Spirit exceeds even its own expectations

Phil Jackman

March 18, 1993|By PHIL JACKMAN

Reading Time, Two Minutes:

Back in July, when the Baltimore Spirit started thinking ahead to the upcoming indoor soccer season, the men involved did it over coffee in a restaurant. Main reason for this is this new team in a new league didn't have offices.

What came out of that meeting and subsequent conferences was a list of objectives for 1992-93 A.B. (after Blast) and, amazingly, nearly all the goals have been accomplished.

In first place and with a magic number of one to sew up the American Division title in the National Professional Soccer League heading into games this weekend, the Spirit wanted to:

* Win its division. Almost a certainty.

* Average 5,500 spectators per game. Done.

* Have some games on TV. Done.

* Sign local players and have them play prominent roles. Done.

* Average 7,000 spectators on its best drawing night (Saturday). On target.

* Sell out a game. Came close when Cleveland was the opponent a couple of weeks ago.

* Increase marketing and advertising and become more involved in the community. Done.

"And," says director of operations Drew Forrester, "we've got momentum going for us as we head into the stretch and the playoffs."

Momentum means a game against arch-rival Cleveland on the road tomorrow, then Saturday-Sunday games against Detroit and its closest pursuer, Buffalo, at the Arena. They're forecasting 15,000 fans for the two games, an added feature Sunday afternoon being the retiring of nine-year Blast goalie Scott Manning's number (31).

"If we scripted it, it couldn't have come out better," said Forrester, slipping in the fact that over the last 10 home games the Spirit has been averaging 6,500 admissions.

Not bad for an operation that only eight months ago didn't have a whole lot more than enthusiasm going for it.

The NPSL playoffs start April 6, involve a best-of-three, a best-of-three and a best-of-five with a champion being crowned by April 30.

* Bill James, a statistical demon who puts out a book on baseball quicker than it takes to play most games, doesn't pull his punches.

In his latest effort rating the players, James says of Harold Reynolds prior to his off-season acquisition by the Orioles: "Has been bumped out of a job in Seattle by Bret Boone. His career will continue if he will accept a reserve role, or he may sign with some team like California that doesn't know what the hell it is doing. There is never a shortage of second basemen, and there are 10 better second basemen trapped in Triple-A. Could pinch run and play late-inning defense."

* From the only-in-boxing department: No sooner did Buddy McGirt climb out of the ring after losing his WBC welterweight championship to Pernell Whitaker when he was whisked into surgery for rotator-cuff surgery on his left shoulder. . .and no one seemed to mind the perceived fraud of a guy with a completely torn tendon going through with a title fight.

* In the latest issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids, Ken Griffey Jr. reveals that when he was a kid the athlete he most admired was Rickey Henderson. Now, after being in the Bigs for a while and catching Henderson's act, one wonders if Griffey carries the same high regard for his once-upon-a-time idol.

* Seriously now, does anyone really believe that Coppin State is "eager" to play Cincinnati in the NCAA tournament getting under way today as the newspaper suggested? True, a team wants a stern test, but to be constantly pitted against top 10 teams in first-round matchups gets old quickly.

* An interesting bus excursion to opening day in Hagerstown, pitting the Suns against the Orioles' farm team in Albany (the Polecats), is planned April 8. The new Suns, now affiliated with Toronto, are owned by ex-Baltimorean Winston Blenckstone and are moving up from Myrtle Beach, S.C. Call Jerry Klauber at (410) 825-2542 for particulars.

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