SPORTS:

Soccer Explodes in Baltimore

By Darrell Carter

Only one home game--on Feb. 21st--showcases the top-ranked Baltimore Blast.
The top-ranked Baltimore Blast--the defending Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) champions--entertains its only home game on Feb. 21 against Cleveland at the 1st Mariner Bank Arena (formally the Baltimore Arena). Head coach Tim Whitman has his troops fired-up to challenge Hector Marinaro, Zoran Karic, and the rest of the Force team.

Local media attention should burn the airwaves, and the ink presses should be working overtime with Blast reports, considering that the National Football League and Major League Baseball are in the off-season. Sorry folks: baseball spring training starts Feb. 20 and, once again, the Orioles will be the center of attention.

Fan Alert! Do not be disappointed, be encouraged that your soccer team is averaging over 5,000 seats per game and is in first place. I am, however, a little discouraged that the Blast ownership has not reached out more to the inner-city and made its team's presence known. Oh well--enough complaining! Let us take a brief look at some of the shining stars of the 2003-04 Blast roster.

Denison Cabral, Midfield:

Denison Cabral was with the team, when they became the Blast once again in 1998, after a 13-year name identity quandary. He had a successful 1997-98 season, scoring 47 points with the "Baltimore Spirit" of the old National Professional Soccer League (NPSL). He enters the 2003-04 season ranked first in Blast history, with 648 points total. So far, after 23 games this season, he leads the team with 33 total points.

He is well-traveled in the professional ranks, having played for the former Washington Warthogs in the now-defunct CISL, and for the Baltimore Bays in the USISL. Cabral has found a home in Baltimore and discovered during the 2003 championship series that 14 points overall will earn MVP honors.

David Bascome, Forward:

Bascome is now a fan favorite in Baltimore, though in years past he was a fierce competitor in the old NPSL with the Harrisburg Heat. A four-time All-Star with Harrisburg in the MISL, Bascome led the team in nearly all scoring categories.

He has recorded 919 points in his 12-year career and became the 16th player in league history to surpass 900 points. At press time, he was second on the team with 28 points.

Tarik Walker, Forward:

Tarik Walker is enjoying his 11th year in a professional soccer career that has carried him through six cities and nine teams. He begin his career with the old NPSL Baltimore Spirit, scoring 73 points and 13 assists and snagging Rookie of the Year honors. He also played for the old Baltimore Bays in the USISL. He is the second all-time leading scorer in Baltimore soccer history, with 400 points.

For further Blast information contact the team at 410-73-BLAST.

Orioles Report
Pitchers and catchers report to training camp in Sarasota, Florida on Feb. 22. O's minor-league Pitcher of the Year John Maine and oft-injured pitching prospect Eric Bedard have been invited to camp.

Former first-round pick and second baseman Mike Fontenot will report with the other position players on the 24th. Also, the O's invited former Yankee utility player Clay Bellinger, former Red Sox catcher Bill Hasselman, and former Milwaukee catcher Keith Orsik to camp, signing them to minor league contracts.

Ticket prices at Orioles Park at Camden Yards will increase by 28% for the best seats only. Seats between the bases will go from $35 to $45 for season ticket holders. Certain club-level seats will rise by $5, while other club-level seats will suffer no increase. Lower-level seats will go from $2-$5 for season ticket holders to as much as $8 if sold to non-season ticket holders. Upper deck seats will remain the same price as last year. The O's pricing last season ranked 13th highest among the 30 major league teams.


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This story was published on February 20, 2004.