View Full Version : Surprise throws itself a party to celebrate new spring-training ; Byrd to arbitration

keg in kc
12-08-2002, 06:57 AM
Surprise throws itself a party to celebrate new spring-training complex (http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/sports/baseball/mlb/kansas_city_royals/4690610.htm)

The Kansas City Star
Posted on Sun, Dec. 08, 2002

SURPRISE, Ariz. - Manager Tony Pena kept squinting at the sky early Saturday afternoon as he trudged over six different practice fields while touring the Royals' new spring-training facility.

"I'm looking at the mounds," he explained. "I want to make sure the sun isn't directly in the catcher's (and therefore the batter's) eyes."

Examination complete, Pena beamed one of his typically wide smiles and reported, "No problems."

The entire $72 million complex drew raves from various Royals officials at Saturday's grand opening of the Surprise Recreation Campus. For their part, city officials preened and gleamed at the result of their efforts.

"People have been working day and night," city manager Bill Pupo said. "The community has been so supportive of this thing. Everyone is excited.

"We'll have two months of spring training and after that, it's a playground."

Baseball anchors the complex with a glittering 10,500-seat stadium -- all theater seats or picnic areas; no bleachers. There are 61/2 practice fields each for the Royals and Texas Rangers, co-tenants for the next 20 years.

But there's also a library, a recreation center, an aquatic center, a 37-acre park and a 5-acre lake. In all, the campus covers 125 acres of former desert on the northwest corner of the Phoenix metropolitan area.

"Surprise was a very small community when they started this," Royals owner David Glass said. "But they had a vision to do this even though there were probably a thousand reasons for why it wouldn't work.

"They never got discouraged. Not only have they overcome adversity. They have managed to build, on budget, the best spring-training complex that I've seen."

The biggest hurdle facing Surprise was a developer's lawsuit that threatened $26 million in funding from the Arizona Tourism and Sports Authority.

Instead of halting construction, Surprise forged ahead to keep the project on schedule by diverting funds earmarked for other civic projects in anticipation of eventually receiving the TSA money.

"There were anxious moments on that," admitted Joan Shafer, the city's feisty mayor who spearheaded the decision. "I had some citizens down my throat."

Last week, the Arizona Supreme Court denied the developer's claim, thereby ending the funding freeze.

The result of the city's vision inspired a Surprise party that welcomed thousands for stadium tours, a youth soccer tournament and carnival rides.

An enormous Christmas tree stood in front of the main entrance to the stadium. Wreaths and other holiday items added to the festive atmosphere. Carols trilled from the stadium's speakers. (Mannheim Steamroller sounds different somehow when it's 70 degrees.)

The city even conjured up enough snow through artificial means to construct a pair of small hills for kids to romp about.

Or maybe it was magic. Hey, it seems Surprise can do just about anything. A mere nine months ago, the $48.3 million baseball complex was little more than a big hole in the ground.

"Now the fun part starts," said Jim Mallon, the complex's operations manager. "We get ready for the bats and balls."

The Royals' offices and clubhouse are housed in two stories on the third-base side of the main stadium. Behind the offices are 61/2 fields for their use. The Rangers have a similar arrangement along the first-base side.

The Royals' clubhouse is nicer than the one at Kauffman Stadium. The weight room is large enough to accommodate a football team. The minor-league staff and players are down the corridor.

"Do you think," Glass mused, "that any of this will make the players play better?"

Surprise Stadium will be used only for games. It offers the latest in fan amenities, including the teams' batting cages along the concourse to allow viewing by fans.

If Mike Sweeney wants to work on his swing during a game, fans can get close enough to hear the velcro twitch when he adjusts his batting gloves.

Fans can also sit on the outfield berm and look down into bullpens. They can judge for themselves if rookie Mike MacDougal has the stuff to be a closer.

"Spring training used to be like this," Royals general manager Allard Baird said. "You could get close to the players. Now, in most places, it's like a big-league stadium. Fans are far away. What they've done here is neat."

BYRD OFFERED ARBITRATION: The Royals gained at least 13 more days of negotiating time with free-agent pitcher Paul Byrd by offering arbitration on a one-year contract before the Saturday midnight deadline.

"Nothing has changed," Baird said. "We want Paul, and we believe he wants to stay in Kansas City. So, we'll offer arbitration and continue to negotiate."

Byrd, 32, is not expected to accept arbitration. But he doesn't have to make a decision on arbitration until Dec. 19, Even if he declines, he can continue negotiating with the Royals until Jan. 8. He wants the club to bolster an offer believed to be two years at less than $4 million a season.

"The negotiations have been amicable," said Byrd, who made $2.2 million last year by reaching numerous incentive clauses on an $850,000 base contract.

"There will be no hard feelings on my end if they can't come up. To be honest, I'll still consider it."

12-08-2002, 07:26 PM
:rolleyes: ZZZ