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Archives: March 17-23, 2008

Archives: March 17-23, 2008
No fallout expected from Red Sox strike
Posted March 21, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig isn’t expected to levy any penalties against Boston Red Sox players, who delayed an exhibition game Wednesday in protest of the payment structure for the team’s trip to Japan. The team refused to take the field at City of Palms Park for a nationally televised game against Toronto and threatened to boycott the overseas trip after it was discovered the coaches and staff were not being paid a $40,000 appearance fee for the trip; the Red Sox has been told otherwise during negotiations. The Red Sox ownership agreed to pay the $600,000 in appearance fees to solve the stalemate, although some of that will be reimbursed by MLB.
    To say this was handled sloppily by MLB and the Players’ Association is an understatement. Promoters offered MLB $11.5 million for a season-opening series, $2 million less than what the Yankees-Devil Rays season-opening series attracted in 2004. But a baseline of sorts was set when each player, coach and staffer making the trip received an appearance fee of $40,000. The Red Sox expected the same baseline, but the "solution" posed by MLB and Players’ Association was to cut the coaches and staffers out of the equation; the Red Sox were then told players could take less in appearance fees to make up the difference. Understandably, the Red Sox didn’t like that solution; hence the short-lived strike. More from the Boston Globe.


HWS purchasing Scrappers
Posted March 21, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Mahoning Valley Scrappers (short season; NY-Penn League) are being purchased by HWS Baseball, the group that also owns the Mobile BayBears (Class AA; Southern League) and the Modesto Nuts (High Class A; California League); Bill Shannon, who is part of this group, also owns the Columbia Blowfish (summer collegiate; Coastal Plain League). The team is being purchased from Alan Levin and Palisades Baseball. Technically, Palisades and HWS will run the team together for the next three seasons before ownership is taken over by HWS. No changes are expected in the Scrappers front office. The transaction must be approved by MiLB and MLB.

Today’s video: Tribune punks Sun-Times over Wrigley naming rights
Posted March 21, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Chicago Tribune punked the Chicago Sun-Times in a contest held by the Sun-Times designed to poke fun at Chicago Cubs owner Sam Zell over the possible sale of naming rights to Wrigley Field. The contest encouraged readers to submit videos basically mocking Zell for his openness to selling naming rights to a Chicago icon; it also allowed the Sun-Times to make fun of the Tribune. Fair enough; taking shots at your chief rival is a tradition in the newspaper world. The winner was…the Chicago Tribune, who put an editorial-page intern into stealth mode and submitted a video in her name, though Tribune newsroom staffers participated in the fun. Below is the video, along with an explanation from the Tribune. More from the Los Angeles Tribune. Speaking of videos: it’s that time of year again when teams are releasing videos and commercials for the upcoming season. Send them to us via email, and we’ll post them here for the baseball world to see. For a variety of reasons we’d prefer you email us the actual video and not a link.

City accelerating improvements to Grayson Stadium
Posted March 21, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The city of Savannah will accelerate improvements to Grayson Stadium as a result of the pending purchase of the Savannah Sand Gnats (Low Class A; Sally League) from John Simmons by Hardball Capital. The biggest change: the installation of new concessions facilities, which wasn’t planned until the 2009 season, but the new owners say improved concessions offerings is a key part of their future plans. Improvements to the ballpark, which included the removal of decrepit bleachers and the installation of a new playing field and drainage system, is being funded through $5 million raised by a local sales tax.
    We didn’t go into this yesterday, but the sale of the Sand Gnats marks the departure of John Simmons from the ranks of affiliated owners. That’s a shame: Simmons is a well-respected businessman, and Simmons was certainly enthusiastic about a future running baseball teams after the purchase of the Sand Gnats and a potential purchase of the South Bend Silver Hawks (Low Class A; Midwest League). But the purchase of the Silver Hawks fell through after he was denied permission to move the franchise — good news if you’re a South Bend baseball fan — souring him on the way MiLB does business. Meanwhile, his foray into indy ball, the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League, was a huge success. More from the Savannah Morning News.

Cracker-Cats not for sale — yet
Posted March 21, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The owners of the Edmonton Cracker-Cats (independent; Golden Baseball League) say there’s no offer from local businessman Troy Barnes and a set of Toronto investors to buy the team — but their response is largely semantic: since there’s no written offer, they say, there’s technically no offer. We would be surprised if Dan Orlich and Ericka Cruise passed on any solid offer to buy the team: their tenure in Edmonton has been marked by dissension and front-office in-fighting, with other owners brought in occasionally to smooth things over. Currently there’s no GM, and it doesn’t look like the team has done much to prepare for the 2008 season. More from the Edmonton Sun.

Yay! Fried bologna!
Posted March 21, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Toledo Mud Hens (Class AAA; International League) unveiled their new food items for the upcoming season. High on the list: a fried German bologna sandwich, topped with cheddar cheese and grilled onions, served on a kaiser roll. Them’s good eats. More from the Toledo Blade. Let us know about your new ballpark offerings; send us an email and we’ll pass the news along.

Hardball Capital, local investors buy Sand Gnats
Posted March 20, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Savannah Sand Gnats (Low Class A; Sally League) have a new set of owners, as Hardball Capital announced today that it is the lead investor in a new ownership group that has reached an agreement to acquire the team. The Sand Gnats’ ownership will be a partnership between Hardball Capital and a group of local, Savannah-based owners. The purchase is subject to approval by Major and Minor League Baseball and the South Atlantic League.
    Hardball Capital is an Atlanta-based group specializing in the ownership and operation of Minor League Baseball franchises. It currently operates the Fort Wayne Wizards (Low Class A; Midwest League), and previously owned and operated the Salem Avalanche (High Class A; Carolina League).
    Hardball will be partnering with a group of local owners committed to seeing the Sand Gnats flourish and become a significant asset for the Savannah community. Minor and Major League baseball have an extensive vetting process for new owners; Hardball Capital is currently working with its Savannah-based partners to complete the documentation necessary for them to be approved as owners. Once that process has been completed the local owners will be announced.
    Hardball Capital’s other partners in the Sand Gnats ownership will be Scott Polhemus and Grant Morain, both of Atlanta-based Backstop Ventures. Polhemus and Morain will be active in the operation of the Sand Gnats. The current Sand Gnats front office, led by General Manager Bradley Dodson, will continue to run the team’s day-to-day operations.

River Bandits unveil new unis
Posted March 20, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Quad Cities River Bandits (Low Class A; Midwest League) unveiled new uniforms at a Modern Woodmen Park press conference.
    Modeled by members of the St. Ambrose University baseball team, the four new uniforms were showcased to represent home, road, alternate and batting practice jerseys.
    The home top is a sleeveless white uniform with red trim and buttons down the front that will be worn over black shirts. The chest features script lettering with the word “River” in black above the word “Bandits” and red with a black outline, while the back has black numbers with red trim.
    The road uniforms are red with white script on the front and white numbers with black trim on the back. The chest features the words “Quad Cities” written in script, with an image representing Centennial Bridge above the word “Quad.” There is also black trim on the sleeves
    On both uniforms, the numbers are sized consistently on the back.
    While the home and road tops have a classic look, the alternate and road jerseys have an edgy, exciting feel to them. Both are black with large alternate logos on the upper left chest and a patch of the interlocked “QC” logo on the left sleeve.
    The alternate top is a button-down with red trim around the neck, on the sleeves, and down the front. It features an oversized version of the popular “ball guy” logo on the upper left chest and has white numbers with a red outline on the back.
    The batting practice jersey is a moisture management pullover with red trim on the sleeves. The oversized logo on the upper left chest is the River Bandits second alternate, featuring only the head of the raccoon seen in the new River Bandits’ logos. The back of the shirt is black with white numbers.


Yankees, city find it more expensive to replace parkland
Posted March 20, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
One of the selling points for a new Yankee Stadium was a promise by the New York Yankees and the city to replace parkland displaced by the new ballpark. That plan is still happening, but the price tag has jumped by 50 percent, from $128 million to $190 million. In the end, the city will have 28 acres of new parkland, but it may take a little longer than anticipated: one project has been delayed after officials discovered an undocumented underground oil tank on one site. More from Newsday.

Pirates finally play under the lights at McKechnie Field
Posted March 20, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The first attempt to play under the newly installed lights at McKechnie Field was rained out, but the Pittsburgh Pirates finally got in a game last night under the lights. (We caught it last night on the dish; pretty cool.) The game was a sellout — the combination of the lights and the visiting New York Yankees was pretty powerful — and it was historic. Never before had a night game been played at McKechnie Field; it was the last spring-training ballpark to have lights installed.

Knights receive more time for site prep work
Posted March 20, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Charlotte Knights (Class AAA; International League) were granted more time by Mecklenburg County to do prep work on the site of a new ballpark in Uptown Charlotte. The project has been delayed a little: the Knights are still putting together a ballpark financing deal (under the terms of the agreement with the county, the county will supply the land and the Knights will pay for the ballpark), and the final land swap on the project needs to be completed. As always, attorney Jerry Reese was on hand to threaten a lawsuit; county officials didn’t seem to be too concerned. More from the Charlotte Observer.

Fans to determine fate of "Eliot Spitzer" night
Posted March 20, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Macon Music (independent; South Coast League) garnered quite a few headlines after the team announced Eliot Spitzer Night at Luther Williams Field, a promotion designed to poke fun at the philandering governor. But apparently there’s been a little pushback for the promotion (which, to be honest, grew a lot uglier after the Music announced the plan, and which may not be too noteworthy by May), and the Music is asking fans to decide whether to go ahead with the promotion. Anyone interested can vote at Music website.

Storm offers media-relations post to Bonds
Posted March 20, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
This was inevitable. The Lake Elsinore Storm (High Class A; California League) have officially offered employment to Barry Bonds. The former San Francisco Giants left fielder has been searching far and wide this off-season for a new team. The Storm’s offer includes a cushy Media Relations position (with slight pay cut from $19.3 million), full use of baseball facilities and of course expanded cubicle space with barcalounger and plasma TV. “We just think the way he has handled the media with such grace over the years that he would be a perfect fit in our media relations department,” said Chris Jones, Storm General Manager.
    Bonds is currently residing in his Bel Air estate and training in Los Angeles a short drive from The Diamond in Lake Elsinore. With a newly renovated Diamond Club Restaurant and a permanent parking space already reserved for ESPN “reporter” Pedro Gomez, the Storm offer a perfect location for a press conference to re-launch his big league career.

Ballpark Notes
Posted March 20, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Quad Cities River Bandits (Low Class A; Midwest League) signed a new three-year broadcast partnership with the Regional Radio Group and WYEC Your Easy Choice 93.9 FM. "We’re thrilled to be moving over to the FM dial with such a great radio partner," said River Bandits owner Dave Heller. "We felt it was important to upgrade our flagship station and ensure that fans can follow River Bandits baseball with a clear connection on a reliable station. WYEC also has a very wide reach that will come in crystal clear in the Quad Cities and a huge portion of western Illinois. Introducing our product to that region is an important way to broaden our fan base." The easy listening station 93.9 WYEC is one of nine owned by Illinois-based Miller Media Group, which also operates WKEI Newstalk 1450, WJRE Hogg Country 102.5, and WGEN Newstalk 1500, as well as stations in Taylorville, Pana, Sheblyville, and Clinton. More from the Quad Cities Times….Speaking of the River Bandits: the team will be unveiling new uniforms today….The San Angelo Colts (independent; United League) are offering season tickets to the first five people who visit a local tattoo shop and receive a Colts tattoo….Anderson Joes (independent; South Coast League) General Manager Garrett Ball has resigned. Taking his place on an interim basis will be current assistant general manager Jody Sellers. Ball resignation also means he is stepping down as the VP of South Carolina Baseball Operations….Joe Livingston is the new Director of Groups and Ticket Sales for the South Georgia Peanuts (independent; South Coast League). Livingston makes his way to middle Georgia by way of Maryland, where he worked for the Frederick Keys (High Class A; Carolina League)….East Carolina University freshman and Lenoir County native Nathan Perry is the new public-address announcer for the Kinston Indians (High Class A; Carolina League). He replaces longtime K-Tribe public address announcer Jeff Diamond….We reported on this when it was first announced, but it bears noting: FSN and the Portland Beavers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) announced the complete television schedule for the 2008 season, which includes a slate of 20 Beavers games televised throughout FSN’s five-state territory. The Beavers’ FSN television schedule begins on Opening Day, as Portland faces the Fresno Grizzlies live from PGE Park at 7 p.m….The Hagerstown Suns (Low Class A; Sally League) announced the hiring of three full-time staff members for the 2008 season. Blake Bostelman, formerly with the Beloit Snappers (Low Class A; Midwest League) has been hired as the Suns Director of Stadium Operations and Head Groundskeeper. Nick Bilksi has been hired by the Suns as the Director of Food and Beverage for 2008. Ryan Mock is the new Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations. Assistant Broadcasters Justin Murphy and Christian Bruey will partner with Ryan Mock on the air throughout the 2008 season. Also, Cliff Eiland was hired as the Clubhouse Manager for the 2008 season.

Dodgers close to leaving Dodgertown
Posted March 17, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
We’re still waiting for the official word, which is expected this week, but all signs are that the Los Angeles Dodgers will be leaving Vero Beach, Holman Stadium and Dodgertown this summer and move operations to a new Glendale, Az., complex. We’re a little more conservative than other media outlets about predicting that the Dodgers will be in the Cactus League for Spring Training 2009, as the Dodgers are awaiting word from the ballpark contractor as to whether the complex will be open next year. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt certainly sounded like he was ready to back up the moving trucks: "Some elements may transfer well there, but, that said, Arizona has its own style, its own feel. The copper and cactus and Camelback culture has a western feel all its own. We’ll start a new history there, one that comfortably welcomes families who can make a five-hour drive or catch a one-hour flight," he said in a press release. "But the stories and the legends live in Dodgertown’s lounge, dining room, photos, street signs, and even in the light posts with those baseballs on top. It would be wonderful to capture the friendliness, the spirit, and the love of the game that is inherent here and bring it home with us.
    "It’s a real estate opportunity, which I of course love. We can create a plan to make this happen before too long."
    One element holding things up: whether the Chicago White Sox will indeed be moving north from Tucson in 2009. The White Sox have a lease on Tucson Electric Park for 2009 calling for a rather sizable penalty should the team leave, and officials have been unsuccessful in persuading another MLB team to take over the lease. One scenario we continue to hear floated by baseball officials is the move of the Dodgers in 2009 and a delayed move by the White Sox in coming years.

New ballpark pitched for downtown Dallas
Posted March 17, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The independent United League Baseball is once again pitching a new ballpark for downtown Dallas as part of a convention-center hotel development. This isn’t the first time the ULB has approached Dallas officials about a downtown ballpark; in 2006 reps from both the ULB and the independent American Association made their pitches for a ballpark, with another Pacific Coast League ownership group quietly involved as well. The latest proposal from ULB founder John Bryant would meet the specifications for the project to be a mixed-use development.

Doubts linger over Nats
Posted March 17, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Washington Nationals expect to draw 3 million fans a year, but team officials sound increasingly pessimistic about doing it this season. Nationals Park is slated to open at the end of the month, and while the design seems to incorporate all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a modern MLB ballpark — center-field concessions area, plenty of suites, a slick design — pessimists are wondering if the Nationals aren’t going to come up well short of expectations. Certainly the parking situatio