Astros owner looking at moving team’s spring training base to Florida’s east coast


QUICK HITS

— RHP Ricky Nolasco, Miami’s opening day starter, gave up four home runs, including shots to Carlos Pena and Brett Wallace on consecutive pitches in the first inning. Nolasco allowed seven runs in three innings.

— Kevin Kouzmanoff, who’s trying to win a bench spot, hit a two-run home run in the third inning off Bud Norris.

— Third baseman Matt Dominguez, a former first-round pick for the Marlins, was 2-for-2 with a home run for the Astros.

Miami lost to the Houston Astros on Tuesday, but that won’t stop many Marlins from rooting for Astros owner Jim Crane.

In a brief interview at Roger Dean Stadium during Houston’s 9-4 win, Crane said he’s considering moving the Astros’ spring training operations to sites on Florida’s East Coast, including Palm Beach County.

Crane said possible sites range from Port St. Lucie, where the New York Mets train, to as far south as Fort Lauderdale.

The Astros train in Kissimmee under a lease that expires in 2016. Crane would love to move his team closer to Palm City in southern Martin County, which is home to his Floridian Yacht and Golf Club.

“We’ve been looking in this area, primarily because you have the Mets and you have the Marlins and the Cardinals. You get two more teams in this area and (if) the Mets can get someone else, it would really solidify baseball on the East Coast and make the travel schedules easier,’’ he said.

Local officials in northern Palm Beach County recently expressed support for bringing another team to the area. County Commissioner Hal Valeche told TCPalm.com that a team is looking into the region, possibly in Palm Beach Gardens. Among the sites it has considered: 82 acres between Central Boulevard and Interstate 95, just south of Donald Ross Road.

Only three cities on Florida’s East Coast host a major-league team for spring training: Jupiter with the Marlins and Cardinals; Port St. Lucie with the Mets; and Viera with the Washington Nationals.

Eight teams are on the West Coast and three in Central Florida. The East Coast teams have opt-out clauses allowing them to move if one of them leaves.

Although Crane’s dream may be a long shot, Marlins manager Mike Redmond said he hopes the Astros owner can pull it off.

“It’d be great to have more teams closer by, for sure,’’ said Redmond, whose team will take two separate four-hour bus rides in the next six days — Friday to Tampa and Monday to Fort Myers.

“That’s the one thing here, it’s hard to get as much stuff done in spring training After the day off (Thursday), we have a 6:15 (a.m. Friday) bus to Tampa. That’s a long day for guys. So you spend more time it seems like on the bus than you do (on) baseball stuff.’’

Crane wouldn’t elaborate on any specific sites he is considering.

“We’ve been talking to everybody who will listen. So, yeah, we have talked to lot of people,’’ he replied when asked if he has had talks with any city or county government leaders in Palm Beach County.

He said there are some options with existing facilities, “But we’re looking to build a brand-new one, too.’’

Crane, who recently hosted President Obama and Tiger Woods for a golf outing at the Floridian, said he believes the northern Palm Beach County area can support a third and fourth team.

“The consensus is (with) the density in this area, in particular around the West Palm Beach airport and in Jupiter and to Stuart, I think you could draw from all over,’’ he said. “When you look at what the Cardinals and Marlins have been able to do here, it does draw a lot of people into the area and they spend a lot of money.

“The Mets, Cardinals and Marlins really like the idea because they don’t want to move, as far as I can tell.’’

Staff writer Bill DiPaolo contributed to this story.



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