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OWNER TAKES HEAT FOR NAMING TEAM BLAST

The owner of the Akron Blast won't change the name of his minor-league baseball team despite complaints that it is in poor taste.

Team owner Mike Agganis announced the name last week (the team had been the Double A Canton-Akron Indians), saying, "The Akron region and Ohio are the home of the Wright Brothers, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and Judy Resnik."

Resnik, an Akron native, was one of seven astronauts who died on Jan. 28, 1986, in the space shuttle Challenger explosion, the worst accident in the history of space exploration.

The Akron Beacon Journal immediately criticized the choice, as well as the decision to name the jet-pack-wearing mascot "Kaboom."

"Nobody in baseball or anywhere in the world would even associate the word 'blast' with that tragedy," Agganis said. "When Albert Belle hits a home run, it's a blast. When you come to the ballpark, it's a blast."

In other baseball news: The Pittsburgh Pirates announced that outfielder Al Martin (.300 batting average with 18 homers and 72 RBIs) will return despite the club's plan to rebuild with young players and cut their payroll to $18 million in 1997. The 28-year-old Martin is to make $2 million next season.

The Pirates also cleared room for possible Rule 5 draftees and minor-league prospects by dropping four players from their 40-man roster. On Tuesday, the Dodgers claimed utilityman John Wehner after the Pirates tried to sneak him through waivers. Sent to Triple-A Calgary were pitchers Joe Boever and Dave Wainhouse, first baseman Rich Aude and third baseman Dale Sveum.

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