On the day major-league baseball teams were supposed to close springtraining camps to players, at least two clubs left the door open.
A St. Louis Cardinals staffer unlocked the gates to the Busch Complex's indoor batting cages Thursday morning, allowing a small group of players to pitch from the mounds. General manager Dal Maxvill said the facility was opened because of a misunderstanding and would be closed today.
At Clearwater's Jack Russell Stadium, several Philadelphia Phillies took batting practice, worked out on an Astroturf infield and ran in the stadium outfield. Team officials said the camp would not be open today.
"What a terrible error," players association chief Don Fehr said
sarcastically. "My God, the consequences of that Anytime you want to
coordinate a 26-team lockout, I wouldn't be surprised that there are some glitches. But what's important is what happens when those glitches are noticed."
The Cards and Phillies likely will face no repercussions, said Richard Levin, spokesman for the owners' Player Relations Committee (PRC). "When you do something out of the ordinary, there will be some problems in communications. The clubs should know the camps are closed. Hopefully this will be resolved. I'm sure the clubs' communications will be better."
Elsewhere around the state, the owners' lockout apparently came off as scheduled. Thursday was to be
the first day players were to report for spring training, but they were no longer invited guests. The owners have maintained that camps will not open until an agreement is reached on a new labor contract.
Negotiators met Thursday in New York for their 22nd session. Fehr reported intense discussions on key issues of salary arbitration eligibility and the benefit plan. Talks will resume today. "It would be unfair to say there was a breakthrough or anything is imminent, but we are discussing the important issues," he said by telephone.
Commissioner Fay Vincent told reporters that he was "extremely
"It was not a very productive day," he said. "I am pessimistic about resolving this in the near term. I am pessimistic because we're talking, but we don't seem to be making much progress."
At Plant City, reporters roamed the unlocked stadium, but no Cincinnati Reds were in sight. The scene was similar at Dunedin's Englebert Complex and Grant Field, home to the Toronto Blue Jays.
On the east coast, facilities used by the Montreal Expos, Atlanta Braves and New York Mets were padlocked and virtually deserted.
At the Chicago White Sox complex in Sarasota, general manager Larry Himes said the only new face to drop by Thursday was the security monitor hired by the PRC.
"Not a lot happened. Our young players (minor leaguers) worked out as usual," Himes said. "The security man came in and introduced himself. It's not like he will be preventing people from coming in.
His role is to come by and monitor the camps, to make sure the clubs aren't allowing major-league players to use the facility. It's on a reporting basis, not a confrontational one."
Himes said the PRC has hired seven security guards to monitor the 18 teams which train in Florida. Each is responsible for several teams and will likely visit camps twice a day, he said.
The guards weren't needed at St. Louis' Busch Complex in northwest St. Petersburg. George Kissell, the teams's field coordinator for player development, received an early morning call from Maxvill telling him he could open the doors.
Pitcher Danny Cox, the Cards' player representative, arrived shortly before 9 a.m., walked to the gate and was surprised to find the door open. He was later joined by John Tudor and three players from other teams - Kansas City's Terry Leach, Los Angeles' Ray Searage and Cincinnati's Kip Gross.
Maxvill took the blame for the miscommunication. "It was my fault
entirely," Maxvill said from St. Louis. "It was a misunderstanding on my part. It will be closed tomorrow."
The PRC was aware of the breakdown, Maxvill said. "They just wondered why it happened and I said it was an honest mistake. They said, 'Obviously we will remedy that (Friday)' and I said, yes."
Cards president Fred Kuhlmann said: "It should not have been open and it has been corrected. Nothing more will occur."
The Cardinals players will make different plans for today, Cox said Thursday night. "Now that the word is out that we're not welcome anymore we'll go about our business and keep in shape, keep prepared for when we get good news about the season starting. I'm confident it will, but as far as when I'm not sure."
Phillies player representative Darren Daulton said the Philadelphia players were not asked to leave Jack Russell Stadium.
"The biggest thing I want to make clear is that we were not even aware that the guys were here," said John Timberlake, general manager of the Clearwater Phillies. "We have a huge construction project going on and we don't even have fences, much less gates and locks."
At nearby Carpenter Complex, where the early spring workouts are held, a vacationing one vacationing family showed up with cameras "just to see if anyone was out here," said Ken Skversky, of Bensalem, Pa. They left with pictures of empty fields.
Team officials at several parks said ticket sales are continuing, but at a sluggish pace, for exhibition games, which are scheduled to begin March 1. All teams have refund policies if games are canceled.
- Times correspondents Mike Payne and Terry Jones contributed to this report.