A representative of the Toronto Blue Jays will tour the baseball facilities at Ventura College today as the American League team considers entering into a working agreement with a minor league baseball franchise owned by three Ventura County businessmen.
On Thursday, California League President Joe Gagliardi will tour the facilities.
"It's kind of a breakthrough in the sense that there's been a lot of idle talk and no action," said Ken McMullen, who owns the Class-A California League franchise with Jim Colborn and Jim Biby.
McMullen's group will meet this morning with Wayne Morgan, Western region scouting director for the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays ended their association with a Class-A Carolina League franchise in Kinston, N.C., at the end of last season.
Gordon Ashe, administrator of player personnel for the Blue Jays, said the American League's Eastern Division champions plan to open a Class-A Florida State League franchise in 1987 at their spring training headquarters in Dunedin, Fla. They hope to enter into a one-year agreement for the 1986 season.
"We need a place to operate for one year," Ashe said by phone Tuesday from Toronto, "so we're exploring several possibilities, of which Ventura is one."
Ashe said the Blue Jays are looking at three other franchises.
Regarding their interest in the proposed Ventura County franchise, Ashe said: "We're mostly concerned with the playing field and the dugouts and the clubhouse facility as it relates to the players."
Under terms of a working agreement, or player-development contract, a major league team farms players, managers and coaches to a minor league affiliate. Salaries and meal money are paid by the big league team. The minor league owner markets the team and provides a place to play.
McMullen's group, which paid $125,000 in March to buy the Lodi franchise from Stockton businesswoman Michele Sprague, is still looking for a home.
It may have found one at Ventura College.
Although its request to use the college facilities has not yet been approved, Ventura College Athletic Director Jerry Dunlap said it appears that the group's request will be approved by Chancellor Al Fernandez, college President Dr. Bob Long and the community college board.
"We think it's a positive thing for the community and the facility," Dunlap said. "Because of the improvements that will be made on the field, it will only help our program."
The Ventura College field has no lights, so the minor league team would have to play all day games. McMullen said last week that most of the games would start at 4 p.m.
McMullen's group, which still must get permission from the league to move the franchise from Lodi, had hoped to play next season at Freedom Park in Camarillo.
Saying it had come up with a private source of funding, McMullen's group won approval last month from the Pleasant Valley Parks and Recreation District Board to use Freedom Park as the site for a temporary baseball facility for two seasons. But the funding fell through, leaving the group short of the estimated $150,000 needed to build a diamond at the park.
When it couldn't come up with the money, McMullen said his group would explore the possibility of playing at a junior college or high school.
Ventura College, he said, was its first choice.
"I think the facilities there are outstanding for what we need," McMullen said.