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A second league of their own nears

The burgeoning field of women's baseball has yet another entry _ a professional league of eight teams throughout Florida. The Women's Baseball Association Inc. is preparing for its inaugural season.

Teams will be based in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

"Women now will have a professional environment in which to play baseball," league president Tom Teskey said. "These women are really talented players who are motivated by athletic competition rather than financial considerations."

For those trying to keep score of all the women's baseball opportunities that have cropped up since the Colorado Silver Bullets crashed the all-male party, the line now reads two professional leagues and one amateur league in Florida alone.

The amateur opportunity is the Women's National Adult Baseball Association in St. Petersburg, a four-team league in which players pay to play.

The first pro league _ the Women's Professional Baseball League _ started last year with four teams in small Central Florida cities. The league has changed its name to the U.S. Women's Baseball League, and three of its teams have changed owners and locations.

Teskey's entry is the second pro league.

Teskey was one of four original owners in the WPBL but broke away after the first season to form his own league. His league, he says, will benefit from his year's experience with the WBPL.

Though Teskey is the league president _ and owner of the Fort Myers team _ his opinion is only one of 16 that will decide the fate of the league. A 16-member board of directors consists of all eight owners, plus eight players.

Teams have a measure of autonomy and are responsible for putting together their own rosters and coaching staffs.

Though Teskey does not expect players to earn tremendous sums, all will receive a base salary. Teskey's Tavares-based team was the only one to turn a profit in the WPBL's first season.

The WBA also has signed a sports marketing company _ Synergy Sports Marketing _ to handle its state and national marketing campaigns. Synergy, based in the United Kingdom, has its only U.S. office in Orlando, run by CEO Don Ratliff, a former NFL player.

The WBA will have teams in Orlando, Sarasota, Daytona, Winter Haven and Eustis, too. Owners _ each of whom paid an $8,500 franchise fee _ are in place.

Tryouts will be held in each city July 8-9, with play scheduled to begin in September. The league championship series will be in mid-December.

For information about the Tampa tryouts, call team owner Tom Benson at (813) 264-0854. In St. Petersburg, call team owner Steve Palardis at (813) 931-0491.

Sharing the Air: Nike will unveil its newest Air basketball shoe in October _ the Air Swoopes. Named for Sheryl Swoopes, the 1993 NCAA Player of the Year who led Texas Tech to the national championship, the black-and-white high-top is the company's first signature shoe named after a woman.

Swoopes is a member of the U.S. National team.