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Thursday, October 31
Report: MLB seeking $6 million for 20 games news services

Major League Baseball and Puerto Rican officials took the next step toward a deal that would guarantee the Montreal Expos playing a block of games in San Juan next season.

Sources familiar with the situation told The Washington Post that baseball is hoping to complete a deal in which Puerto Rican officials would guarantee about $300,000 a game for the Expos to play 18 to 20 "home" games in San Juan next season, the newspaper reported Thursday. The commissioner's office operates the Expos on behalf of the other 29 teams.

According to the Post, MLB officials were seeking about $5.4 million for 18 games and $6 million for 20 games.

A source also told the newspaper it is possible the Expos would also play a few games in Portland, Ore. Charlotte, N.C., and Washington, D.C., have also been considered for Expos' home games.

No formal action on the Expos' schedule is expected until an owners meeting next month, at which time the source told the Post that the owners would begin to focus on the permanent relocation of the Expos for the 2004 season. Montreal drew just 812,000 fans in 2002, but has pretty much ruled out a relocation for the coming season.

MLB spokesman Richard Levin said a date for the meeting has not been announced.

A baseball official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed to the Post that the commissioner's office is "leaning toward" the 20-game scenario in either two 10-game series or three shorter series. Another of the Post's sources said Puerto Rican officials have sought to play three weeklong series -- one in April, one in May, and a third in August -- in San Juan.

The Post could not reach Puerto Rican officials for comment Wednesday night.

The Players' Association must approve any schedule changes.

The games would be played at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, which has a seating capacity of about 20,000 and was renovated prior to the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers opening the 2001 American League season there. The game drew 19,981 fans, with some paying as much as $75 per ticket.

In January, commissioner Bud Selig said the Washington area is "the prime candidate" for relocation, but Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos opposes placing a franchise in either the District of Columbia or Northern Virginia.

If baseball relocates to the Washington area, a team would play its games at a refurbished RFK Stadium until a permanent ballpark is built.

In addition to the San Juan plan, management and union officials discussed the possibility of moving the season-opening series between the Seattle Mariners and Athletics from Oakland to Japan.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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