Vegas adds A's to its opening acts

On Baseball

March 24, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

Baseball's ode to neon begins a week from tomorrow, when the Oakland Athletics play their season opener against the Toronto Blue Jays in Las Vegas.

The Athletics moved their first six games of the season to Cashman Field (capacity: 9,344), saying the renovations of Oakland Coliseum won't be completed in time for Opening Day.

"We want to be able to open the stadium to fans and let them see what it will be the best baseball stadium in California," said A's executive vice president Ed Alvarez. "We'll be able to do that April 19. We would not have been able to do that April 1."

However, George Vukasin, the president of the Coliseum

commission, said the renovations would be made by April 1, and suggested the real reason for the move is the Athletics are trying to conceal the fact they aren't selling any tickets for Opening Day, traditionally a big draw.

Said Vukasin: "If their marketing department was as creative as it should be, they'd have everything ready by Opening Day."

Regardless, the Athletics are headed to Las Vegas, where the seventh-inning stretch may not be quite so traditional. Perhaps the Athletics' marketing department is kicking around some ideas to lure fans to Cashman Field.

1) Wayne Newton sings the national anthem. If you miss his first show before the game, he'll sing it again after the top of the fifth inning.

2) Before each at-bat, hitters will yank the handle of a progressive slot machine mounted on the side of the dugout. If three baseballs roll up on the scoreboard, some lucky fan wins big.

3) Buffet lines instead of concession stands.

4) Keno draws at the start of every inning.

5) The movie "Bugsy" will be shown on JumboTron during rain delays.

6) Every time the Athletics score a run, showgirls prance on the dugout to a medley of '70s hits, sung by Tony Orlando, Florence Henderson and Athletics catcher Terry Steinbach.

7) For a week, baseball's rule against player betting will be relaxed.

8) If both teams combine to score 21 runs, all those in attendance win a stack of chips.

9) Pawn shops behind home plate will open at the start of batting practice and end a half-hour after the game.

10) Pete Rose will throw out the first ball.

Farcical?

Exactly.

Colangelo's bad idea

Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo knows basketball, and he might've picked up a few things from living in a community that had the Super Bowl and Fiesta Bowl two months ago. But Colangelo, who also owns the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks, is pushing an idiotic plan to other baseball owners: The World Series, Colangelo suggests, should be moved to a neutral site. All in the name of marketing.

Can you imagine the Orioles or the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees playing every day for six months to get into the postseason, only to have the World Series games moved to Tempe, Ariz., or Miami? Can you imagine the reaction of season-ticket holders? Colangelo knows a whole lot about making money, but he is clueless when it comes to understanding baseball.

The Los Angeles Dodgers made a lot of noises when training camp opened about how they were the team to beat in the NL, that they could contend with the Braves. But Atlanta has beaten them three straight this spring, outscoring the Dodgers by a combined 27-10. "It gets a little frustrating," said Los Angeles catcher Mike Piazza. "It's personal pride. . . . I think they made it clear they're the team to beat. Let's put it this way, I don't think they're real intimidated [by] us."

Dundalk native Mike Bielecki, 36, is in contention for a spot as a middle reliever for the Braves, which would be his third stint with Atlanta. He showed up in the Braves' camp a few weeks ago on a motorcycle, his hair so long that pitching coach Leo Mazzone didn't recognize him. He went 4-6 with California last year and was let go after the season. Bielecki said: "I thought my career was over, so I bought a motorcycle and grew my hair."

Reds sour on Goodwin

It didn't take long, but the Cincinnati Reds are unhappy with center fielder Curtis Goodwin, acquired from the Orioles for left-hander David Wells. Goodwin is batting under .100, and he has shown a distinct inability to track fly balls. Goodwin opened camp as the front-runner to be the Reds' center fielder. Now there are rumblings in the organization that Cincinnati is ready to deal him.

Friday marked the third anniversary of the boating accident that killed Cleveland pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews and seriously injured Bob Ojeda. Kevin Wickander, a reliever now with Milwaukee Brewers, played with Cleveland at the time and was a close friend of Olin's. Wickander said: "They say time heals it, but it hasn't healed it all. It's still quite painful."

It looks as if Eric Davis is going to make the Reds' roster as an extra outfielder. Chris Sabo could be the everyday third baseman if he stays healthy. Sabo has been sidelined by a hamstring pull.

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