.. .. .. .. .. 40

1989-90,..Balt... .. .40.. ....15.. .. .. ... ..55

Balt... .. .30.. .. .24.. .. ... .. ..54

1991-92,..S.D... .. ..25.. .. .14.. .. .. .. ...39

Totals.. .. .. .. .. 223.. .. 121.. .. .. .. ..344

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