Tom Hanson: It's the bottom of ninth for Bonita in its attempt to lure baseball team


Put on your rally cap. It doesn’t matter from which team.

The Cleveland Indians. The Baltimore Orioles. The Cincinnati Reds (yes, this is a strong rumor). Or my favorite, the Just-bring-spring-training-to-Bonita-Springs cap.

Turn the hat inside out and wear it backward.

This is a baseball tradition when the home team needs some runs. Bonita Springs is going to need an old-fashioned rally if it wants to land a Major League team for spring training.

Sure, Martha Simons and the rest of the City Council hit a home run Wednesday with a 6-1 vote to continue looking into the idea of bringing a $50-million complex to the city.

But they’re still behind. You might say the city already is running out of at-bats.

Simons successfully pitched the idea. Now Bonita Springs needs a battery mate and quick. The city could qualify for $15 million in state money to build a stadium. But they would need to have the application in by Oct. 1, which means they need a team and a plan in a hurry.

“It will be tough to get something done that fast,” said David Cardwell, the president of the Grapefruit League, which consists of the 16 teams that train in Florida. “The Phillies took three years to negotiate a deal with Clearwater. But it’s not impossible.”

One thing is for sure, there are teams looking for a new spring training home. Then again, there is a sense of urgency.

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The Cleveland Indians’ owner and president, Paul Dolan, was in Goodyear, Ariz., on Thursday talking to its city officials about a proposed site they might share with the another team, most specifically the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have been rumored to be leaving Vero Beach.

Indians Vice President Bob DiBiaso, however, truly was excited when I told him that the Bonita Springs City Council voted in favor of investigating spring training possibilities. DiBiaso said the Indians have several suitors — Osceola County and even Winter Haven (where Cleveland currently trains) — who have entertained discussions.

DiBiaso admitted that Southwest Florida, with its Buckeye State influence, would be a perfect fit for his team. Three years ago, the Indians were serious about sharing a complex with the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers. Even earlier this year, Dolan visited Cape Coral about a future site.

“We need to get together,” DiBiaso said, referring to Bonita Springs and the Indians. “We obviously like Southwest Florida, it’s a good match for us and we would be a good match for the area.”

But let’s not concentrate on one team — well that’s what Gary Price, the city manager, keeps saying. And he’s right.

An Orioles spokesman said the team is currently negotiating a deal with Fort Lauderdale but wouldn’t rule anything out. “All of our efforts are in Fort Lauderdale but you never know,” said Bill Stetka, Baltimore’s director of media relations. Lastly, the Reds also could be a player with the city of Sarasota asking them to chip in a substantial amount of money for a new complex.

Can Bonita Springs land a team by Oct. 1? Probably not. But it doesn’t hurt to take a few hacks instead of just standing there and looking.

Will the deadline kill the deal? Not necessarily.

Either way, it’s exciting to have a chance — even though we’re in need of a good rally.

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E-mail Tom Hanson at

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