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PUERTO RICO HERALD
It's Official: The Expos Will Play 20 Games In San Juan In 2003
By Gabrielle Paese
November 22, 2002
Copyright © 2002 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
There's joy in Mudville. But there's even more joy in San Juan this weekend. This baseball-fevered island just got good news. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig confirmed the rumor that's been floating around for months: The Montreal Expos will be the San Juan Expos for 22 games during the regular 2003 baseball season.
Local sports and entertainment promoter Angelo Medina brokered the deal, which includes guaranteed revenue for MLB's most ailing franchise. Medina reportedly put together $350,000 per game, or a total of $8 million to land the Expos for three homestands in April, June and September.
Fans and player alike were already abuzz with the news, even before it was made official.
"The winter league is struggling to get the fans out to the ballpark," said Bayamon pitching coach and former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Juan Nieves. "I think the fans will turn out to see the big leagues."
The probable schedule includes the team's opener versus the New York Mets from April 11-14, followed by the Atlanta Braves April 15-17 and Cincinnati April 18-20.
The second homestand would likely bring World Series defending champion Anaheim to San Juan June 3-5 and the Texas Rangers June 6-8. The final homestand would be Sept. 5-7 versus the Florida Marlins and the Chicago Cubs Sept. 9-11.
Once Medina knew of MLB's plan to make the Montreal Expos an itinerant team in 2003, he said he began his sales pitch. MLB was reportedly swayed by the financial guarantees, as well as the fact that San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium had already met MLB approval. The Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays opened the 2001 season at the ballpark, which was built in 1966 and potentially seats 18,000.
Expos interim management met in early October with central government officials as well as with City of San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini and Medina to discuss details.
About the only person who isn't ecstatic about the news is Atlanta entrepreneur Charles Vaughn, who originated the proposal currently on MLB's desk to buy the ailing Montreal franchise and relocate it to San Juan. Earlier this week, Vaughn said he feared that if the homestands were a huge success in San Juan, he might be priced right out of the bidding war.
Other cities vying to bring the Expos to their hometowns include Washington, D.C., Portland, Ore., Las Vegas, New Orleans and Charlotte, N.C. San Juan's bid is unique because it would be the first time Major League Baseball regular season games will be played in a city that is not contiguous to the United States or in the contiguous United States. Meaning, there's no way to drive to San Juan from New York or Atlanta -- not that anyone in baseball's entourage drives in this day and age.
Given San Juan's location in the Caribbean, the player's association immediately asked for special concessions. The union had originally tried to limit San Juan's participation to two homestands. Other points are still under contention: the union wants MLB to pay for families to join players on the San Juan homestand and is also asking for additional meal money as well as an adjustment for San Juan's taxes.
Local fans will also feel the pinch in their pocketbooks. Tickets are expected to be priced a major league ballpark standards (around $30 a ticket) -- a little less than the $75 fans played to watch Opening Day in 2001 but substantially higher than the $5 it costs to watch a winter league game.
And speaking of the winter league, now would be the time to use the news of the Expos' homestand as a springboard to bring more fans to Bithorn Stadium and the other five ballparks right now. After all, Carolina is going to host the Caribbean Series in February and the Expos and the Mets are going to play in San Juan in April. There has to be a bridge that links the two together. Let's hope Winter League president Enrique Cruz sees the potential.
Caguas the host city for ESPN2 Friday Night Fights
Caguas' own Miguel Cotto (12-0, 9 KO) will face Mexican super lightweight Ubaldo Hernandez (18-9-2, 9 KO) on Friday night in Caguas' Hector Sola Bezares arena in a non-title fight that also features light flyweight Ivan Calderon (12-0, 3 KO) vs. Nicaragua's Lee Sandoval (19-7-2, 10 KO).
Top Rank's highly regarded prospect has gained the boxing world's respect in 2002 by taking on tough rivals, including journeyman John Brown, whom he beat two months ago in a 10-round decision. Of his six victories in 2002, five of them have been by knockout.
Gabrielle Paese is the Assistant Sports Editor at the San Juan Star. She is the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at email@example.com.
Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.