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    The Latest on the NCAA Tournament (all times Eastern): 6:50 p.m. All four games in the NCAA Tournament to be played Thursday night involve at least one team seeded seventh or lower. The night opens with No. 7 seed Nevada playing No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago in the South Region. In the West, No. 7 seed Texas A&M, fresh off a blowout of 2017 national champion North Carolina, faces No. 3 seed Michigan. Later, No. 5 seed Kentucky faces No. 9 seed Kansas State in the South and No. 4 seed Gonzaga faces No. 9 seed Florida State in the West. Florida State advanced by topping No. 1 seed Xavier. ___ 6 p.m. It's back to the madness of March and the Sweet 16, starring Loyola-Chicago, Kansas State, Syracuse and whatever other underdog you might want to throw in there — maybe Florida State or Texas A&M. There's plenty of drama in the South Region, where the top four seeds are done and watching the NCAA Tournament on TV. Play resumes Thursday night with tournament darling Loyola-Chicago (30-5), an 11th seed, facing No. 7 seed Nevada (29-7), and Kansas State (24-11) playing No. 5 seed Kentucky (26-10) in Atlanta, The other two matchups are in the West, where No. 7 Texas A&M (22-12) meets No. 3 Michigan (30-7), and No. 9 Florida State (22-11) takes on No. 4 Gonzaga (32-4) in Los Angeles. ___ More AP college basketball: https://collegebasketball.ap.org ; https://twitter.com/AP_Top25 and https://www.podcastone.com/ap-sports-special-events
  • Tony Romo settled down after a nervous start, only to come undone on the back nine in his PGA Tour debut. The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback played a four-hole stretch in a 5 over on the back nine that led to a 5-over 77 in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He was 14 shots behind Brice Garnett, who had a 63 to lead by one shot. 'Over 18 holes and 72, your flaws start to show at some point,' Romo said. 'I really hit some good shots close and I had a chance to be under par pretty easily. Then two or three shots on the back nine cost me. But that's golf.' Romo, who now works as an NFL analyst for CBS Sports, received a sponsor's exemption to the tournament, which has one of the weaker fields of the year because it is held opposite the World Golf Championships event in Texas. He is playing as an amateur. Garnett played bogey-free, opening with a 30 on the back nine and building a one-shot lead over Corey Conners of Canada. Romo played with Denny McCarthy, who was among those at 66, and Dru Love. The son of Davis Love III shot a 73. 'I was nervous,' said Romo, who opened with two bogeys before getting back to even par on the front nine. 'I think I knew going in that I was going to be trying to rely on the mechanics and the fundamentals of the swing. I hit it fine, but three-putted three times, twice early in the round. That's just nerves, and hopefully you can get that out of the way and get a couple of swings that you aren't used to doing and come back and play better tomorrow.' Friday most likely will be his last day. Only two players had a higher score than Romo — D.A. Points and Guy Boros at 79. The 53-year-old Boros was playing on the PGA Tour for the first time in three years. Romo joined a short list of athletes who have tried to compete against those who play for a living. Mark Rypien, the former Washington Redskins quarterback, played the Kemper Open in 1992. He shot rounds of 80-91 and missed the cut by 27 shots. Ken Harrelson, an All-Star outfielder for the Boston Red Sox in 1968, qualified for the 1972 British Open at Muirfield and missed the cut by one shot. John Brodie qualified for the U.S. Open while playing for the San Francisco 49ers and later won on the PGA Tour Champions circuit. Most recently, Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry played a Web.com Tour event outside San Francisco. He shot 74-74 and missed the cut by 11 shots. 'I had it going for a little bit,' Romo said. 'I had it close.' Garnett was 10 shots better than his opening round at Punta Cana last year, when it was a Web.com Tour event. He shot 73-67 and missed the cut. 'I think last year I just kind of approached the golf course wrong,' Garnett said of the generous fairways on the resort course. 'To me, this is a second shot golf course. Everybody's in play off the tee and it comes down to a putting competition.' Jonathan Byrd was in a large group at 66, while former Puerto Rico Open winner George McNeill was among those at 67.
  • Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed enjoy few things more than trying to beat each other, and that's when they are partners. The stakes are even higher in the Dell Technologies Match Play. Win or go home. Spieth and Reed did their part Thursday by winning their matches for a second straight day to set up a showdown on the skirts of Hill Country in Texas. They play Friday to determine who wins the group and advances to the weekend of this World Golf Championship. Reed fired the first shot when asked what made Spieth a good opponent in match play. 'I don't know. My back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,' he said with a laugh, alluding to the way he carried Spieth in their partnership at Hazeltine to a 2-1-1 record in team play during a rare American victory. Spieth dodged trouble early against Li Haotong, who missed putts inside 8 feet on two of the opening three holes, won the second hole when Spieth hit into the hazard and thought he won the fourth hole until Spieth matched his birdie by chipping in from short of the green. Spieth never trailed and pulled away with a savvy play on the par-4 13th over the water and into the wind. He hit driver well to the right toward the gallery, which gave him a clear look at the green without having to hit over any of the lake. His pitch-and-run settled a foot away for birdie and a 2-up lead, and Spieth closed him out, 4 and 2. Right behind was Reed in his match against Charl Schwartzel, and the South African was 2 up at the turn until Reed won the next two holes to set up a tight finish. Schwartzel stayed 1 down when he missed a 5-foot par putt on the 17th. Needing a birdie on the 18th to halve, Schwartzel could only watch as Reed hit a wedge that nearly went in and stopped a few inches away. Reed and Spieth are 7-2-2 as partners in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup. They are 1-1 in PGA Tour playoffs, with Reed hitting through the greens to short birdie range when he won the Wyndham Championship in 2013, and Spieth returning the favor in 2015 at Innisbrook by winning a playoff with a 30-foot putt. They don't have much of a relationship except in team competitions, and even then it's unusual. 'Because we're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,' Spieth said. 'Tiger says it's a phenomenon. It's not something that he's used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together. But we want to beat each other every time. In alternate shot, if we don't win a hole, I want it to be his fault and he wants it to be my fault. 'We've almost played every single match we've been involved in together against each other,' he said. 'We just happen to be wearing the same colors.' Reed and Spieth have advanced out of group play just once, both in 2016 at Austin Country Club, and both lost fourth-round matches. 'He's not going to give you holes,' Reed said. 'You have to go and play some good golf. And that's what it's going to down to. Because I plan on not giving him any holes.' That isn't the only match between undefeated players this week. Alex Noren of Sweden had another easy time, beating Thomas Pieters in 14 holes, and won for the sixth time in his last seven matches. He faces Tony Finau, who dispatched of Kevin Na to win his second straight match. Defending champion Dustin Johnson will effectively play a practice round Friday. A year after the world's No. 1 player couldn't be beaten, Johnson couldn't beat anybody. He lost to Bernd Wiesberger on Wednesday, and fell behind early in a 4-and-3 loss to Adam Hadwin on Thursday. Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson still have life. McIlroy had an easy time beating Jhonattan Vegas, while Brian Harman knocked out Peter Uihlein in the other match in their group. Harman will win the group if he beats McIlroy on Friday; McIlroy has to win to have any chance of making it to the weekend. 'At least I've given myself a chance to progress,' he said. Mickelson, who lost to Charles Howell III in the opening round, rallied from 4 down after eight holes and won the last three holes to beat Satoshi Kodaira. Mickelson still needs Howell, who won against on Thursday, to lose a match.
  • Prosecutors will not bring criminal charges against Buffalo Bills receiver Zay Jones after a naked, bloody argument with his brother in Los Angeles earlier this week. Los Angeles prosecutors declined the case because of 'insufficient evidence,' district attorney's office spokesman Paul Eakins told The Associated Press on Thursday. The 22-year-old Jones was arrested after officers were called to a disturbance in downtown Los Angeles, said police spokesman Luis Garcia. Jones was found 'breaking glass doors and windows' and arrested on suspicion of felony vandalism, Garcia said. The arrest was first reported by TMZ, which posted a video showing a nude Zay Jones pushing his brother, Cayleb, in what appeared to be the hallway of an apartment building. His agent, Zeke Sandhu, did not reply to text and voicemail messages. Sandhu also represents Cayleb Jones. Cayleb Jones, a Minnesota Vikings receiver, on Wednesday also posted a note on his Twitter account, which read: 'I am my brothers keeper.' His father, Robert Jones, posted a note on his Twitter account on Wednesday saying his son 'is with me and his mom,' while adding 'he's going to be fine!' The Bills had no immediate comment. ___ Associated Press writer John Wawrow in Buffalo, New York, contributed to this report. ___ For more AP NFL coverage: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL .
  • Olympic figure skating champions Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany set a world record as they claimed their first world championship as a pair with a flawless program packed with daring and grace on Thursday. The silver went to Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia skating fast to Christina Aguilera's 'Candyman,' and the bronze to Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France, who kept their nerves and nailed the rest of their program after she fell badly. Massot's mouth fell open as the free program score was read - 18.6 points ahead of the second-placed Russians. A former French skater, Massot teamed with Savchenko in 2014 after her former partner, Robyn Szolkowy, retired after their fifth world title together. The Germans' mastery came through as Massot lifted Savchenko from the ice with just one arm, with super-high triple-twist lifts and jump combinations that earned them two-point execution bonuses. In the men's competition, Nathan Chen of the U.S. neatly vanquished the ghosts of the Olympic short program to finish first going into the final free. Mikhail Kolyada of Russia was in second place with a program he simplified after the Pyeongchang Games. Vincent Zhou of the U.S. was third after a clean quad-lutz-triple toe, adding difficulty with two arms overhead on the second jump, and a perfectly executed quad flip. The 17-year-old Zhou, who is the youngest in the field, added more than 10 points to his personal best for a score of 96.78. After bombing the short in South Korea, Chen wanted to redeem himself at the worlds. 'Ultimately, I am glad with what I did,' Chen said. The U.S. champion hit two quads, one in combination, but the landings were a little off and he was marked slightly down. Still, the 101.94 score was enough to lead the short program and a huge improvement on the 82.27 at the Olympics, though still shy of his personal best. Two favorites, Olympic silver medalist Shomo Uno of Japan and Jin Boyang of China, skated error-prone programs and remained within striking distance of the podium. Uno, the only male Olympic medalist at the worlds, missed a triple-triple combo, tacking on a double after a step out. He finished in fifth despite a huge quad and triple axel. Jin nearly landed on the boards after an under-rotated quad, finishing in fourth going into the final free on Saturday. ____ Daniella Matar contributed to this report.
  • Eight days before opening day, Jake Arrieta made his first appearance for the Philadelphia Phillies. 'I had a ton of nervous energy,' Arrieta said Thursday after allowing two runs that included Miguel Cabrera's solo homer during a 6-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers. Arrieta struck out two and walked none, throwing 31 pitches over two innings. He gave up three hits. 'Very anxious to get out there,' the 32-year-old right-hander said. 'I was in here at 8, and I couldn't stop moving. But now that's over, I can kind of take a deep breath and remember what it feels like to be in a game situation. Umpires, crowd, and it felt great.' Arrieta and the Phillies finalized a $75 million, three-year contract on March 12, a deal that could be worth up to $135 million over five seasons. Aaron Nola will start the March 29 opener at Atlanta, and it is not clear whether Arrieta will take a turn in the first time through the rotation. 'Do I think I can handle going out there? Of course,' he said. 'But is it the smartest thing to do? Maybe not. I'm onboard with what these guys intend to do. I know they have my health and the teams' success over the long haul in mind, and that's the most important thing moving forward.' Arrieta struck out JaCoby Jones and Jeimer Candelario leading off the game, the allowed Cabrera's opposite-field homer to right on a 2-1 pitch. After a pair of flyouts starting the second, Christin Stewart singled, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Jose Iglesias' double. 'We just wanted health and strength, and we saw both of those things,' Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. 'I thought it was a really, really positive outing for Jake. He touched 95 (mph), demonstrated a heavy sinker, demonstrated his typical cross-body delivery and his ability to be deceptive and throw strikes.' Arrieta won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award with the Chicago Cubs and helped them win the World Series the next season, going 2-0 in a seven-game series against Cleveland. He was 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA last year. He went 68-31 with a 2.73 ERA in five seasons in Chicago after going 20-25 with a 5.46 ERA for the Orioles. Notes: INF Ryan Flaherty was released from his minor league contract. If he had been added to the 40-man roster, he would have received a one-year deal calling for a $1.9 million salary in the major leagues and $180,000 in the minors. ___ More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
  • Sporting the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament's chalkiest region doesn't give Villanova coach Jay Wright any special confidence heading into Friday night's game against West Virginia. The Wildcats were together in a Pittsburgh hotel room last weekend when they watched top overall seed Virginia's unprecedented first-round loss to No. 16 seed University of Maryland-Baltimore County. When it was over, there was no need for Wright to harp on the lesson. 'It was so impactful that you didn't have to say it,' he said Thursday as Villanova hoped to avoid joining the slew of deposed favorites when it plays the fifth-seeded Mountaineers for the East Region's spot in the national quarterfinals. 'I had talked about it so many times, saying: 'This is going to happen. You've got to respect these guys,'' said Wright, who since 2010 has lost in the round of 32 twice as a No. 1 seed and twice as a No. 2 seed. 'It wasn't a matter of fear like, 'Don't let it happen to us.' It's just: You just have to respect these teams.' Along with Kansas in the Midwest, Villanova is one of two No. 1 seeds remaining in this year's bracket. Joining the Wildcats and Mountaineers in Boston are second-seeded Purdue and third-seeded Texas Tech. Each of the other three regions has at least one team seeded ninth or higher; none of the top four in the South is still playing. 'I don't think we need a wake-up call at all,' said Purdue's Vincent Edwards. 'We're not overlooking any opponent that we have, and we're not going to overlook the game. It can show you from the start of this tournament it doesn't even matter.' Villanova (32-4) and West Virginia (26-10) will meet in the early game in Boston, where both teams were frequent visitors in the original Big East. Purdue (30-6) and Texas Tech (26-9) will play in the nightcap. Here is a look at the regional semifinal games: VILLANOVA VS. WEST VIRGINIA With all those low seeds in the tournament, West Virginia doesn't seem like much of an underdog. But the Mountaineers are hitting that angle hard, saying they don't get the respect they deserve as a senior class that has reached the Sweet 16 three times in four years. 'I felt like ever since our freshman year, we've always been underrated,' guard Jevon Carter said 'We've always been the underdogs coming into any game we've played. So we've always had an extra chip on our shoulder.' Coach Bob Huggins, who is seventh on the NCAA's all-time victory list, said the lack of hype goes back to when his players were recruited. Rather than guys with the potential to go to the NBA after one year, he has to pick the ones who might otherwise attend a mid-major school. 'I told my athletic director that really he had two choices: Either fire me for recruiting the guys I recruited, or give me a raise for being able to win with them,' Huggins said. 'We got a bunch of guys that really were looking for an opportunity to play at the highest level.' Villanova isn't buying it. 'If you're at this point, you're just as good as the team in front of you,' Villanova guard Phil Booth said. 'West Virginia is playing as good as anybody else or any other team.' The Mountaineers rely on a stifling full-court defense that has earned them the nickname 'Press Virginia.' Villanova's ability to pull up for 3-pointers in transition is seen as the key to breaking the West Virginia pressure. 'I don't think we're going to change our defense. We're going to press,' Mountaineers forward Esa Ahmad said. 'We're going to try to take them out of what they do well and just try to take everything away from them.' PURDUE VS. TEXAS TECH Texas Tech's Chris Beard made it a point to watch the video of the last time he faced Purdue, when he was coaching Arkansas-Little Rock and it upset the Boilermakers in the opening round of the 2016 tournament. Purdue's Matt Painter doesn't need a reminder, thank you. 'Sometimes you don't like to live those bad dreams,' he said, adding that he left that up to his assistants. 'It was definitely one of those moments that you'll never forget as a coach. He'll never forget it on a positive side, and I'll never forget it on a negative side.' Purdue is expected to be without Isaac Haas, who broke his elbow in the second half of the first-round game against Cal State-Fullerton. The 7-foot-2, 290-pound center has been trying to get back onto the court, but Painter said it's unlikely he will play. 'It's very difficult in those situations, but you also have to be a truth-teller. That's your job as a coach,' he said. 'You've got to be diplomatic about it because it's really hard. You play 130 games to get to your senior year for this moment, but as a coach, you've got to do what's best for your team.' ___ More AP college basketball: https://collegebasketball.ap.org ; https://twitter.com/AP_Top25 and https://www.podcastone.com/ap-sports-special-events
  • Tim Weah's famous father was inaugurated as president of Liberia in January, the 18-year-old midfielder made his debut for Paris Saint-Germain on March 3 and he could make his first appearance for the U.S. national team next week. 'It's insane,' he said Wednesday. 'It was just like it's all coming at once, and I'm taking it really well. I'm enjoying the time that I've been given, and I'm just here to gain experience and work towards the future and hopefully become a star for this team and for PSG.' With the U.S. more than a year from its next competitive match after failing to qualify for the World Cup, interim coach Dave Sarachan called in eight players who could make their debuts against Paraguay on Tuesday. Weah's father George was the 1995 FIFA Player of the Year and scored 22 goals in 60 international appearances from 1987-2003, though his nation never reached the World Cup. Tim Weah was born in New York during a time his father played in Europe and jetted back home on the Concorde on off-days and for summer break. Dad lost his bid for Liberia's presidency in 2005, was voted into the Liberian Senate 10 years later, then was elected president in December. He began a six-year term on Jan. 22. 'It's really amazing. To be honest, I don't really think too much about it,' Tim Weah said. 'Being a part of the first family and soccer are two different things. I kind of keep my soccer side from that part of being a part of the first family. So I don't really think too much about it. It's really like living a normal life, it's just that my parents are part of the highest part of the state there in Liberia. ... I kind of just keep that part over there, and try to live a normal life here.' Tim played for youth teams while growing up in New York and Florida, and was with the New York Red Bulls Academy in 2013. He joined the youth system of PSG, his father's team from 1992-95, in 2014 and signed a pro contract last summer. Weah had a hat trick for the U.S. against Paraguay last October in the second round of the Under-17 World Cup. Less than three weeks after turning 18 on Feb. 22, Weah made his senior team debut for PSG in the 79th minute at Troyes, and on March 10 he replaced Angel Di Maria in the 70th minute at home against Metz. 'With PSG, he's playing for a high-profile club who has seen fit to give him first-team minutes, which is a great sign of his progression,' Sarachan said. 'He's a versatile player that can fit in at a couple different positions, and when you have speed and technical ability combined as a young kid, I think he's an interesting prospect to offer an opportunity to.' Weah says his father watched both of his games with the PSG first team, and dad plans to watch the match against Paraguay. He says he talks to his parents daily and his mother 'is in tune with everything that I'm doing.' Weah and other young players hope such as Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams hope to impress enough to earn a roster spot when the national team reassembles in May ahead of three exhibitions, when more veterans are likely to be mixed in for games against Bolivia, Ireland and France. Then they will have to show they belong after a new coach is hired, most likely in the summer. 'It's always going to be 'George's son,'' Weah said. 'But I feel like growing up, I've learned a lot. I've learned not to calculate what people say, just play my own game. I think in the future if I show them what I can really do, they'll respect me and they'll be able to say, 'He's his father's son, but he's also his own player.' 'That's what I'm looking forward to,' he added. 'Growing up, it was pretty easy. I didn't really take it to the head that my father was George Weah. I didn't really let that bother me when people said stuff. It was pretty cool.
  • The drama has included turmoil and trades, head-scratching losses, infighting, injuries and illness. Cleveland's stormy season seems extracted from the script of a scandalous TV soap opera — 'All My Cavaliers.' But just when it looked as if LeBron James and this group of Cavaliers, some of whom have yet to play together, were about to implode with the postseason in sight, a startling win may have turned them around. 'I always say there is one game during the season that changes your team,' acting coach Larry Drew said following Cleveland's 132-129 win over Toronto. 'That game can be early, it can be midway, it can be late. There's always one game that kind of changes your team, the mindset. 'And I really believe tonight's game might have done that for us.' With James on a mission to remind the Raptors of his magnificence, the short-handed Cavs, missing five rotational players and coach Tyronn Lue, rallied from a 15-point deficit in the second half Wednesday night to stun the Eastern Conference's top team and send a message to the NBA. Don't count them out. James scored 14 in the fourth and finished with 35 points, 17 assists and didn't commit a turnover in 40 minutes, a stat line not seen since the league began charting turnovers in 1977-78, according to Elias Sports Bureau. At 33, James continues to defy age while padding his impeccable resume. Although Houston's James Harden appears to be a lock to win MVP honors this season, there is no debate about the game's best all-around player. Since Feb. 7, the day before the Cavs deconstructed their roster with three major trades, James is averaging a triple-double — 30.5 points, 10.4 rebounds and 10.5 assists. 'It just seems like every night, every night the things that he does, I sit over there and I just kind of shake my head,' Drew said. 'I'm just glad that I'm coaching him.' James scored or assisted on 80 of his team's 132 points, and in the process silenced any doubts as to whether the Cavs could handle an improved Toronto team that has more depth, shooters and experience than the squads Cleveland dispatched the past two postseasons. At halftime, none of that seemed possible. Toronto tied a franchise record with 79 points in the first half, and James confessed the Cavs 'had that depleted feel' as they headed to the locker room. On his way back to the floor, James, who recently couldn't recall a season with as much adversity as this one, grabbed a box score from one of the team's media relations staffers, took a quick glance and handed it back. It was time to get to work. 'I know with LeBron I could see that he was going to take it to another gear, he was going to take it to another level,' said Drew, who is filling in while Lue addresses health issues. 'I could kind of see that in his eyes. ... You can kind of see as the game kind of went on, he just kind of took it upon himself, and started making more plays. Bron is just that guy that when things seem a little bleak, he's the guy that can get you over that hump.' The Cavs haven't finished their climb, but they're nearly over their injury bug. Forwards Tristan Thompson (ankle) and Rodney Hood (back) could be back in the lineup as early as Friday against Phoenix, and Larry Nance Jr. (hamstring) will likely be back on the floor by next week. Kyle Korver will be out a few more games after he was excused to be with his family in Iowa following the sudden death of his younger brother, Kirk. Cleveland isn't quite whole, but with James that doesn't really matter. 'You can't overlook 'em or underlook 'em,' Raptors forward DeMar DeRozan said. 'No type of way, no matter what type of changes they make.' James has carried less talented teams than these Cavs to the NBA Finals. And as the three-time champion showed against the Raptors, there is no player who can take over a game like he can. With 11 regular-season games left, the Cavs are up against the clock to get healthy, tweak their rotations and work out any kinks before the playoffs begin. They trail second-place Boston by six games in the East. But Cleveland's win over the Raptors was a needed confidence boost in a season that has sometimes defied description. 'We got work to do,' said James, who will be seeking his eighth straight Finals appearance. 'There's a lot of teams in the East that's been playing better basketball than us for the majority of the season. We want to try to continue to just to build off what we did the last couple games and if we do that, we'll put ourselves in a good position going into the postseason.' ___ More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • Minor league baseball players who make as little as $5,500 a season would be stripped of the protection of federal minimum wage laws under a provision in government spending legislation expected to be approved by Congress this week. The 'Save America's Pastime Act' is included on page 1,967 of the $1.3 trillion spending bill and appears to pre-empt a lawsuit filed four years ago in U.S. District Court in San Francisco by three players alleging Major League Baseball and its teams violate the Fair Labor Standards Act and state minimum wage and overtime requirements for a work week they estimated at 50-to-60 hours. The provision in the legislation would exempt 'any employee employed to play baseball who is compensated pursuant to a contract that provides for a weekly salary for services performed during the league's championship season (but not spring training or the offseason) at a rate that is not less than a weekly salary equal to the minimum wage ... for a workweek of 40 hours, irrespective of the number of hours the employee devotes to baseball related activities.' The House approved the spending bill Thursday and the legislation appears likely to be approved by the Senate and signed by President Donald Trump. 'Instead of going through the regular committee process where it has a hearing, all of this was done in secret and a in a very rushed manner,' Garrett Broshuis, the lawyer for the players, said Thursday. 'It's emblematic of how things are getting done in Washington these days, where the people with a lot of money are able to flex their political muscle and make a lot of contributions and get things done in secret that benefit only them.' Major League Baseball spent $1.32 million on lobbying expenses in both 2016 and 2017, up from $330,000 in 2015, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. MLB paid $400,000 each of those years to an outside firm, the Duberstein Group, which reported lobbying the House and Senate on the issue, as did MLB's in-house lobbyist. 'We aren't billionaire business owners and billionaire team owners,' Broshius said. The language in the spending bill is nearly identical to a stand-alone bill introduced in 2016 by Republican Rep. Brett Guthrie of Kentucky and Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois. At the time, the pair said the exemption from minimum wage laws was necessary because without it, minor leagues would have to make cuts that could imperil teams and hurt the economy in cities where they play. Only major league players are unionized, which sets minimum salaries for players on 40-man rosters: $545,000 for those in the major leagues this season, $88,900 for 40-man roster players in the minors signing at least their second big league contract and $44,500 for 40-man roster players in the minors signing their first big league contract. While early selections in the annual draft of players residing in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, and top amateurs from the rest of the world can command signing bonuses as high as about $8 million under the current rules, monthly salaries for most players on minor league rosters are low: $1,100 at rookie ball and Class A, $1,500 at Double-A and $2,150 at Triple-A. Players also receive a $25 per diem on the road and dinner at the ballpark following games. 'We stand shoulder to shoulder with the minor league players and the labor community in opposing this legislation,' Tony Clark, head of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said in an email. The lawsuit has been certified as a class action for minor leaguers who played in a California league, instructional league or extended spring training since February 2011, but MLB has asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn that decision, which has delayed the case from going to trial. MLB had no comment on the legislation, spokesman Michael Teevan said. The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, which governs the minors, deferred to MLB because players are employees of the major league teams, spokesman Jeff Lantz said. David Popp, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said in an email: 'If the leader issues a statement on this I'll be sure to forward.' Doug Andres, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, did not respond to an email seeking comment. ___ AP Sports Writer Ben Nuckols contributed to this report. ___ More MLB baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball