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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Hillsborough commissioners talking baseball again

Sorry for the cheap ploy. No, Hillsborough County commissioners were not talking about the Tampa Bay Rays, this time.

But the board did approve providing land to relocate the former home of former baseball player and manager Al Lopez so it can be turned into a baseball museum.

The house is currently located at 1210 E 12th Ave. and was acquired by the Florida Department of Transportation as part of the widening of Interstate 4.

The DOT is proposing to relocate the home at a cost approaching $100,000 to the northeast corner of 9th Avenue and 19th St., near the Ybor City Museum. The Ybor City Museum Society would take ownership and anticipates raising as much as $175,000 to restore the building and renovate it to be used as a museum.

The museum will include exhibits featuring the 11 Tampa residents who have gone on to play for Major League Baseball, from Steve Garvey to Tino Martinez and Lou Piniella. It will also celebrate past baseball teams that have been located here, such as the former minor league Tampa Smokers.

The discussion didn't pass without at least a reference to the Rays. Commissioner Kevin Beckner noted his fellow board members' flirtation with the team, offering up Hillsborough as a prospective location for a new stadium should the team finally weary of St. Petersburg.

"One thing we could start with...is a baseball museum," Beckner said. "It's not going to require a referendum. It's not going to require a budget amendment."

Backers of the initiative said they intend to apply for grants and raise private money to renovate the building and operate it as a museum.

Commissioner Ken Hagan, the biggest Rays flirt on the board, applauded Beckner's proposal.

"Anything to do with baseball, I'm instantly attracted to that," said Hagan, who played baseball in high school and college. 

"I've heard that, commissioner," said Mary Alvarez, a former Tampa City Council member who is helping with the preservation effort.

"Can we put him in the museum?" asked Commissioner Sandra Murman.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 1:27pm]

    

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