Rainiers might have found a new owner

After almost three years on the open market, the Tacoma Rainiers may have finally found a buyer who has what it takes to close the deal.

Round two of "Who Wants to Buy the Tacoma Rainiers?" is set to begin.

A group headed by long-time baseball executive David Hersh has signed a letter of intent giving him exclusive negotiation rights to purchase the Seattle Mariners' AAA affiliate from current-owner George Foster.

The Rainiers are currently in last place in the Pacific Coast League North Division, but they shared the PCL championship in 2001 and have a steady stream of top, young talent coming from the Mariners' system.

Hersh has a 60-day window to close the sale, which comes with a long to-do list.

The group must come to an agreement with Foster on the value of the franchise – between $8 million and $12 million according to www.minorleaguebaseball.com.

Then, after passing pre-qualification with the Pacific Coast League, the group must gain the approval of the PCL, Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball for the sale to go through. The group must also assume the lease of Cheney Stadium, where the Rainiers will play their home games through the 2005 season.

If the group satisfies all of the deadlines and approvals detailed in the letter of intent, then the group will start running the Rainiers on Oct. 1 of this year.

This is where the game ended with the last group to pursue the Rainiers.

A group led by local attorney A. Colby Parks signed a letter of intent to purchase the Rainiers in May 2002, but they failed to meet any of the deadlines.

Foster, who has searched for an owner to keep the Rainiers in Tacoma since August 2000, hopes this time the game will reach the final answer.

Hersh has 26 years of experience with professional sports starting as the general manager of the Burlington Bees of the Midwest League in 1977.

He first ventured into ownership in 1978 with his purchase of the Portland Beavers. He most recently presided over the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx of the Southern League - a smashing success after relocating to Jackson, Tenn., from Memphis.

Under his stead, the Diamond Jaxx bested the AFC Champion Tennessee Titans as Tennessee's Professional Team of the Year in 2000, as voted by the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. His team won the Class AA Southern League title with an 80-58 record and drew more than 300,000 fans.

However, Hersh has had to deal with his share of public relation disasters. After departing both Memphis and Jackson, he faced lawsuits seeking money to either cover debts or relocation fees.

James is a senior at Central Washington University who will be interning for InsidethePark.com this summer. He welcomes your feedback at cwusports@hotmail.com.

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