By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
COMMITTEE: We're still in the preliminary stages, so it would be too soon for an in-person visit -- why don't you just send the packet?
CIANCI: Let me ask you, are you just shopping the idea, trying to use us for leverage?
COMMITTEE: Buddy, let me assure you that we are serious in our desire to find the best possible alternatives for the Marlins should local ownership not be found.
CIANCI: If you have a few minutes, let me tell you a little something about Providence. It's a great place. It is a city that has really taken off.
Here Cianci launched into a well-rehearsed spiel about the glories of Providence -- how the city is the home of prestigious Brown University, how it's working hard to preserve its historic buildings, revitalize industry, et cetera. A giant new mall recently opened, Cianci added, to be anchored by a Nordstrom. "All roads lead to Providence," he said, and proceeded to list every one of them.
Providence, Cianci noted, is looking to build a new football stadium to woo New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft away from nearby Foxboro, Massachusetts. The synergy of acquiring football and baseball at the same time would be ideal, he said, which was why he had to call right away. They'd build us our own open-air baseball park, he added quickly; the Marlins wouldn't have to play in the new football stadium. "We could build it over by the new mall -- there'll be more than 18,000 surface-level parking spaces!"
CIANCI: Let me ask you, are you troubled at all by the fact that Boston is only an hour away? Because let me tell you, I'm not.
COMMITTEE: Me either! Do you think there are any local groups that would be interested in buying the team?
CIANCI: How about Bob Kraft? Would you like him to buy the team? He's a friend of mine. I could give him a call right now.
COMMITTEE: That may be premature. Why don't we just stick to discussing the merits of Providence?
CIANCI: How are you guys doing in the standings?
COMMITTEE: Let me make something clear, Mr. Mayor. Officially we are not connected to the Marlins organization. Officially the Florida Marlins organization has publicly stated that they are committed to keeping the franchise in South Florida. All we are doing is gathering information so that in the event no local buyers can be found, we are able to offer some possible alternatives. We are an independent group and we are keeping an arm's-length distance from the Marlins organization.
CIANCI: Arm's length.
COMMITTEE: Do you understand what I am saying? Officially we are not part of the Marlins organization.
CIANCI: It's arm's length. I hear what you're saying. I got you. That's perfect. Hey, how's the attendance been for games?
COMMITTEE: Somewhat disappointing.
CIANCI: That's Florida. Those people are not interested in baseball like New Englanders. Providence is ideal for baseball. Baseball in Florida might be great in January or February, but not in July and August. How hot is it there now?
COMMITTEE: 95 degrees.
CIANCI: That's hot. Where do they play?
COMMITTEE: Pro Player Stadium.
CIANCI: Who owns that?
COMMITTEE: Wayne Huizenga.
CIANCI: He owns the stadium and he can't make his baseball team work? How much are they looking to sell the team for?
COMMITTEE: The price that's been reported has been between $130 million and $140 million.
CIANCI: So if I get you a check for $135 million, the team is ours?
COMMITTEE: Buddy, remember: Officially we're not part of the team.
CIANCI: I got you.
Not everyone who contacted us was an actual mayor. Some were mayoral lackeys, as was the case with Biloxi, Mississippi. After checking the standings to see where the Marlins were in the pennant race, Mayor A.J. Holloway ordered his public affairs manager, Vincent Creel, to call the relocation search committee.
CREEL: It says in your letter that preliminary census data indicates that Biloxi could support a major league baseball franchise, and we were just wondering why you would think that. We don't even have a stadium.
COMMITTEE: Well, that census data can be a tricky thing.
CREEL: How many people go to a baseball game?
COMMITTEE: Somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 people.
CREEL: We don't have anything in Biloxi that would fit that many people.
Still, despite Biloxi's acknowledged shortcomings, Creel couldn't help but make a pitch for the town as a viable site for Major League Baseball.
CREEL: We are a city of 53,000, but I want to tell you, we are equidistant between Mobile and New Orleans. Six million people each year come into the Biloxi area for casino gambling. We feel we are one of the great undiscovered cities in America.
CREEL: When Mayor Holloway first received your letter, the mayor was excited right away. And we've respected your press blackout and have not alerted the local media.
COMMITTEE: Thank you, that's very important to us.
CREEL: How many letters did you guys send out? Hundreds?
COMMITTEE: Not hundreds. Dozens.
CREEL: So the mayor shouldn't go out and buy a whole lot of Marlins paraphernalia just yet.