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Pro baseball team, complex pitched for Virginia Beach

02/06/2014 11:19 AM -

VIRGINIA BEACH A proposal to bring a minor league baseball franchise to Virginia Beach, along with a massive baseball and softball complex, hits the City Council this afternoon. A group of businessmen say they will pay an estimated $40 million to build 13 baseball and softball fields on Princess Anne Road near the Sportsplex, plus a 5,000-seat centerpiece stadium. The unnamed team would be an expansion club from the Atlantic League, whose rosters are a mix of untested young athletes and former major league players seeking another shot. Virginia Beach Professional Baseball LLC is behind the effort and promises to finance the stadium through private bonds. Chairman James "Jas" Short said his group expects to lure national youth baseball tournaments, high school competitors, female softball athletes and older recreational players. But the centerpiece is clearly a pro team. The Atlantic League has eight teams, including the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, the Long Island Ducks and the Sugar Land Skeeters out of Texas. Koby Clemens, son of Roger Clemens, is one of the top Skeeter players. Atlantic League players typically make about $2,000 to $3,000 per month. The league has a $250,000 salary cap per team. The plan will be presented to the City Council today, followed by a vote next week. "I grew up in Virginia Beach and spend my weekends here, and my children have played AAU baseball up and down the East Coast," said Short, who works for a Florida investment firm. "Virginia Beach is a hotbed for baseball." The Beach plan is a long way off, he acknowledged. But the latest bid to bring a professional sports team to the city has been more low-key than last year's failed and costly attempt to snag the NBA's Sacramento Kings. The Kings tantalized the region before staying put. Under this proposal, the baseball financial backers would receive a percentage of sales tax revenue generated at the complex to pay down debt service on the bonds used to build the stadium. Once the stadium is paid off, it would be donated to the city, Short said. Norfolk hosts a successful AAA minor league baseball team, the Tides, an affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. The proposed Atlantic League team's general manager, Joe Pinto, said the area can easily support two pro teams and the quality of baseball will be comparable. "We'll have some people in our league people have heard of, and most of the guys are going to have professional experience," Pinto said. "Because we're not affiliated with anyone, any major league team can come in and sign our people." "We're going to do community events, interact with the community and that's a great, great thing," he said. "This is really about family and entertainment, and people are going to like what they see." John Holland, 757-222-5047, john.holland@pilotonline.com

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