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VICTIMS OF GREED
In Florida and Arizona last week, everyone from peanut vendors to tourism officials winced at the bad news. Baseball's owners confirmed that spring training camps will not open as scheduled on Feb. 15 unless management and players come to terms on a new collective-bargaining agreement before then. At week's end that seemed unlikely. The two sides were still far apart, though the owners were hinting that they soon might come to the bargaining table with compromise proposals, including, perhaps, a revised revenue-sharing plan and an offer to scrap their pay-for-performance idea (SCORECARD, Feb. 12).
The owners, who in the past few years have been reaping hefty profits, don't seem overly concerned about the economic damage that they will inflict on others by keeping camps closed. Each year spring training generates $300 million of economic activity in Florida and another $145 million in Arizona. If camps are closed for long, the victims will include:
?Nonprofit organizations. A number of Arizona service groups, including the Mesa HoHoKams and the Scottsdale Charros, make most of their money from spring training sales of programs and souvenirs. Each year these groups donate several hundred thousand dollars of their proceeds to underwrite scholarships, youth leagues and other worthy causes. Smaller organizations will be hurt, too: The Dunedin, Fla., Little League raised $10,000 last spring by selling programs at Blue Jay games.
?Cities. Small cities without other tourist attractions, such as Winter Haven, Fla., where the Red Sox train, will suffer the most. Plant City, Fla., which built a $6 million training facility for the Reds two years ago at taxpayer expense, could lose $155,000 in municipal revenue if spring training is wiped out. West Palm Beach, Fla., which hosts both the Expos and Braves and which recently spent $1.4 million to upgrade Municipal Stadium, will lose $265,000 if the stadium sits empty all spring. In addition, more than 100 seasonal stadium workers will be without jobs.
?Private businesses. Deidre Draper, manager of a Mesa, Ariz., motel at which the Cubs have reserved 61 of the 136 rooms for all of March, estimates that her motel will lose $220,000 that month if Chicago pulls out. "We believe people will wait until the last moment to cancel, which will make it even more difficult for us to find people to use the rooms," says Draper. All sorts of mom-and-pop businesses—motels, diners, knickknack shops—count on spring training revenue to help carry them through the year.
Even if a lockout lasts all spring, visitors to Florida and Arizona will be able to watch some baseball. Minor league camps open soon, and one big league team is already training in Arizona: the Yakult Swallows of Japan's Central League.
THE ORANGE MONSTER
Last week the Caribbean Baseball Series was held in the U.S. for the first time, and it was darned near disastrous. In the deciding game on Sunday the Escogido Lions of the Dominican Republic defeated the San Juan Metros of Puerto Rico 16-5 before only 7,064 fans in Miami's Orange Bowl. Players from all four teams in the round-robin series—the champions of the Mexican, Venezuelan, Puerto Rican and Dominican winter leagues—were happy just to have survived the week.
The Orange Bowl was no place for baseball. Shortly before the week-long series opened, the field was chewed up by both the Pig Bowl, a tackle football game between the Dade County and New York City police forces, and by a soccer tournament. The dugouts were makeshift. The 32-foot-high left-field wall, dubbed the Orange Monster, was at most 250 feet from home plate. A ball hit over the Monster was a double, unless it also cleared the first 24 rows of seats behind the wall. Then it was a home run.