The Devil Rays' search for a general manager has slowed a bit. Managing general partner Vince Naimoli now says he won't complete the interview process until July 6, five days later than planned, making it unlikely a GM will be named before the July 10-11 All-Star break. The Rays have interviewed two candidates (Braves assistant GM Chuck LaMar and Cubs scouting director Al Goldis) and are expected to interview two others (Astros scouting director Dan O'Brien Jr. and Marlins assistant GM Frank Wren). "I could probably decide on July 6, but there is still a contract to be negotiated and lawyers will have to get involved," Naimoli said. "It's a big event for us, and I would see us having a press conference at the Dome, with the guy hiding behind the door. Looking at the schedule, I don't see that happening before the All-Star Game." That delay may not go over well with the candidates' current employers.
This will be a big week, or at least an expensive one, for the Devil Rays. On Wednesday, Rays officials fly to Charlotte, N.C., to sign the final papers for their $75-million loan from First Union National Bank. The Rays will have the opportunity to borrow $60-million and to draw on a $15-million line of credit. On July 3, the team makes the first payment of its $130-million franchise fee. The Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks each must pay $32-million to Major League Baseball and submit a letter of credit for an additional $25-million. "A majority of the money will be actual cash and letters of credit, and a vast majority of it will be from the investors," Naimoli said. The Rays are expecting to add several limited partners by Monday. Naimoli said five to eight individuals will put up $1-million each to join the team.
Disney spring fling?
Disney officials last week unveiled plans to build a spectacular spring-training complex, and Naimoli said the Rays would "absolutely" be interested. Naimoli said he has had "one exploratory conversation" with Disney and "if someone with the stature of Disney wants to talk, we'd be delighted to sit down with them." The Disney complex is to open in 1997.
Starting next Sunday, domestic and foreign players who were not drafted can be signed to 1996 contracts, and Naimoli said the Rays could sign some and hire an instructor to work with them later this summer. Further discussions with the architects have yielded additional possibilities for the Dome, including two bleacher-type seating areas in the outfield with $1.50 tickets; an increase from 50 to 66 suites, including some at field level; an increase in seating capacity to just more than 45,000; and several kids' fun areas and a kids-only concession area. Ticket sales likely will start in November, the team said in letters mailed to season-ticket reservation holders last week.
_ MARC TOPKIN