MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Signaling that baseball was prepared to back off its attempt to fold the Twins, owner Carl Pohlad said Wednesday he intended to sell the team and commissioner Bud Selig gave the plan his blessing.
"I believe that our fans in the Upper Midwest want the Twins to continue to play here," Pohlad said. He added that "may best be achieved" by a sale, which would require the buyer keep the team in Minnesota.
While Pohlad has been open to selling the team in the past, its future was thrown into doubt when baseball owners voted Nov. 6 to eliminate two teams.
The Twins and Montreal Expos turned out to be the targets, but baseball's contraction plan was stopped by a Minnesota judge who ordered the Twins to fulfill their Metrodome lease this season.
"I encourage the process and am hopeful it will produce a number of potential investors who are dedicated to preserving major league baseball in Minnesota," Selig said in a statement released in coordination with Pohlad's.
Pohlad, a Minneapolis banker who has owned the team since 1984, has been sharply criticized for going along with the contraction plan, or at least not opposing it publicly.
He has been an unpopular figure in Minnesota through several failed stadium plans, and the Twins' statement Wednesday acknowledged that by saying new ownership could help land public funding for a stadium.
Jim Pohlad, the owner's son and a member of the team's executive board, said friends, lawmakers and advisers told the family that selling the team would help the stadium effort. He said the decision was difficult for the family.
"It may not be the outcome everybody wants, to see somebody else throwing out the first pitch in a brand new stadium," Jim Pohlad said. "But at least baseball will be in Minnesota."
After the contraction plan was announced, doubts grew about the ability of potential bidders to match the price -- perhaps $150 million or more -- Pohlad was expected to get to fold the team.
Two bidders have emerged: Alabama businessman Donald Watkins and a group of Twin Cities lawyers and businessmen.
Watkins said Pohlad stands to benefit from a new stadium by fetching a bigger price for the team, and so setting up the process makes sense. He's still interested in buying the team, he said.
Mike Ciresi, a leader of the Twin Cities group, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.
In his statement, Selig credited Pohlad for saving baseball in Minnesota when he bought the franchise in 1984, and for operating the franchise through a difficult period when skyrocketing salaries made it difficult for small-market teams to compete.
"This course is in the best long-term interest of the Twins franchise, as, perhaps, new ownership can succeed in securing financing for a new ballpark, which would allow the club to generate enough local revenues to keep the Twins in Minnesota for decades to come," Selig said.
Pohlad said offers for the team would be reviewed by Minneapolis lawyer Ralph Strangis. Pohlad said his objective is to receive "fair value under circumstances that include a satisfactory new stadium resolution."
"The controversial process of deciding whether Minnesota should keep a major league baseball team has been complicated by the public's perceptions of recent MLB decisions," Pohlad said.
The establishment of the sale process Wednesday isn't the first time Pohlad has appeared close to selling the team.
In 1999, then-St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman put together a proposal to build a ballpark in St. Paul that included Pohlad selling the Twins to Glen Taylor, owner of the NBA's Timberwolves, and Bob Naegele, managing partner of the NHL's Wild.
But St. Paul voters rejected a sales tax increase to pay for part of the stadium and the sale never happened.
Bills authorizing funding for a ballpark have been introduced in the Minnesota Legislature, and both St. Paul and Minneapolis have expressed interest.
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