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
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."