Sports briefs

Posted: Tuesday, December 21, 2004

ABL to send team to Wichita

Attempts by the Alaska Baseball League to bypass the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kansas, have been abandoned for this year, according to the ABL spokesman.

Mike Baxter, spokesman for the ABL, said in a press release that attempts to bypass the NBC World Series and organize a tournament in Alaska for 2005 have been scrapped due to conflicts in dates for the use of Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage. The subject will be talked about at the league's year-end meeting held in the fall of 2005.

Baxter said the ABL will send its league champion to the NBC World Series in 2005.

"Due to a number of issues, not the least of which is the heavy financial burden placed on Alaska teams participating in the Wichita tournament, the league will no longer send a second team," Baxter wrote in a press release. "Teams in the Alaska Baseball League will remain free to compete in other tournaments at the end of the season should they desire to do so."

Baxter said the league also is working on a playoff method to reduce the confusion that nearly happened at the end of the 2004 season, when four teams finished within two games of each other.

"By sending only one team to the NBC tournament much more emphasis will be placed on the league race and should make for stronger competition that in many past years has led to the qualifying team not settled until the last day of the season, or even at times, playoff games that were needed after the regular season was completed," Baxter wrote.

Leaders plan deal to save Expos' move to DC

WASHINGTON — District of Columbia leaders announced an agreement Monday night that they said would bring the deal to move the Montreal Expos to Washington back from the brink of collapse.

The District of Columbia Council was to meet Tuesday on the measure, which was agreed to following negotiations among Mayor Anthony A. Williams, D.C. Council Chair Linda W. Cropp and baseball officials.

''We are now able to bring baseball to our city,'' Williams said. ''But we can do it in a way that I think protects our city in terms of risks, in terms of costs, in terms of the overall integrity of the deal.''

The compromise plan for the 41,000-seat ballpark along the Anacostia River, south of the Capitol, allows private financing. It also splits the liability for cost overruns and missed construction deadlines evenly between the city and major league baseball, Williams spokesman Chris Bender said.

Williams' office will keep the council informed on all private funding proposals it receives. In return, Cropp agreed to drop a provision she inserted last week that would void the deal if the city couldn't find a private donor to pay at least half the construction costs.

Baseball officials were optimistic that the plan would meet their expectations. If a financing law is in place by Dec. 31 and baseball commissioner Bud Selig declares that arrangements are satisfactory to have the team play at RFK Stadium in 2005, the franchise would move to Washington and be renamed the Nationals.

''We remain hopeful that the council will pass legislation consistent with the stadium agreement so we can move forward with the Nationals in D.C.,'' said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, who negotiated by telephone from New York.

Monday's discussion included ways to limit the penalties the city would face if the stadium is not completed on time.

''We can basically buy liability insurance for that,'' Bender said. ''The city and baseball would split the cost of that evenly.''

The key to the deal was a private funding proposal that would net the city $100 million from a Cleveland-based firm for a cut of curbside parking fees for the next 20 years. Cropp had enough confidence in that proposal that she agreed to make it the sole source of private funds for the city if no other viable private offers were made, Bender said.

Five Nationwide grads get their Masters

The Masters will have a guy named Palmer playing at Augusta National next year — just not the King.

Ryan Palmer was among five Nationwide Tour graduates who earned a spot in the 2005 Masters on Monday, when the final world ranking of the year was published and allowed Augusta National to start putting invitations in the mail.

Palmer — no relation to Arnold Palmer, who played his 50th and final Masters last year — qualified by finishing in the top 40 on the PGA Tour money list. He got there with a final-round 62 to win the Funai Classic at Disney in October.

Four other players were on the Nationwide Tour in '03 and earned a Masters invitation by finishing in the top 40 on the money list: Zach Johnson, Mark Hensby, Bo Van Pelt and Ted Purdy.

They were among 14 players who will make their first Masters appearance April 7-10.

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