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Archives: April 16-22, 2007

Archives: April 16-22, 2007
MLB announces first eight teams for World Baseball Classic in 2009
Posted April 20, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
No surprise here: World Baseball Classic, Inc. (WBCI), a corporation controlled by MLB, announced it would once again hold the 16-team World Baseball Classic tournament in March 2009. WBCI also announced its intention to extend initial invitations for the 2009 World Baseball Classic to eight of the 16 teams. The remaining eight teams will be invited in December, 2007. Additionally, the distribution of proceeds from the inaugural tournament was finalized.
    The teams that advanced to the second round in the 2006 World Baseball Classic — Cuba, Dominican Republic, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela — will receive the eight initial tournament invitations. The remaining eight invitations will be determined following a period of evaluation and consultation among Steering Committee members.
    "We are extremely pleased with the impressive results of the 2006 World Baseball Classic and excited about the momentum and anticipation it has generated for the upcoming 2009 event," said Bob DuPuy, Major League Baseball President and Chief Operating Officer. "As international baseball continues to develop and thrive, and the supply of quality baseball nations grows, the task of selecting the 16 deserving teams has become increasingly difficult."
    WBCI also announced the distribution of more than $8 million in proceeds from the inaugural tournament to the participating countries and territories and the International Baseball Federation (IBAF). The monetary awards were distributed based on predetermined percentages of the net revenue corresponding to each team’s finish in the tournament. The national federations are set to contribute a minimum of $3.3 million to local baseball programs. In addition, the IBAF received close to $1 million for global game development initiatives.
    WBCI also announced today, with the concurrence of the Steering Committee, that the bid process to determine host venues for the 2009 World Baseball Classic will commence immediately.


Independent league baseball courts Wichita
Posted April 20, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Northern League Commissioner Clark Griffith was in Wichita yesterday to tour Wichita’s Lawrence-Dumont Stadium and pitch city officials on the strengths of his league. City officials, as you might expect, were polite and noncommittal, pointing out that Griffith made the trip on his own initiative. At least four independent leagues — the Northern League, United League Baseball, American Association and Frontier League — have openly expressed interest in Wichita. To say Wichita is important to the future of at least two of these leagues is an understatement: we don’t know how the American Association survives in its present form without adding Wichita as a bridge between its disparate northern and southern divisions, and we know of at least one Northern League owner threatening to leave the circuit should Wichita not enter. Clark can tout his league all he wants, but the city has already retained a Jacksonville-based consultant to set up a bidding process that will determine the next tenant of the ballpark after the Wichita Wranglers (Class AA; Texas League) comes to an agreement to break its lease, and we suspect the winning bidder will end up running the National Baseball Congress as well. So all of this is for show, nothing more.

Forbes estimates franchise values; Yankees worth $1.2 billion
Posted April 20, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Forbes magazine came out with its annual estimates of MLB franchise values, and not surprisingly put the New York Yankees at the top of the list with a $1.2 billion value (and managing to be the only MLB team to lose money in the process). While MLB owners are sure to dispute these valuations — they always do — we’re not sure they’re so far off as we’ve watched the market perform in recent months. Could the Yankees attract $1.2 billion if George Steinbrenner sold? Absolutely. Would the Boston Red Sox be sold for over $700 million? Absolutely. If anything, Forbes may have undervalued the Cubbies at $597 million; we expect a bidding war that will far exceed that value. (Forbes assumed Wrigley Field is worth $90 million and the club is worth $507 million.) Valuations of MLB teams have gone through the roof.

A’s file paperwork with Fremont
Posted April 20, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Alas, it’s not the paperwork the city was seeking. In the evolving courtship between Fremont and the Oakland A’s, the ballclub filed paperwork Wednesday that strengthens the relationship, yet falls short of being a marriage certificate. It might be more akin to an expensive love letter, given that the A’s included a $500,000 deposit fee with it. The filing is not the land-use development application for which city officials have been waiting to start the environmental review process. Instead, it is "an application to negotiate a development agreement," Fremont Economic Development Director Daren Fields said. The A’s faxed the application to the city, but provided few details on the one-page document.

Task force confident in Reds ballpark deal
Posted April 20, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Softening in construction costs and increased competition for major projects are slowly closing the so-called funding gap in the complex financing plan to build a new $54 million spring-training complex for the Cincinnati Reds in Sarasota, perhaps without requiring major cutbacks in the project’s scope. That was the opinion expressed Tuesday by the city’s sports facilities director, Pat Calhoon, to the Stadium Business Task Force — a coalition of private interests, tourist and business groups, and city and county staffers who meet to advance the project. The task force met following a brief meeting of the selection committee that is reviewing two proposals for a hotel-retail-office site south of the proposed training complex. It is that development that was to fill the gap in the state-city-county-Reds financing plan. Now two partnerships have bid for the property, although the only one including a dollar figure falls well short of the $10 million purchase or equivalent lease complex backers had hoped for.

County, T-Bones in dispute over back taxes
Posted April 20, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
More on the tax dispute between the Kansas City T-Bones (independent; Northern League) and Wyandotte County over unpaid property taxes of $1.5 million. The Unified Government wants to collect taxes from the T-Bones 365 days a year, but the team’s owner said the CommunityAmerica Ballpark has only 48 home games a year and should be taxed according to that schedule. "We cannot be taxed at the same rate as all the retail in the neighborhood. We have only 48 dates a year to generate revenue sales," T-Bones Vice President Adam Ehlert said. Now, it’s very possible the T-Bones have a legitimate gripe over the valuation of CommunityAmerica Ballpark. We’re guessing, however, that Wyandotte County’s property-tax system doesn’t allow for usage like this to be a factor.

Rockies add green power to Coors Field scoreboard
Posted April 20, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Colorado Rockies are the latest MLB team to go green, as this weekend the team will take on the San Diego Padres at home under a solar-powered scoreboard at Coors Field. The new 9.9 kilowatt solar electric system, which was installed by Independent Power Systems as a result of a partnership between the Rockies and Xcel Energy, is being celebrated on Earth Day, April 22. Comprised of 46 solar panels from SunPower Corporation, it is the first commercial-scale solar electric power system to be installed in an MLB ballpark. The new system covers an area of 616 square feet and will produce more than 14,000 kilowatt hours of energy, enough to offset energy consumption by the Rockies’ Rockpile LED scoreboard for over a year. A flat-panel monitoring system shows fans at the ballpark real time system performance and scoreboard energy use.

Ballpark Tease: Fifth Third Field, Memorial Stadium
Posted April 20, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
It usually takes several days for us to process a Ballpark Visit, given the work involved in writing the story and processing the photos. Here we’re handling things a little differently, providing you with a small tease before we embark on the larger story. Senior editors Dave Wright and Jim Robins are on a weeklong trip through the Midwest to check out ballparks and arenas. Here is Dave’s second entry from the field.

We went to the Taj Mahal this morning. Only nobody told me it was in northern Ohio. We speak here of Fifth Third Field, home of the Toledo Mud Hens. Like their parent club, Detroit, the Hens got a new ballpark downtown a few years ago. Unlike the parent club, they got it right in just about every way possible. This is a larger version of Dayton’s gem of the same name. From the moment you find a parking spot a block away to seeing police on horses patrolling the area to a magnificent inside magnificent structure, this is a trip worth making.
    On this chilly morning, a lot of kids showed up and had a ball. For the most part, they stayed in their seats (at least two of them were keeping score), did the hokey-pokey, ate a ton of cotton candy and screamed loud and often when the team mascot wandered by.
    For those who choose to wander the place, there is a gigantic team store to peruse, picnic areas to watch the game from and a nifty view of downtown Toledo (it’s better than it sounds). There are no bad seats in this place. Want to get up close and personal? Go to the bullpen area. You can damn near touch the relief pitcher as he warms up. The upper deck nearly is so close you can hear the umpire yell out balls and strikes. Simple put, this is a
terrific ballpark.
    One other quick note: If you don’t eat enough at the game, you can drop by Packos in the Park. Try the soup. It is a meal by itself.
    The night game was in Fort Wayne, a Class A facility that could pass for a higher-level one. This Midwest League is a well-drawing circuit. Fort Wayne does well at the gate (they had 23 crowds over 5,000 last year) but they still rank fifth in league attendance. One suspects the reason they do so well is attention to detail.
    On this night, there weren’t many people there (it was really cold) but the Wizards staff did their best to keep things going. Dinger, the mascot, went through the stands and greeted every kid he (she?) saw. Mike Nutter, the general manager, personally ran potato chips to between innings winners. Another staff member walked down to a season ticket holder and began to negotiate in earnest a deal for future tickets. A member of the Wizards’ staff allowed a youngster to run the speed pitch gun for a half an inning.
    Memorial Stadium is of decent size and looks very clean. (It’s also paid for. How many teams can say that about their ballpark?) There is considerable talk the team will get a new ballpark in 2009 (the city council should decide the issue as early as next week.) In the meantime, Fort Wayne has a decent facility with a lot of parking and is pretty easy to get to. The BBQ chicken ($5) is pretty good and the brisket (which is served on weekends only) sounds very good. If you want to go and sit with a big crowd, wait until June when the crowds start to come out in earnest. Until then, this is a place for purists.

Reds to go carbon-neutral on Earth Day
Posted April 20, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
On Opening Day, the Cincinnati Reds followed the lead of the 79th Academy Awards ceremony and partnered with Duke Energy to become the first professional sports team to go "carbon neutral." As they did on Opening Day, for Sunday’s Earth Day game the Reds will purchase from Carbon Solutions Group credits called Voluntary Emission Reductions (VER), which are used to fund energy projects that help reduce the amount of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere. The electricity and natural gas used at Great American Ball Park on Opening Day will create carbon emissions. By purchasing the VER credits, the Reds are giving back to the environment by helping fund such energy projects as wind mill and solar farms that emit no carbon.

Revolution shift games to Camden due to ballpark delay
Posted April 20, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
After the announcement earlier this week that the York Revolution (independent; Atlantic League) will play its first game at Sovereign Bank Stadium on June 15, the Atlantic League has formally approved the team’s plan for scheduling its home games that were previously slated to be played in York prior to June 15. Three games have been re-scheduled for Sovereign Bank Stadium on previously scheduled off days, including a pair of games on July 9 and a single game for July 10, all against the Road Warriors. The July 9 "split" doubleheader will be two separate admissions, at 11:05 a.m. and 7:05 p.m. The July 10 game will begin at 7:05 p.m. Eleven of the 12 other games will be moved to a neutral site, Campbell’s Field, home to the Camden Riversharks. One game against the Long Island Ducks, originally scheduled for May 21, will be moved to Long Island as part of a doubleheader on July 3. Revolution fans who wish to attend any of the 11 neutral site games in Camden can purchase tickets for $3 at Campbell’s Field on the day of the games.

PCL announces Hall of Fame Class of 2007
Posted April 20, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Pacific Coast League announced the newest members of its historic Hall of Fame: Frank Brazill, "Fuzzy" Hufft, and Paul Waner, are joined by long-time Seattle owner Emil Sick to round out the list of PCL greats added to the Hall.
    Paul "Big Poison" Waner enjoyed great success during his short time as a member of the San Francisco Seals. While he spent just three seasons in the league from 1923-1925, Waner helped the Seals win two PCL Championships during that span. One of the best all-around hitters in the League’s history, he won the batting title in 1925 with a .401 average, edging out fellow Hall of Fame inductee, Frank Brazill. That same season, he hit 75 doubles, a League record that stands to this day.
    Third baseman and feared slugger Frank Brazill spent seven seasons in the league. He began his PCL career in Portland, where he played from 1922-1924 before joining Seattle in 1925. While 1925 was the only season he spent in Seattle, he posted what is thought to be the best single-season hitting performance in the city’s history when he put up a .395 average, 29 home runs, 67 doubles and 155 RBI. He then went on to play in Los Angeles from 1926-1927 and finished his tenure playing with the Mission Reds in 1928. Brazill slugged for a .342 career batting average with 1,320 total hits, including 267 doubles, 145 homers and 682 runs batted in.
    One of the League’s top offensive players during the late 1920s and early 1930s, Irvin "Fuzzy" Hufft compiled 1,446 total hits playing in the PCL and tallied a career batting average of .346 with 166 home runs and 902 RBI. Hufft spent seven seasons in the PCL playing in Seattle from 1926-1928, with Mission (San Francisco) from 1928-1931, finishing with Oakland in 1932. Off the field, his unquestionable patriotism should also be noted for his service as an enlisted soldier in United States military in both World War I and World War II.
    Emil Sick was one of the most celebrated and influential owners in the Pacific Coast League’s history. Known primarily as a successful business man and owner of the Rainier Brewery located in Seattle, he purchased the struggling Seattle Indians franchise in 1937 and looked to initiate immediate change. He renamed the club the Rainiers and built a new ballpark, Sick’s Seattle Stadium. Results were quick to come, as Seattle joined the ranks as one of the PCL’s elite clubs. The Rainiers would go on to win five pennants and record four second-place finishes before Sick sold the club in 1960.

Luzerne County officials finally out of the bullpen
Posted April 20, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Lackawanna County officials recently approved documents that could impact the future of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (Class AAA; International League) — including its sale — without seeking input or approval from Luzerne County, the co-owner of the team. Luzerne County officials finally, thankfully, yelled foul, and fielded a team. Now, they’ll be doing all the things they should have been doing all along, including hiring a lawyer to look into everything from the franchise’s value to the legality of the franchise sales agreement that was adopted by the Lackawanna County Stadium Authority and Lackawanna County Commissioners, without Luzerne County input or approval. Commissioners also said they would notify the presidents of the International League and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues of their disapproval of Lackawanna County’s decision regarding the franchise.

The River Cats’ rain man
Posted April 20, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
When dark clouds roll into Sacramento’s spring skies, the Sacramento River Cats (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) turn to CFO-cum-weatherman Dan Vistica to ensure that the silver lining doesn’t get washed away along with the ballgame. While other minor-league-baseball franchises generally accept weather-related game cancellations as the nature of their business, the River Cats’ chief prognosticator tries to hedge any potential revenue loss by taking out rain insurance. Not every game or event is worth insuring, however, because premiums can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 a game. It’s up to Vistica to weigh an event’s potential against the probability of a drenching storm — and make the call to insurers two weeks ahead of time.

Bisbee Copper Kings unveil new plans for this season
Posted April 20, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
After the Bisbee Copper Kings (summer collegiate; Centennial League) finished 16-4 last season, it was announced that there will be 50 games overall this season. The four-team Centennial League will consist of Bisbee, San Luis, the Tucson Stars and the Arizona Diamondjaxx out of Phoenix. The big news may be coming in 2009, as the team prepares to celebrate the centennial of its home, Warren Ballpark. According to team president Tom Mosier, the organization wants to bring in the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies or Tucson Sidewinders to play an exhibition.

New colors to pinch hit for faded ones at ballpark
Posted April 20, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Palm Springs Stadium, the home of the summer-collegiate Palm Spring Power, is getting a facelift — and not a moment too soon. The 58-year-old ballpark has not been painted in 15 years, and the colors are significantly faded from their original intent. The structure will be repainted in desert colors, such as taupe, golden rod, sienna orange and brown. It will cost approximately $75,000. Andrew Starke, president of the Power, said he suggested they not use the team’s colors of red, black and white.

LSU shuffles funds to pay for new Alex Box
Posted April 20, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
LSU reshuffled funds to pay for the new Alex Box Stadium, a move that the LSU Board of Supervisors approved Thursday. Construction for the new ballpark is expected to begin shortly after June 1, with a late fall 2008 completion date, in time for the 2009 season, LSU officials said. The move also cleared funding for a new softball ballpark. Skip Bertman, LSU athletics director, said the much-higher-than-expected construction costs for the ballpark forced the changes.

Trees leave Tanner on a limb
Posted April 20, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
University of South Carolina baseball coach Ray Tanner remains "optimistic" his team will open next season in its new ballpark, despite the project’s latest stumbling block. The Gamecocks are due to open the yet-to-be-named park next season and close out Sarge Frye Field next month. But construction on the new ballpark, near the Congaree River, could be pushed back from its June start date because of a dispute