Spirit GM was ready for all-stars Forrester will see work pay off at Sunday's game

February 07, 1997|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

Spirit general manager Drew Forrester knew exactly what he was getting into when he suggested to owner Bill Stealey that the club stage the NPSL All-Star Game.

A lot of work, for one thing.

A year's labor on the project will culminate in the All-Star Game on Sunday at 3: 05 at the Baltimore Arena before a gathering of at least 7,700. The American Conference has won two straight and five of the past six.

Although only 34, Forrester is in his 16th year of pro soccer in Baltimore. A graduate of Glen Burnie High, where, he says, he was a soccer goalie with little skill but unbridled enthusiasm, he joined the old Blast in 1981 as an unpaid public relations intern.

With the Blast and later the Spirit, he progressed to public relations assistant, public relations director, assistant general manager under Kenny Cooper, vice president of soccer operations and finally, when Cooper left in 1994, to general manager.

In the past 2 1/2 years, Forrester has emerged from Cooper's large soccer shadow. Rich now in experience, he even had the Blast's staging of the 1992 Major Soccer League All-Star Game to draw on in putting this one together.

Before going to last year's All-Star Game in Wichita, Forrester suggested to Stealey that the Spirit make a bid for this year's. Detroit and Cincinnati expressed mild interest, but when Stealey presented the first bid, the league immediately accepted.

In the NPSL, the all-star host does all the work, gets all the revenue and pays all expenses. The league does precious little.

The Spirit's expenses will be close to $100,000, but the revenue from gate receipts and chief sponsors Fila Soccer, Dannon and Papa John's figures to meet or even exceed that.

"If we break even, that's a victory," Forrester said. "Our goal is to have the owners and GMs go home Monday saying, 'Baltimore put on a first-class event,' and the players saying, 'They treated us like all-stars.' "

Tomorrow at 4: 05, the Spirit will stage a Skills Challenge, the second in league history and certainly the most dramatic. It will include contests in shooting accuracy, distance and speed, a super shootout and "head tennis" in which three-player teams play a game similar to volleyball but without using their hands.

The winning and losing players' shares from the game will come out of the Spirit's budget. Spirit and NPSL officials declined to disclose the share amounts.

Under the supervision the past two months of Forrester and All-Star coordinator Erin Blank, a committee of 36 volunteers -- most of them season-ticket holders -- has worked on such projects as airport welcome, hotel accommodations, hospitality and All-Star Game and Skills Challenge operations.

"Our regular office staff has divided up duties like players' travel, service to sponsors, media, game programs and tickets," Forrester said. "Everyone has had a significant role."

NPSL All-Star schedule

NPSL Skills Challenge

What: Four individual events for shooting accuracy, distance and speed and one team event)

When: Tomorrow, 4: 05 p.m.

Where: Baltimore Arena

Tickets: $8

NPSL All-Star Game

When: Sunday, 3: 05 p.m.

Where: Baltimore Arena

TV: HTS, tape delay Monday at 1: 30 p.m., and Wednesday at 9: 30 p.m.

Tickets: $18, $16, $13, $12

Information: (410) 625-2320

Spirit tonight

Opponent: Wichita Wings

Site: Kansas Coliseum, Wichita, Kan.

Time: 8: 35

Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WASA (1330 AM)

Outlook: This is the teams' final game before the NPSL All-Star Game. In their first meeting this season, in December, the Spirit edged Wichita, 12-10. The Wings are 11-2 at home; the Spirit is 4-8 on the road.

Pub Date: 2/07/97

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