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Watkins wants to buy (save) Twins
The Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Donald Watkins met with baseball officials Thursday and was given the go-ahead to contact the Minnesota Twins about making an offer to buy the team.

Atlanta Braves chairman Bill Bartholomay, the chairman of baseball's ownership committee, and Tom Ostertag, baseball's chief legal counsel, met with Watkins and one of his lawyers for four hours over lunch.

"It was a great day, a very positive and productive meeting," Watkins said. "I finally found the welcome mat in major league baseball. I couldn't have scripted a meeting any better if I had tried to write it as a screenplay."

Twins owner Carl Pohlad, frustrated that Minnesota's government hasn't approved a plan for funding a new ballpark, told baseball commissioner Bud Selig he is willing to have his franchise folded as part of Selig's contraction plan.

Watkins would like to save the Twins by purchasing the team. He would be the first black controlling owner in major league history.

"It was a chance for me to go over in great detail matters that were covered in my application form," Watkins said, "particularly personal background matters and financial portfolio matters, and to explain to them the financing model and rationale for wanting to build a privately financed stadium.

"I was curious as to whether I would receive fair treatment in the process. I got my answer to that today. My anxiety has been laid to rest. The answer is I will receive fair treatment, and that is a load off my mind."

Watkins, an Alabama businessman who had previously discussed buying the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, said he was convinced baseball thought he had enough money to purchase a team.

"I am satisfied that they are satisfied that that is no even a question," he said.

Ironically, the Devil Rays would likely become a candidate for contraction if Watkins was able to purchase the Twins.

Bartholomay was not available for comment.

"We had a very friendly, productive and informative introductory meeting," Ostertag said. "We covered a wide range of topics in a comprehensive manner and will continue to have discussions in the future."

Watkins intends to speak with Twins president Jerry Bell about getting permission to review the team's financial records. Watkins said Bartholomay and Ostertag encouraged him to contact the Twins.

"They suggested that I contact Carl Pohlad directly now and have my first meeting with him," Watkins said. "I will do that when I get back to Birmingham next week."