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Yankees dream on at groundbreaking

Published Oct. 7, 2005

Buck Showalter and Gene Michael would have been plenty busy in New York on Thursday.

As the manager and general manager of the team with the best record in the American League, the Yankees' brass conceivably could have been celebrating a victory in the just-concluded playoffs and preparing for Saturday's opening game of the World Series. The players' strike took care of that.

Instead they were in Tampa _ along with Yankees greats Reggie Jackson and Phil Rizzuto, plus a host of Tampa Bay area leaders _ for the groundbreaking of the team's new spring training complex, a grand state-of-the-art facility scheduled to open in 1996.

The circumstance wasn't lost amid the pomp.

"This Saturday," Yankees general partner Joe Molloy said from the stage, "the 1994 World Series was to begin. We all know the New York Yankees would have been celebrating a championship sometime within the week. Isn't that right, Mr. Showalter?"

"It's depressing," Michael said. "It's a shame, really a shame. Especially because we had such high hopes."

Showalter, named Tuesday the AL Manager of the Year, is coping by looking ahead.

"You try not to feel singled out, because a lot of people have been affected," Showalter said. "I'm trying to get ready for 1995, with all hopes that there will be a '95 season. You've got to prepare for it. My worst nightmare is we regress."

Rizzuto, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame earlier this year, said canceling the post-season was the worst thing baseball could have done.

"It's absolutely brutal," Rizzuto said. "They're real huckleberries, the owners and the players, to not let the season happen and then have their arguments. It's a good thing George (Steinbrenner) sent me to Italy or it really would have been tough."

Jackson said baseball officials need to get right to work on solving the labor mess and he has some ideas: Get rid of the outsiders such as mediator William Usery, force the sides to meet six days a week, and narrow the discussion to the core issues. "You have to get reality and realism involved," he said.

Note: There will be a series of free baseball events from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday adjacent to the Yankees complex on Himes Avenue. Opening Day in October, sponsored by the Yankees Backers community group, includes an instructional league game between the Yankees and Cardinals, along with assorted children's games, contests, clinics and entertainment.