Wolff would like resolution to San Jose situation

Wolff would like resolution to San Jose situation

Wolff would like resolution to San Jose situation
PHOENIX -- A's managing partner Lew Wolff made his first appearance at camp this spring on Wednesday morning and he sounded quite bullish about the upcoming season, the work being done by a Major League Baseball committee studying relocation of his ballclub and a pending $30 million upgrade to its Spring Training facility.

Standing in the sunshine at the Papago Park practice facility as the A's worked out, Wolff, 75, spoke eloquently with three members of the media about the near and not-too-distant future.

About the upcoming season, Wolff said he is "as elated as I can possibly be," coming off a year during which the A's finished in second place, nine games behind Texas in the American League West.

"The plan that was set out to me in 2008 by [general manager] Billy [Beane] and his guys is here," Wolff added. "We have depth. We have youth and age in the right spots. We have guys who can make contact with the ball. We either do it or not is the way I see it."

About the committee that for three years has been studying the A's relocation options, Wolff said that he is satisfied "they are putting their arms around this."

"I know that we're all -- especially me -- frustrated," Wolff said. "But it's important that when a decision is made, that it's a comprehensive decision. A patient account. It makes the path going forward to a new ballpark as easy for us as possible. As much as I'm the one who's bugging everybody, I understand the patience I have to have. Baseball has a different time clock than I have."

Regarding ongoing talks with Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon about upgrading Phoenix Municipal Stadium and the practice facility, Wolff said, "We want to stay here. We actually don't threaten anybody when it comes to moving to other cities or anything.

"I think we'll work it out with the city, although cities are strapped these days," he said. "We've made an analysis of what we need. We don't need to spend $100 million. We like it here. I like the fact that the facilities are separate, so that some guys can train here and others can go over to the main field. There's something peaceful and wide open about all this."

It's interesting that the A's find themselves in a similar predicament both in the Bay Area and in Spring Training. With all the improvements and the new complexes that have opened in the Valley, the A's train in the oldest facility. At home, the Coliseum is the third oldest ballpark in the AL, having opened for football in September 1966, only six months after what was then called Anaheim Stadium, but it's the only one that hasn't been renovated for baseball.

Wolff asked MLB in 2008 for permission to move from Oakland 35 miles south to San Jose and Commissioner Bud Selig put together a committee to review the A's relocation options inside and outside the Bay Area. The Giants have opposed the A's request to move to San Jose.

Wolff, a fraternity brother of Selig's at the University of Wisconsin, led a group that purchased the A's in 2005. Recently, Selig has declined to discuss the progress of the committee and Wolff said at a recent owners' meeting that he'd rather have a "no" at this point just so he can get on with life. Wolff said on Wednesday that he's not getting any younger.

"At my age, I don't have a lot of time to contemplate," he said. "They're supposed to make me a couple of workout shirts with a number on it and it's 75 squared. They were doing it as a joke. So we'll see."

The A's talks with cash-strapped Phoenix have been ongoing for more than a year with a number of proposals changing hands. The latest new complex -- Salt River Fields at Talking Stick -- cost about $120 million and was funded in total for the D-backs and Rockies by the Salt River-Maricopa Indian Community. A new $80 million facility in Mesa, Ariz., on tap for the Cubs is being funded through a bond issue approved last fall by voters in that community.

Wolff, though, said he's hardly looking for a total reconstruction of the A's current Spring Training site. He'd like to tear down and rebuild the blockhouse of an office and clubhouse building at Papago Park and make significant upgrades to Phoenix Muni, which was opened in 1964. The infrastructure of that yard is crumbling as evidenced by a water pipe break this week that flooded some of the A's clubhouse offices.

Wolff said the estimated improvements of $30 million will be staged over time. But right now, Phoenix is searching for a funding mechanism with Gordon's term as mayor about to expire.

"That's chump change," Wolff said about the investment, "unless you go to the Indians and they build you a beautiful facility, which are gorgeous. The one that's opening now is just fantastic. But we don't want to do that. [The investment] isn't huge, but we have to do it."

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.