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Archives: June 3-9, 2007

Archives: June 3-9, 2007
Tiger Stadium outta here by ’08
Posted June 8, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Tiger Stadium has moved one step closer to its final date with the wrecking ball. A plan approved by city economic development officials on calls for the famous but moldering ballpark at Michigan and Trumbull to be razed by September 2008, with most of the historic baseball diamond preserved. Seats and other stadium memorabilia will be sold off. The plan, approved Wednesday, gives a nonprofit group called The Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy until late July to find a feasible approach — complete with financing — to preserve part of the stadium. The nonprofit is trying to find a way to save Tiger Stadium’s main entrance behind home plate.


Spencer Abraham buys interest in three minor-league teams
Posted June 8, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Former U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said Thursday he has purchased ownership interest in three professional minor-league baseball franchises as head of a Michigan-based investor group. Michigan Baseball Ventures, LLC has bought ownership interest in the Altoona Curve (Class A; Eastern League), the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (High Class A; Carolina League) and the State College Spikes (short season; NY-Penn League). We’re not quite sure to what extent the ownership investment is. The three franchises are currently owned by a group headed by Pittsburgh lawyer Chuck Greenberg that includes former Steeler Jerome Bettis and Penguins owner Mario Lemieux. UPDATE: The investment is very limited: the management of the teams will not change, and the Greenberg group will continue to control operations.

NBC deal in the works
Posted June 8, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Wichita is in the final stages of a deal to buy the National Baseball Congress, with the intent of selling it in the future.
The city is in the process of buying it from Rich Baseball, which owns the Wichita Wranglers (Class AA; Texas League) and the NBC. The Wranglers are moving to Springdale, Ark. next season, leaving
Lawrence-Dumont Stadium without a tenant. Keeping the NBC in town was a crucial part of Wichita’s bargaining with Rich Baseball. The NBC World Series has been played in Wichita since 1935. The city released an RFP for a baseball franchise to move to Wichita and for proposals for the operations/ownership of the NBC. As we’ve been reporting for several months, the city is quite clear about one thing: whoever bids for the lease for Lawrence-Dumont Stadium must also be willing to take on the National Baseball Congress — and those aren’t necessarily businesses that mix very well these days. The bidding process — overseen by a Florida consulting firm — is expected to draw interest from five independent leagues: the American Association, the United League, the Golden League, the Northern League and the Continental League. We’re also expecting a dark horse or two in the mix.

Designers unveil ‘groundbreaking’ design for Goodyear ballpark
Posted June 8, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Designers for Goodyear’s planned spring-training ballpark for the Cleveland Indians have borrowed elements from major league ballparks in hopes of creating an urban feel around the ballpark. Erik Judson, a principal with developer JMI Sports, described the design as "groundbreaking stuff" in a presentation to the Goodyear City Council. Plans calls for offices and hotels — private businesses developed separately from the ballpark — to be built close enough to grant line-of-sight access into the 8,000-seat ballpark, much like at Chicago’s Wrigley Field or Petco Park in San Diego. The buildings would be built with views into the playing field, making the park a focal point and fostering an "urban energy" around the ballpark, Judson told the council. JMI Sports and HOK Sport are working on the design. More from the West Valley View.

A home run for downtown
Posted June 8, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Hardball Capital released some renderings and plans for a new downtown ballpark for the Fort Wayne Wizards (Low Class A; Midwest League). The reason from the News-Sentinel’s Reggie Wayne was enthusiastic, to say the least: "What I’ll say today is that the proposed stadium’s concept looks awfully inviting for a baseball fan. For those who have opposed the stadium — and in some cases have vowed not to set foot in it — it’s going to be tough resisting temptation. A year ago, I wrote a column about what I’d like to see in a new stadium, based on what I’d experienced at one of my minor-league favorites, Victory Field in Indianapolis. This latest rendition comes close to capturing my dream scene." We hope to have renderings and a walkthough later today. More from Journal Gazette.

Bombers set for home opener
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Brazos Valley Bombers (summer collegiate; Texas Collegiate League) co-owner Uri Geva Geva and his staff were busy Thursday putting the finishing touches on revamped Brazos Valley Bank Ballpark for Friday night’s home opener against the Duncanville Deputies. Geva said it would have been a great victory, but less than 24 hours later, he was taking about setting a Texas Collegiate League attendance record and giving fans an enjoyable 3-4 hours of entertainment Friday at the ballpark formerly known as Travis Park. As of Thursday afternoon, the Bombers had sold and distributed 993 tickets through sponsors, host families, media partners and advance sales. Geva says he is hopeful a good walk-up crowd will give the first-year franchise the record, but if not, Friday night will serve as a step toward getting there.

Castle Rock to proceed with baseball planning
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Castle Rock (Col.) city councilman Hank Lacey reports that the Denver suburb is moving forward with planning on a new ballpark for an independent American Association team. So far it sounds like there’s very little specifics: reps say the ballpark would cost between $8 and $15 million, but nothing else is in place. Everyone loves the idea of a ballpark until they try to figure out to pay for it.

Contractors dashing to get ballpark ready for opening day
Posted June 8, 2007 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
In a few hours yesterday, the field of York City’s Sovereign Bank Stadium went from dry sand to a 30,000-square-foot patch of green in left field. Contractors are moving fast to get the stadium ready for opening day just a week away. As machines guided by lasers graded the field and heavy equipment unrolled one-ton strips of sod, painters put another coat of green on the outfield wall and equipment buzzed in and around the stadium concourse. The opening of the home of the York Revolution (independent; Atlantic League) is slated to open in a week.

Sally League announces Hall of Fame Class of 2007
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John Henry Moss, president of the Low Class A South Atlantic (Sally) League, has announced the members of the Class of 2007 for the SAL Hall of Fame. The six new honorees will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during a luncheon prior to the 48th Annual SAL All-Star Game, scheduled to be played on June 19, 2007, at State Mutual Stadium in Rome, Ga.
    This year’s class includes three major league players and three former franchise owners in the Western Carolinas League and SAL. Larry “Chipper” Jones, currently of the Atlanta Braves, will be the first active player inducted in the SAL Hall of Fame. Jones will be joined by former National League batting champion Al Oliver and former catcher Jack Hiatt, who is currently in his 16th season as the San Francisco Giants’ director of player development.
    That trio will be recognized along with Verner Ross, former owner of the Greenville franchise, and Leo Hughes and R.E. Littlejohn, former owners of the Spartanburg Peaches and Phillies. Ross, Hughes and Littlejohn are being inducted posthumously into the SAL Hall of Fame.
    Jones has been a fixture in the Atlanta lineup since the 1995 season. The first overall pick in the 1990 draft, Jones played his first full professional campaign in the SAL as a member of the Macon Braves in 1991. Named the league’s most outstanding prospect that year, Jones also participated in the SAL All-Star Game in Savannah. He concluded the season tied for first in the league with 104 runs, ranked second with 11 triples, 98 RBIs and 154 hits, and placed third with 245 total bases and a .326 batting average. The third baseman entered the 2007 slate as the only switch-hitter in major league history to own a .300 career average and hit at least 300 home runs. Jones also was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1999 when he hit .319 with 45 home runs and 110 RBIs.
    A key component of the perennial powerhouse Pittsburgh Pirates in the early 1970s, Oliver hit .309 and led the Western Carolinas League with 159 hits as a member of the Gastonia Pirates in 1965. He also contributed 77 runs, 19 doubles, five triples, 10 home runs, 13 stolen bases and 71 RBIs to the Gastonia cause.
    Hiatt made his professional debut in the Western Carolinas League with Statesville during the 1961 season. In 96 games as a member of the Owls, the catcher batted .325 with 108 hits, 20 doubles, four triples, three home runs and 69 RBIs, also playing in the league’s All-Star Game. He proceeded to play nine seasons (1964-72) in the majors as a .251 career hitter.
    Ross, Hughes and Littlejohn exhibited a love for the game that helped several franchises. Prior to the 1965 season, Ross, owner of a successful tire dealership, spearheaded the chore of keeping professional baseball in Greenville, S.C., overseeing three affiliations from 1965 to 1972 until a fire at Meadowbrook Park forced him to move the team to Orangeburg, S.C. in 1973.
    Successful businessmen in Spartanburg, S.C., Hughes and Littlejohn owned the city’s Peaches in the Tri-State League from 1946 to 1955 and the Phillies in the Western Carolinas League from 1963 to 1971. Hughes, locally known as "Captain Leo," was a philanthropist who added much to the Spartanburg community. The same can be said of Littlejohn, known as "Mr. R.E.," who earned a reputation for his generosity, his concern for his fellow man and his Christian beliefs.

ValleyCats break ground on new picnic pavilion
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The Tri-City ValleyCats (short season; NY-Penn League) broke ground today on a new picnic pavilion down the right field concourse at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium. The privately funded pavilion will be constructed by Fazio Construction of Latham and will serve as the primary location for all-you-can-eat picnics at "The Joe." The ValleyCats have made several other significant additions around the ballpark that fans can enjoy this season. The enhanced kid’s area down the left field concourse will introduce all-new carnival-themed games along with a new inflatable. Underneath the first and third base stairwells will be the Brown’s Baseline Brewery and the Hot Corner Pizza and Fried Dough operating as new concession points. In addition, along side the new pavilion will feature the new Barbeque Pit which will grill Chicken Spiedies, jumbo hot dogs, half pound Angus burgers, corn on the cob, salt potatoes and baked beans all game long.

Baseball golden in Tri-Valley
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The Golden Baseball League opens its third season June 7, an independent upstart league striving to get in on a $500-million industry. The six-team minor league startup, based in Dublin, is hoping to run a profit this year, cashing in on a unique business model for professional sports and lessons learned in its first two seasons — namely, how to cut and control costs. The league has moved beyond its initial strategy of centralized ownership, however, and sold two of its franchises: its new St. George, Utah, club and its Fullerton team.