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Horizons not expanding for young baseball fans

The latest studies may say that children are weak in geography, but kids in the Tampa Bay area know where Denver and Miami are. As for their sentiments on those two cities getting the baseball expansion teams "It stinks," said Jason Ward, 12, of Cross Bayou's Little League All-Star team.

Less than a day into the aftermath of St. Petersburg's disappointment in the major-league baseball expansion competition, the sights of summer continued. Little Leaguers popped on their baseball caps and played ball in the dirt. The sun still set in the West. The game went on.

But these young players are also fans, and Monday's news was a letdown.

"I think we should have gotten a team," said Tomi Gavaghan, 11, of Seminole girls youth softball. "We don't get to see the baseball players that we really like, like Darryl Strawberry."

Instead, Tampa Bay's children will have to continue to settle for a television screen to bring their heroes home.

"Me and my dad always watched in our bedroom," said Alicia Stasko, 11. "We should get to watch (in the Dome) all those other people we like, like the Oakland A's, the Mets and the Reds."

"I don't think it's fair," said Matt Caldwell, 11, of Cross Bayou. "Miami has football and basketball and we just have football. Denver's too cold. Baseball should be where it's hot."

"We had a dome. We have all the money and everything," said Frank Wilson, 11, of Cross Bayou. "The only thing we don't have is a team. I don't think they're going to use the Dome for anything, because I don't think Arena Football is going to last too long."

Some of the young baseballers saw problems beyond the absence of major-league games.

"It would have given jobs to a lot of people in our area," said Jennifer Freyeisen, 14, of Cross Bayou's senior Mets.

"It was a waste of money and trouble for people to not get a team," said Tonya Stafford, 15, of Cross Bayou. "A lot of young people would go there. It would keep kids out of the streets and out of trouble."

Terry Schofield, the coach at Cross Bayou, thought of getting his players to write the National League expansion committee.

"One of the reasons they picked Miami's Joe Robbie Stadium is because they have more luxury boxes," said Joel Priebe, 18, of Cross Bayou. "But the bay area has more middle-class and retired people _ those are the people that fill all the stands. And they said the rain in Miami was a problem. Well, one stadium's got a lid and one doesn't. What more could you ask?

"Tampa Bay went and built the Dome even though they were recommended not to. Now it seems like this was a little slap on the hand."