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SALE OF SPIRITS MAY BE A GOOD SIGN FOR AREA'S FUTURE

SALE OF SPIRITS MAY BE A GOOD SIGN FOR AREA'S FUTURE

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What effect, if any, does the sale of the Winston-Salem Spirits have on Greensboro?

In the short run, nothing.But in the long run, it might mean better cooperation between the two clubs and ultimately a higher brand of baseball for both cities.

Larry Schmittou, who brought baseball to Greensboro in 1979 and owned the Hornets for a decade until he sold them to Steve Bryant in 1988, is said to be close to finalizing a deal with Peter Shipman to buy the Spirits.

Shipman, a New England businessman who also owns Howe SportsData and the Class AA Charlotte Knights, says he no longer has time to devote to the Spirits. Hence the sale to Schmittou, who also owns the Class AAA Nashville Sounds and Class AA Huntsville Stars.

Shipman and Bryant have never been pen pals. When Bryant and Greensboro's Chamber of Commerce starting talking up Triple A baseball for the Triad a year ago, Shipman wanted no part of it, politely telling Bryant not to look to him for support.

Now that Shipman is, or will soon be, out of the mix, the variables have changed. Bryant and Schmittou are much closer. And although neither have said merger is in the offing, the possibility certainly exists.

``I think I'll be easier to deal with than the folks here in the past,' Schmittou said.

``I'd certainly be willing to sit down with Larry and talk,' Bryant said.

One side note. This will be the second time Schmittou has owned a team in Winston-Salem. In 1982 Schmittou reached an agreement with Erwin Oakley to buy the team, then called the Red Sox. Current Carolina League president John Hopkins was installed as the club's general manager. But after a week Oakley changed his mind and the deal was called off.\

MUDCATS OPENER: Bryant's Double A team - the Carolina Mudcats - had an unbelievable home opener Friday night in Wilson. In a steady rain, 4,357 fans showed up to see the Mudcats defeat the Greenville Braves 5-1. The contest was called with two outs in the eighth inning because of rain.

That attendance figure is even more amazing considering Wilson is merely a temporary home for the Mudcats until their permanent park in Zebulon is ready. Officials hope that will come on May 6.

Wilson's Fleming Stadium seats 2,800 and extra bleachers were added along each foul line to accommodate the overflow.\

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? None of last year's Greensboro Hornets were elevated beyond the Class A level, but most earned promotions.

Ten are playing for the Prince William Cannons, the Yankees' top Class A club. Seven are with the Fort Lauderdale Yankees, the organization's other advanced A team. Eight remained with Greensboro. The rest were either released or are awaiting assignment.

Ex-Hornets at Prince William are pitchers Jim Haller, Sterling Hitchcock, Jeff Hoffman and Daniel Johnston; catcher John Jarvis; infielders Andy Fox, Ramon Jimenez and Daniel Sanchez; and outfielder Jason Robertson.

Ricky Rhodes, signed by Toronto in the winter minor league draft, is also at Prince William. Rhodes failed to make the Blue Jays' major league staff, allowing the Yankees to reclaim him.

Ex-Hornets at Fort Lauderdale are pitcher Rich Batchelor, Mark Hutton, Bobby Munoz and Russ Springer; catchers Brian Johnson and Larry Walker; and outfielder Tim Garland.

Last year's coaching staff has been scattered. Manager Brian Butterfield is serving as the Yankees' roving defensive instructor. Dave Jorn is the pitching coach with the Double A Albany Yankees. Ted Uhlaender is the hitting coach for Fort Lauderdale.\

BUNTS: The Hornets made their first roster change of the season last Thursday. Outfielder Tim Demerson was shipped to Tampa and was replaced by utility infielder Rick Lantrip. Lantrip, 22, batted .183 in 230 plate appearances at Oneonta last year. Demerson had been bothered by a knee injury and played in just two games for the Hornets. ... And finally, folks who know say the hottest selling hat in the nation's novelty shops this year is the new Carolina Mudcats' cap. Running a close second is the Greensboro Hornets' cap. Bryant personally designed both. ``See. I have some value,' Bryant quipped.

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