BAY CITY, MI-The owner of a Georgia minor league baseball team is making a pitch to bring a new team to Bay City. David Heller, owner of the Columbus, GA Catfish, hopes to buy another struggling Midwest ball club and relocate them in Bay City, should local leaders back him.

In March, Heller had officially offered to relocate a minor league team to Bay City by 2006 if a new stadium is built. Earlier this week, he again reaffirmed that promise in meetings with local leaders, although he stressed he wouldn’t move his Georgia team.

“I want to emphasize, it is our plan to acquire a Midwest League club and move it here,” Heller says. “It is not our intention to move our club’s franchise. There is no plan to move the Columbus team.”

Heller’s Class A South Atlantic League Catfish team is an affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Heller, a Democratic media consultant in Washington, DC, had initially made the early pitch to Bay City officials privately, but has since decided to go public following what he believes have been positive talks with government and business leaders.

“I felt that there has been consistent and steady progress,” Heller says. “The key to moving forward is to build on that progress. We needed to let people know about our strong commitment to the community.”

Two studies released last month by the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce suggest a Bay City ballpark would draw an average 4,000 fans to each game and pump more than $33 million into the local economy. A cost or funding plan for a potential baseball stadium has not been made public.

“Mid-Michigan is the single-largest media market in the continental US that does not have professional baseball, and that’s a tremendous, glaring omission,” Heller says. “People in mid-Michigan are huge sports fans. And when you have a lot of sports fans and there is no professional baseball, that’s a wonderful opportunity.”

Heller says he’s exploring purchasing one of the 14 teams in the Midwest League, but declined to elaborate. The Battle Creek Yankees were sold last month to a group headed by David Hersh, but says he plans to keep the team in that city.

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