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Charlotte Hornets owner George Shinn wants to bring major league baseball to the Carolinas, but he's willing to settle for a Class AAA team for now.

``I think it might take a little time to get a major league baseball team here,' Shinn said. ``This isn't Chicago. We've got to accept that fact.'But Shinn, who succeeded in bringing an NBA team to Charlotte, is not waiting patiently for his turn.

He is actively seeking a Class AAA team to play in his new stadium, which is being used now by Shinn's Charlotte Knights, a Class AA team.

``We're trying to follow the other (AAA) teams, see what kind of attendance they're having,' Shinn said. ``We can hear what's going on, if a club is being mismanaged or can't pay their bills. We want to find one that is really pressed. And when they're ready to yell 'uncle,' I want to be there.'

Charlotte has several options for getting a Class AAA team. Shinn can wait until 1993, when the National League expands by two teams. That year, Class AAA also will expand by at least two teams.

The Knights draw nearly 4,000 fans per game - second among 26 teams in Class AA baseballl and better than 11 of the 26 Class AAA teams - and would seem to have an excellent chance of getting one of the expansion teams.

Charlotte has already asked for a Class AAA expansion application, which will be sent out Aug. 15. If the Knights do not buy an existing team, they will try to sell the AAA expansion committee on Charlotte.

But waiting until 1993 could be expensive.

The last Class AAA team sold, Oklahoma City, went for $5 million in 1989. Knights President Roman Gabriel said an expansion team in 1993 could cost as much as $10 million.

``With the prices of minor-league teams going up so much, buying a team in 1993 could be tremendously more expensive,' Gabriel said. ``We want one now.'

Shinn said he could bring a Class AAA team to Charlotte for 1991.

``I would have to say it's a good chance,' Shinn said. ``I really want this. And we're going to do whatever it takes to get it.'

Field's days numbered ASHEVILLE - Asheville Tourists General Manager Ron McKee is among those hoping the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners decide next week what to do with McCormick Field.

And the director of minor league operations for the Houston Astros, the Tourists' major-league affiliate, said the sooner Buncombe County replaces a park ``on its last legs,' the better.

But as that meeting approaches differences remain on improvement plans for the 66-year-old park - which has seen Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Roberto Clemente and other famous players and served as a setting for the movie ``Bull Durham.'

Suggestions include moving the ballpark, rebuilding on the current site or renovating.

Fred Nelson, the Astros' director of minor league operations who visited Asheville this week, said Houston has no intention of canceling its farm contract in Asheville.

Clemson opens practice CLEMSON, S.C. - Clemson head football coach Ken Hatfield formally began his first season at the helm of the Tiger program Saturday as he welcomed 22 freshmen to their first Clemson practice.

The rookies worked out for two hours in shorts, working mainly on conditioning drills.

The 22 newcomers, including 12 scholarship players and 10 walk-ons, reported to Clesmon Friday evening.

Five players who signed with Clemson in February did not report to practice after failing to meet the necessary academic requirements. They included Michael Barbger, Curtis Brown, Warren Forney, Ray Forsythe and Mario Grier. Joshua Hollaway, a lineman from Oxen Hill, Md., reported to campus but is sitting out of drills after suffering a broken bone in his foot while practicing for a high school all-star game just over a week ago.

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