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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Clutch Hitters plan to pinch hit in stadium standoff



ST. PETERSBURG -- A group of business leaders dubbed the Clutch Hitters will push in the coming months for an end to the stalemate in talks between Mayor Bill Foster and the Tampa Bay Rays, just don't expect a forthcoming explanation as to how this will be done.

After meeting with Foster on Wednesday, three representatives of the group  -- Kenny Locke, an investment executive; David Feaster, a banker; and Bob Byelick, an attorney -- ducked out the back of City Hall to avoid two waiting reporters.

"I'm not in a position where I'm comfortable giving a press conference," said Byelick, who serves as the spokesman for the group. "We want to be under the radar on this. I didn't want to say something that could be construed the wrong way."

Byelick said he's more than happy talking one-on-one with reporters, and returned a phone call Thursday to discuss the meeting -- in vague terms of course.

He said Foster was "receptive" and that his group will be "continuing dialogue". He said he understands why Foster is not allowing the Rays to look outside Pinellas County for a new stadium location.

"He's a lawyer, and his client is the people of St. Petersburg," Byelick said. "He has to represent their interests. And that's what he's doing. I've known Bill for years, and this is crushing him because he's a huge baseball fan."

But Byelick said his group believes all locations in the Tampa Bay region need to be looked at for a possible stadium, even if it's outside of Pinellas. He said his group will now try to work with a third-party to come up with options that might get the Rays and Foster talking again.

What that will be, Byelick said he didn't know -- yet.

"Bottom line is, we know what the situation is, and it's up to the Tampa Bay region to say, 'We have to come up with some options the two parties can look at,'" Byelick said. "And that's what we're doing."

-- Michael Van Sickler, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Thursday, August 11, 2011 5:55pm]


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