Sat, Jan 21, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Reds sold to group headed by produce dealer Castellini

AP , SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA

Major League Baseball owners unanimously approved the sale of its oldest franchise, the Cincinnati Reds, to a group headed by produce mogul Robert Castellini on Thursday.

Carl Lindner, the 86-year-old Cincinnati financier who owned the franchise since 1999, had three potential buyers whose offers were roughly the same but chose Castellini largely because of his local ties. Lindner will remain a minority partner.

"Local ownership there was critical, and it was crucial to Carl Lindner," MLB commissioner Bud Selig said. "The one overriding goal we had was to have local ownership."

Terms weren't announced, but Castellini's group is said to be acquiring about 70 percent ownership of a franchise worth an estimated US$270 million.

The Castellini family founded a shipping company along the Ohio River in 1896, 27 years after the Cincinnati Red Stockings became MLB's first professional team. Today, the company is one of the largest conveyors of fruit and vegetables in the US.

Castellini chose not to discuss his acquisition of the team until Friday.

The new ownership group includes brothers William Jr. and Thomas Williams. Castellini and the Williams brothers were part of fellow Cincinnati resident Bill Dewitt Jr.'s ownership group of the St. Louis Cardinals. They are in the process of divesting their Cardinals' interests, according to Bob DuPuy, MLB's chief operating officer.

Cincinnati won its fifth and last World Series in 1990, and hasn't appeared in the postseason since 1995. The Reds have had five straight losing seasons, their longest slump in 50 years.

Ozzie Guillen, the Venezuelan-born manager of the World Series champion Chicago White Sox, will celebrate his 42nd birthday Friday by becoming a U.S. citizen.

Guillen, his wife, Ibis, and their son Oney will be sworn in by a US District Court judge at a ceremony in Chicago, the White Sox said Thursday.

``He always has said that he wanted to be a citizen,'' White Sox spokeswoman Katie Kirby said. ``He's really made his career and a second life here.''

A former All-Star shortstop with the White Sox, Guillen was born in Ocumare Del Tuy, Venezuela. His wife and Oney also were born in the South American country.

Guillen's two other children, Oswaldo Jr. and Ozney, were born in the US during his 16-year major-league playing career.

Guillen first started talking about becoming a US citizen during last season, Kirby said.

In the offseason, Guillen and his family split their time between homes in Miami and Caracas, Venezuela, she said.

Guillen is the first Venezuelan manager in the major leagues and the first Latino manager to win the World Series.

Iriki signs with Mets

The Mets and Japanese right-hander Yusaku Iriki agreed to a US$750,000, one-year contract on Wednesday as New York attempts to add pitching before spring training.

The 33-year-old Iriki was 6-7 with a 3.35 ERA in 20 starts and eight relief appearances last season with the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan's Pacific League, finishing ninth in the league in ERA and 10th with 122 strikeouts. His contract includes a pair of club options.

"He has the ability to start and also the ability to pitch in the bullpen," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "I just felt bringing him on board gives us a little more depth."

Iriki was posted during the offseason under the agreement between the Major League Baseball commissioner's office and Japan's commissioner's office, but there were no bidders. He said he had the option of re-signing with the Fighters, who are managed by Trey Hillman.

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