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Ventura vows to boost Twins' rescue effort
By Michael Khoo
Minnesota Public Radio
November 16, 2001
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Gov. Jesse Ventura met with representatives from the Legislature, the business community and the Minnesota Twins to discuss the future of baseball in the state. All sides left the room optimistic.

Atty. Michael Ciresi
Attorney Mike Ciresi has been among the leaders of an effort to keep the Twins in Minnesota. He appeared on MPR's Midday program on Friday Nov. 16 to discuss the issue. Listen to the broadcast.
(MPR Photo/Bob Collins)

Gov. Jesse Ventura has taken some criticism in the last few weeks for his hands-off approach to the Twins dilemma. M

Major League Baseball owners have voted to eliminate two teams, and the Twins are widely considered a top candidate. But Ventura emerged from the afternoon meeting - which he initiated - and pledged to plead the state's case in a string of national media events. He says he'll warn baseball fans across the country to follow the contraction talks closely.

"That's my message, because the Minnesota Twins are one of the most viable, best-run ballclubs in the United States of America. You can see it; you can look at the books and see it. And if they're willing to eliminate the long tradition of the Minnesota Twins, then I would tell every other major league club out there not to hold their breath. Because they could be next," Ventura said.

Ventura says he will also contact baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

Twins President Jerry Bell says he attended the meeting mainly to answer questions and provide information. He says the team took no position during the talks, but he says he left feeling more optimistic.

"I think it was significant that the governor and both the House and the Senate and all the parties are coming together. Baseball has a way of doing that, which continues to renew my belief in baseball," Bell said.

But those in the meeting acknowledge they still have no definite plan for keeping the team in Minnesota. Selig has said he wants to wrap up the details of contraction by next month.

Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum says the first step will be to push that timeline back. But he admits elected officials have few options.

Twins President Jerry Bell
Twins President Jerry Bell says he attended the meeting mainly to answer questions and provide information. He says the team took no position during the talks, but he says he left feeling more optimistic.
(MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)

"I don't know if we have the cards or the leverage. But we want to honestly tell them that we are looking at a plan. We are trying to keep partisanship and politics out of a plan. We developed a task force, a legislative and governor's task force, to come up with some type of response. Those are pretty positive actions, I think, from what they should be reading," Sviggum said.

Attorney and former U.S. Senate candidate Mike Ciresi has organized a group of business leaders working to retain the Twins. Ciresi says specific funding proposals for a new stadium weren't discussed during the meeting, but he says there's general agreement that a new ballpark is crucial to the Twins' survival.

"We did talk about the need for a stadium. We talked about the economics of baseball. That's a big issue. We recognize that many owners are bleeding out there. We don't want Minnesota to be used as a scapegoat for a solution. But, yes, we need a stadium. And we think we can get it done," Ciresi said.

Ventura and Sviggum have repeatedly opposed the use of state general fund dollars to subsidize a ballpark. However, they've both indicated recently that options other than direct state subsidies remain on the table.

DFL Assistant Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger says any stadium plan will first require baseball reforms that help small-market teams compete against big-market rivals. "What we expect in return is baseball's going through their negotiations, baseball's going through the blue-ribbon commission on how to improve the economics of it. We expect to see the outcome of that, because there is also, I think, unity of the belief that baseball's economic system is inconsistent with what we in Minnesota think it should be," Hottinger said.

First, Twins fans have to escape from the contraction threat dangling over their heads. They may have found found some temporary shelter when a Hennepin County judge granted an injunction requiring the team to play the 2002 season at the Metrodome.

More from MPR
  • Judge rules against Twins in Metrodome lease case
  • Audio: Marshall Tanick Tanick is a Twin Cities sports and entertainment lawyer. He says the judge's ruling is both predictable and correct. (All Things Considered 11/16)
  • Audio: Harvey Mackay Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman and a member of the group that met with Gov. Ventura (Morning Edition 11/16)
  • Baseball's contraction plans Background and audio on Major League Baseball's announcement that it plans to eliminate two teams. (11/7)