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MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL Officials ponder trip abroad with war near



Published: Fri, March 21, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Oakland and Seattle are scheduled to play in Tokyo on March 25.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

As they get closer to their season opener in Japan, the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners are jittery.

They're not the only ones -- with war possible, major league baseball is wondering whether now's the time to play ball so far from home.

There were no plans Monday for the teams to call off their trip to Tokyo. The A's and Mariners are supposed to leave in a couple of days and scheduled to play a two-game series beginning March 25.

But commissioner Bud Selig and baseball officials were busy talking to the State Department, the FBI and other government and security agencies, checking on whether opening day overseas should go on.

Consults with Washington

"The commissioner has been in consultation with Washington, with several departments," baseball spokesman Rich Levin said. "We're waiting to see what the president says tonight, and we'll go from there."

Several baseball officials were already in Japan preparing for the teams' arrivals.

AL MVP Miguel Tejada, however, planned to leave his family at home when the Athletics take off Wednesday.

"It's not going to be easy to be over there with all the stuff that's going on, war," the star shortstop said Monday in Phoenix. "The only thing I say is that it's our job."

Earlier Monday, President Bush said Saddam Hussein must leave Iraq or face a U.S.-led invasion. In an evening speech to the nation, Bush gave Hussein 48 hours to go.

Players' union head Donald Fehr said world events would dictate how to handle the Japan series.

"I think everybody is waiting to see what happens," Fehr said.

Athletics outfielder Jermaine Dye, like Tejada, planned to leave his family in America.

"I'm a little concerned," Dye said. "We will still be safe, there's a lot of security over there. I'm kind of just going with the flow. Whatever happens, happens.

"When stuff like this happens, you start to think about families," he said.

Travel party smaller

When the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs opened the 2000 season in Tokyo, many players brought along their wives, children and girlfriends. The traveling party for the A's and Mariners, however, is shaping up to be much smaller.

Mark McLemore has his share of worries.

"Yeah, I do," the Seattle outfielder said. "It's part of the schedule, so I've got to do it. Safety obviously is a concern. You get over there and something happens. We had a whole lot of people in New York and Washington thinking on Sept. 11 it was safe."

Athletics general manager Billy Beane said he was taking his wife, Tara.

"The way I look at it, I don't feel uncomfortable from a security standpoint. ... I have certain personal feelings about being at home, because I'm an American," he said.

Against the backdrop of war, New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens took a break from baseball Monday.

Clemens talks to service men

Clemens spoke to members of the 317th Military Police Battalion and the 810th Military Police Company during a mobilization farewell ceremony at Legends Field, the Yankees' spring training home in Tampa, Fla.

Clemens stood at a podium near home plate and talked to approximately 250 soldiers and 1,000 family members and friends.

"After 20 years of playing the game that I love to play, I consider myself a true team player," Clemens said. "But you guys are the ultimate team. You're protecting our freedom. Thank you and good luck."

The Tampa-based units are heading to Fort Stewart, Ga., in preparation for overseas deployment.

Clemens personally thanked several soldiers in the clubhouse before the 40-minute ceremony, which concluded with the troops marching along the first- and third-base lines.

Clemens recalled the two most traumatic events of his boyhood -- watching an ambulance take his father away after a second heart attack, and the day brother Richard's draft number was called.

"My mother hit the ground crying, and my brother just got up and walked to his bedroom," Clemens said. "It's a part of our family for a long time. It's something that won't change. It's a part of a lot of peoples life when all that happens."

"He came home and it was difficult because, as you guys know, they weren't really well received about the whole situation," Clemens said. "It was difficult."




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