WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Updated 5:25 a.m. April 1, 1998 -- Protesters and uncertainty
greeted the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday when they made the first of what would-be owner Don
Beaver hoped would be many appearances in North Carolina.
Tuesday was the expiration date for a letter of intent Beaver signed last year to buy
the Twins from Carl Pohlad and move the team to North Carolina. Beaver said he remained
confident the deal would be completed.
"Today's the deadline? That tells you what I think of the deadline. The deadline's
nothing that I'm too concerned about," said Beaver, shown.
Later, Jamie Ogden's bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth lifted the Twins to a
9-8 victory over the Montreal Expos in the final game of 1998 spring training.
After the game, the Twins flew north to Toronto where they open the 1998 season with a
game beginning at 6:05 CST, televised on MSC and broadcast on WCCO-Radio.
Meanwhile, back in North Carolina, people filing into Tuesday's exhibition game were
met by about a dozen protesters who walked a line outside the park. They carried signs and
called for the defeat of a proposed restaurant tax that would help fund a new stadium for
the Twins in the Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point area.
A referendum is scheduled for May 5 on the proposal, which would increase taxes on
prepared foods and tickets in the region to pay for $140 million of the stadium's
estimated $210 million cost.
A poll conducted last week for the Winston-Salem Journal showed voters in the area
oppose the measure by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.
"Major league sports have been ripping off taxpayers for quite a while, and the
bottom line is major league sports do not need massive subsidies from taxpayers,"
said Vernon Robinson, a Winston-Salem alderman who carried a placard saying, "Vote No
-- Food Taxes Bite!"
Robinson and the other protesters received a generally cool reception from the people
who walked past on their way to the game. One elderly man grumbled, reached into his
pocket, pulled out a crumpled dollar bill and waved it at the protesters.
"Here. Baseball can have my money if they want it," said the man, who
declined to give his name. "Some of us like baseball and think the investment's worth
That was the consensus inside as well, where a crowd of 8,551 formed long lines at the
concession stands and pressed up against the railing along the field to get a closer look
at the players.
Not everyone in the stands, however, thought moving the Twins from Minnesota to North
Carolina's Triad region was a good idea.
"In my heart, I'd rather see them stay in Minnesota," said Ken Shaffer, a
computer systems trainer from Cary who is a lifelong Minnesota fan and wearing a Twins
T-shirt. "It's just tradition. When you're raised as a fan of a team, you just think
that's the way it should be. Certain teams belong in certain places. Besides, I don't know
if this area is ready to support major league baseball."
Twins third baseman Ron Coomer said the team's possible move from Minnesota wasn't much
of a factor to him when he signed a three-year contract in the offseason.
"I have a job to do playing on the field, and to let something interfere with my
game that I have no control over, that wouldn't be very smart," he said. "It is
still a business, and yes, I love to play, but as far as where we do our job, we can't