Rainiers appear to be safe in Tacoma after sale

  • By Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
  • Saturday, July 22, 2006 9:00pm
  • Sports

What’s the deal with Puget Sound pro teams? Are they the flavor of the month?

Days after an Oklahoma City group bought the Seattle SuperSonics and started a 12-month clock on a possible move out of town, the Tacoma Rainiers appear to be next to be plucked off the sales rack.

A group out of Dallas is close to buying the Seattle Mariners’ Class AAA team, which has been for sale for six years. The Tacoma News Tribune reported Friday that the Schlegel Sports Group has signed a purchase agreement with Rainiers owner George Foster.

Any similarity with the Sonics’ situation appears to end there.

The News Tribune said the Schlegel group plans to renew the Rainiers’ lease to continue playing in Cheney Stadium, as well as its affiliation agreement with the Mariners.

“Their plans are to keep it in Tacoma. They’re happy both with the current conditions and with our affiliation,” Rainiers general manager Dave Lewis told the News Tribune.

Foster has tried to sell the Rainiers for about six years and the condition of 46-year-old Cheney Stadium is one reason the team remained on the market. The stadium is one of the oldest in the Pacific Coast League and doesn’t include suites and other amenities that more modern ballparks have. The city of Tacoma has upgraded the seating in recent years, and the concession areas will undergo $2.3 million in improvements before the 2007 season. The Rainiers also are hopeful the state Legislature will approve $7.5 million needed to improve the stadium roof and press box.

The Schlegel group has been involved mainly in hockey. Principal owner Kirby Schlegel of Dallas owns the Texas Tornado of the North American Hockey League and he is vice chairman of the Iowa Stars of the American Hockey League. Mike McCall, president of Schlegel Sports Group, is a former president of the West Coast Hockey League, which had the Tacoma Sabercats in the league before that team folded.

Tacoma has been home to Class AAA baseball since 1960.

Elsewhere around the Mariners’ minor league system:

Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers: Right-hander Cha Seung Baek pitched seven scoreless innings Thursday in the Rainiers’ 7-1 victory over Las Vegas, winning his fourth straight decision. Baek, 9-4, hasn’t lost since early June.

The Rainiers lead the PCL with a .982 team fielding percentage. They are second in the PCL Pacific North Division at 53-43, four games behind Salt Lake.

Class AA San Antonio Missions: Infielder Yung Chi Chen entered the weekend with a 10-game hitting streak and outfielder Mike Wilson had hit safely in 16 of 18 games in July, batting .368 for the month. Left-handed pitcher Eric O’Flaherty converted his third straight save opportunity Thursday.

The Missions entered the weekend 17-10 in the second half of the Texas League season and were first in the South Division.

Class A Inland Empire 66ers: A familiar name – Hargrove – has been one of the 66ers’ best hitters lately. Andy Hargrove, son of Mariners manager Mike Hargrove, had hit safely in six of seven games going into the weekend, with a .429 average in those games.

Right-handed reliever Jose De La Cruz hadn’t allowed a run in 212/3 straight innings, lowering his ERA from 5.50 to 2.50. Opponents are batting .133 off him.

The 66ers entered the weekend 13-12 and third in the second-half standings of the California League South.

Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers: Right-hander Marwin Vega’s 3-7 record reflects the difficult season by the Rattlers but not because of his own struggles on the mound. Vega gave up one run in seven innings of a 1-0 loss to Burlington on Thursday, and he has allowed three runs or less in 10 of his past 12 starts.

The Rattlers went into the weekend 8-19 and last in the Midwest League Western Division’s second half standings.

Rookie-level Peoria Mariners: The Mariners have been home to more than just first-year teen-agers lately. Three Class AAA players – shortstop Michael Garciaparra, outfielder T.J. Bohn and pitcher Jorge Campillo – have played for the Mariners as they end their rehab from injuries.

Campillo pitched a scoreless inning Thursday in his second start after Tommy John elbow ligament surgery, and he could return to the Tacoma Rainiers before the end of their season.

Gerardo Avila and Welington Dotel each had five home runs, tying them for the Arizona League lead. Right-hander Kyle Parker hadn’t allowed a run in six innings.

The Mariners entered the weekend 13-11 and fourth in the league.

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