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Bucs ownership professes no interest in buying Rays

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 28, 2001


Spokesman Reggie Roberts made it clear Friday that Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer is not waiting for the Rays to be put up for sale.

"The Glazers' focus is on the upcoming football season, and right now they have no interest in acquiring the Rays franchise," Roberts said.

Eddie DeBartolo, former owner of the 49ers, also was adamant. In a statement read over the telephone by his secretary, he addressed speculation he may be interested in buying the team by saying, "There is absolutely no truth to the rumor."

The Rays are not for sale yet but are contemplating that possibility.

If they do go on the block, they could get tire kicks from potential buyers from as close as Orlando and as far away as Portland, Ore. There are groups in Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia also looking to buy.

The catch is, these groups want to bring teams to their areas, and commissioner Bud Selig has said franchise relocation will not be seriously considered until a new agreement has been reached with the players union. The current contract runs out after this season.

The Rays also have a contract with St. Petersburg that makes it extremely difficult to move them out of Tropicana Field.

But as Don Logan, president and general manager of the Las Vegas 51s minor-league team, said, "One thing I have learned is there's no such thing as an ironclad contract."

Who is looking for a team?

Washington financier Fred Malek heads a group that includes Stephen Porter, who was part of a group that attempted to bring major league baseball to the Tampa Bay area in the early '90s. Birmingham, Ala., has been agitating for a team and has the deep pockets of HealthSouth chairman Richard Scrushy in its back yard.

Entrepreneur Norton Herrick, whose attempt to bring a team to Orlando failed six years ago, told the Orlando Sentinel major league baseball could still work in Central Florida.

"If the Devil Rays move, I think baseball would approve a move to Orlando if it came to that," he said.

The Oregon Baseball Campaign wants to bring a team to Portland. President Lynn Lashbrook said he is keeping tabs on the Rays' situation, though he is unsure what action his group will take if there is a sale.

"We've been working on this for five years, and I've said all along that there will be three to four teams competing (to relocate) to Portland, and I stand by that," he said. "All of this plays nicely into our game plan."

There is no doubting the game plan of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who desperately wants professional sports in his city. But Logan said there are concerns the Las Vegas Valley, with a population of 1.4-million, cannot yet support a major league team.

The time apparently is not right for Charlotte, N.C., either. Jeff Beaver, executive director of the Charlotte Regional Sports Commission, said the priority is to keep the NBA's Hornets, who have threatened to move.

Still, Beaver wouldn't shut the door. "Baseball is on the back burner," he said. "But it never leaves the stove."

- Staff writer Darrell Fry and researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

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