Cannons pass on all-star game

For the Carolina and California League all-stars to come to Woodbridge in June 2004, Potomac Cannons owner Art Silber needed several events to align. That hasn’t happened, so he has passed on the big game for at least one season.

Silber continues to consider two sites for Potomac’s $10 million baseball stadium, approved last summer by the Prince William County Park Authority. Unable to make a guarantee that a new Cannons’ stadium would open next year, he has asked Carolina League president John Hopkins to offer the 2004 game to the Cal League cities. Silber’s hoping to take the 2005 game with the ’06 game staying in the Carolina League, but Cal League officials would have to approve such a switch.

Should the Cannons’ negotiations for an unidentified site near Interstate 95 or Interstate 66 fail, the new park would be erected off the Prince William Parkway next to Pfitzner Stadium, as originally planned. Silber had a March 15 deadline to decide whether to accept the ’04 all-star game or to hold out hope for landing a location with more visibility to travelers and Northern Virginia residents. Hosting the game for the first time in franchise history was contingent on having a new stadium.

“We’re still looking at an excellent location for the benefit of everybody because of accessibility,” Silber said Tuesday night. “But the engineering reports on it were more difficult than what we anticipated because of steep slopes and wetland issues. Whether or not those problems can be overcome is what [county and team officials] are trying to make happen.”

The California League now will consider the option of playing the 2004 all-star game in one of its home parks, with the ’05 game shifting to Potomac and the ’06 event also heading to the Carolina League. Under the current agreement between the leagues, no provision exists for trading if a league passes on its turn to hold the event.

“We went to the Carolina League to tell the California League that we really could not commit due to the fact that we’re still plugging away on this other site,” Silber said. “There is still a chance we could have a new ballpark in 2004 if it’s adjacent to Pfitzner, but we weren’t ready to say for sure.”

The Carolina-California League all-star game annually features the top players from two of baseball’s three high Class A minor leagues. It offers the host city a night that is more profitable than even a regular-season sellout. Prior to 1996, the Carolina League played an all-star game between its own divisions. At Pfitzner Stadium in 1990, the league’s Southern all-stars beat the North, 5-4 in 10 innings.

This year’s interleague all-star game will be held in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., where former Cannons general manager Pat Filippone’s now the GM.

Holding the all-star game “is a great boon,” Filippone said Wednesday. “It’s a big event to market in the community and a fun event to work on. We certainly sell a lot of tickets to it, as well as sponsorships. We’re treating it as the centerpiece of our season.”

Filippone would prefer that the game stay on schedule, with the Cal League playing host in ’05.

“Hopefully it’ll still be done out there [in the Carolina League in 2004],” he said. “That’s what makes it special the opportunity to have it in one league one year and the other the next.”

Silber had also reached a verbal agreement with the Cannons’ new major league affiliate, the Cincinnati Reds, to play a major league exhibition game at the new ballpark. The Reds’ contract with Potomac is for the next two seasons, so a new arrangement would have to be made for such a game.

SCATTERED BLASTS: Potomac has hired Dan Laing, 24, as its new voice for Webcasts of all 140 games. Laing, the No. 2 broadcaster for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans last season, has been in radio since he was in high school in Chambersburg, Pa. While attending the University of Miami, he was the student network’s lead play-by-play voice for the Hurricanes’ football, baseball and women’s basketball teams. He called Miami baseball games in 1999 with the national champions and also in 2000. “A lot of scouts say the Carolina League is the best league for talent, and with just eight teams it makes it fun for a broadcaster to really get to know the players, coaches and managers,” he said Wednesday. … Scott Laurer, the Cannons’ radio (and then Internet-only) voice the past two years, has been hired as the broadcaster of the Florida State League’s Vero Beach Dodgers for this season. … The Reds’ new stadium, the Great American Ball Park, opens this season. In a sneak preview, Cincinnati fans can get a glimpse of the inside of their park for free on Saturday at an open house. … Potomac’s home season begins April 8 against Myrtle Beach. The Cannons start the year with a three-game series at Salem, April 4-6.

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