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Archives: April 28-May 4, 2008

Archives: April 28-May 4, 2008
Boston expected to make decision on new spring-training facility this month
Posted May 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Boston Red Sox have decided to move from City of Palms Park into a new spring-training complex, according to several sources, and the decision is whether to locate it in Sarasota — where local officials are making an impassioned push for a Red Sox move — or somewhere else in Lee County, probably south of Fort Myers in the Bonita Springs-Estero area. It’s gotten to the point where development groups are being formed in Sarasota to help fund a private development to accompany a spring-training complex; Fenway Ventures would be involved, but outside capital is being sought from wealthy investors in the area. Sarasota is scrambling to replace the Cincinnati Reds with a new spring tenant, but we’re not quite sure Lee County officials are fully aware of the strong chance the BoSox could leave the area. Fort Myers isn’t the most convenient location in the Grapefruit League; only two teams (Tampa Bay and Minnesota) train in the immediate area, and Sarasota (80 miles to the north) is more accessible to the Tampa area and its four spring complexes. On the other hand, there are lot of New England retirees who have invested in Fort Myers residences, and we’ve been told some within the Red Sox are reluctant to leave them behind. The decision to leave City of Palms Park shows how drastically spring training has changed in recent years: it’s gone from a revenue-negative situation to a revenue-positive one, and while the ballpark itself is quite nice, the fact it’s a landlocked facility with no room for nearby development and a borderline location have led the Red Sox to look elsewhere. One wild card here for Lee County: we continue to hear the Baltimore Orioles were rather intrigued by the idea of an open City of Palms Park, even if the Red Sox were to stay in Lee County.
    One interesting side effect to all this: how the training shifts will play into the makeup of the Florida State League. The Tampa Bay Rays continue to negotiate a move of an FSL team to their new Port Charlotte complex, but it’s expected to go through. The Baltimore Orioles have been casting about for an FSL team as well, but conditionally: we continue to hear the O’s probably wouldn’t field an FSL team in Fort Lauderdale, but would elsewhere (Dodgertown, Sarasota, Fort Myers). And we’ve been told the Red Sox have asked the Cincinnati Reds about purchasing the Sarasota Reds franchise (which, ironically, was formerly owned by the Red Sox), although the BoSox already own another High Class A, the Salem Avalanche. It’s not likely Fort Myers could support three franchises — remember, the Fort Myers Miracle (High Class A; Florida State League) is not owned by a major-league team, one of the few FSL teams to be independent — and we’ve heard the Twins may be the odd team out should there be both Boston and Baltimore training in the same area. A lot of early speculation, but there’s also been a lot of buzz about this in minor-league circles.


New Southern Maryland ballpark opens today
Posted May 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Regency Furniture Stadium, the new home of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs (independent; Atlantic League), opens today. It’s been quite the journey for Peter Kirk, who 23 years ago worked on a plan to move the Kinston Indians (High Class A; Carolina League) to a site in Charles County. In fact, prep work had been done on the site and tax financing had been arranged before a new set of county commissioners came into office and scrapped the project. Today, two of those commissioners are enthusiastic supporters of the new ballpark and lobbied for state aid for the 4,500-seat facility. Local officials are looking for the ballpark to generate some economic development.

River Eels ownership to finally close on land transaction
Posted May 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
They don’t have a league or a ballpark, but they have some land — or will by the end of business day, if all goes well. The owners of the proposed Plymouth River Eels franchise will be closing on a deal for 28 acres off Route 3 in Plymouth for $5.1 million, the first step in finally building a new ballpark. It’s been two years or so since the ownership first announced the team and their plans for a 6,000-seat ballpark (with 20 luxury boxes) and an adjoining 10,000-square-foot convention center and 3,000-square-foot office building. Today, according to the current owner of the land, Pierre Coll, trustee for Parting Way Nominee Trust, says the deal will be closed. The River Eels ownership is facing a deadline of sorts: they need to file a status report with the city before June in order to qualify for some expiring tax breaks.

West Tenn sale finally close to fruition
Posted May 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
After several delays, the sale of the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx (Class AA; Southern League) should be completed shortly, as David Freeman (owner of the NHL’s Nashville Predators) and Reese Smith finalize the documents with Lozinak Baseball Properties. Freeman and Smith are approaching a final drop-dead date for the deal; if they fail to close they forfeit a $1.5 million deposit. There doesn’t appear to be a big roadblock in the way of the sale, though.

Peoria Chiefs to play game at Wrigley Field
Posted May 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Chicago Cubs and the Peoria Chiefs announced that the Chiefs will play a regular season game at Wrigley Field when they host the Kane County Cougars on Tuesday, July 29th at 7:05 pm. This will be the first time in the Chiefs’ 26-year franchise history that they will play in a major-league facility, and it is believed to be the first minor-league contest to take place at Wrigley in the ballpark’s 94-year history. The game, presented by National City, will include family-friendly priced tickets, an array of activities for children of all ages and a fun atmosphere filled with traditional minor league attractions within the Friendly Confines. "This is a very historic day for the Chiefs, and we are thankful for the opportunity afforded to us by the Cubs," said Chiefs President Rocky Vonachen. "They have been tremendous partners with us, and this is going to be an outstanding day for the Chiefs and Cougars players, staffs and fans." Sure to be a draw: Chiefs coach Ryne Sandberg. Tickets go on sale today.

Armada signs new five-year lease for Blair Field
Posted May 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Long Beach Armada (independent; Golden Baseball League signed a new five-year lease to play its home games at historic Blair Field, insuring hometown professional baseball and family sports entertainment through at least the 2012 season..
    "We are very excited for our loyal and growing fan base to know the Armada and the Golden Baseball League are committed to Blair Field and the City of Long Beach," said Armada general manager Steve Bash, noting the club’s standing as the longest-tenured professional baseball team in Long Beach history. "Coupled with the addition of new manager Steve Yeager and a great roster of former and prospective major leaguers, our new deal will enable us to build upon our first three years of success and to continue bringing the Long Beach community a fun and affordable sports and entertainment option for many summers to come."
    Part of the new agreement includes a six figure contribution from the Armada, along with contributions from Long Beach State and Partners of Parks, on a state-of-the-art Daktronics video scoreboard, giving the 50-year-old ballpark a nice facelift. The new scoreboard, which cost nearly $400,000, is expected to go before the City Council on May 6, and, if OK’d, would be installed prior to the Armada’s home opener June 13.
    Also, the Armada, who retain control of concessions for all events at Blair Field, have been given the opportunity to produce 10 additional special events per year, hoping to supplement their operation with other sports and entertainment events for the community.

D-Cubs set attendance record
Posted May 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Daytona Cubs (High Class A; Florida State League) set a single-game attendance record of 5,057 last night at Jackie Robinson Ballpark during a 7-3 loss against the St. Lucie Mets. The crowd surpassed the previous record-high of 5,013, set on August 25, 2007 when the Cubs hosted the Vero Beach Devil Rays. The Cubs feature Thirsty Thursday every Thursday night, and last night’s game was also special as the Cubs wore pink jerseys as part of “Project Pink” to raise money for breast cancer awareness in an auction of the jerseys that will extend to tonight’s game.

In memoriam: Buzzie Bavasi
Posted May 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Buzzie Bavasi, whose long tenure in baseball was marked by groundbreaking tours with the Brooklyn Dodgers, San Diego Padres and California Angels, passed away Thursday in his San Diego home. He was 93. Bavasi spent 44 years in baseball. He began his career in 1939 as traveling secretary and publicity director for the Brooklyn Dodgers and rose up the ranks before being named GM in 1951, a position he served in through 1968. During that time the Dodgers won eight National League pennants and four World Series titles. He served as president of the expansion San Diego Padres in 1969-77 and GM of the California Angels from 1978-1984. He also spent time as the New England League’s Nashua Dodgers when baseball was being integrated and helped Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella during some very rough times.

Storm: Not enough dues for Dr. Seuss
Posted May 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Lake Elsinore Storm (High Class A; California League) scrapped plans for a Dr. Seuss night after the team couldn’t come to an agreement with Dr. Seuss Enterprises over a licensing deal. Here’s the press release in its entirety:

The Padres affiliate, the Lake Elsinore Storm
Tried to put on a promotion that wasn’t the Norm
We called it Dr. Seuss Night on our website
But something about that didn’t seem right

Dr. Seuss Enterprises didn’t see it as funny
They said we could do it but we didn’t have the money
They didn’t appreciate our publicity ploys
So we have to inform all the sad girls and boys

Through the face of it all we thought we’d persist
Until we were served with a cease and desist
The theme has been cancelled but the game will go on
Perhaps it wouldn’t matter if we were in Taiwan

Developer pulls out of Dayton Ballpark Village project
Posted May 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Bear Creek Capital has pulled out of the $230-million Ballpark Village development next to Fifth Third Field, leaving Dayton officials and Mandalay Entertainment to find new partner in the project. City officials say they have no plans to scale back the project, which is partially predicated on the popularity of Mandalay-owned Dayton Dragons (Low Class A; Midwest League). It does appear that Bear Creek’s actions will delay the development, however.

Plan to sell Cooper Stadium proposed
Posted May 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Franklin County officials are negotiating a $3.3 million sale of Cooper Stadium to Arshot Investment, who would convert the soon-to-be former home of the Columbus Clippers (Class AAA; International League) to a combination speedway, go-cart track and drag strip. A key issue: Arshot Investment wants a 10-year price break on sales taxes before it proceeds with any purchase. Next season the Clippers will be moving to a new ballpark.

Ballpark Notes
Posted May 2, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
United League Baseball (ULB) announced today its historic umpiring crew for the upcoming 2008 season, which features the only female umpire currently working in professional baseball and first female umpire in ULB history, Kate Sargeant. Sargeant is part of a six-person crew that includes former Major League player Jim Tatum, Dewey Larson, Stacey Dunbar, Vince Price and ULB Director of Umpires Woodie Belle. Originally from Poulsbo, Washington, Sargeant has worked all over the country polishing her craft. A 2007 graduate of the Harry Wendelstedt School for Umpires, she received her first big break as a full-time umpire in 2005 with the Mountain Collegiate Baseball League based in Colorado. In 2006, Sargeant was an umpire in the Southern Collegiate Baseball League, a wooden bat summer league, and last season the 26-year-old worked in the New York State League, a developmental league for players who have completed their college eligibility….WSIE FM is the new flagship station of the Gateway Grizzlies (independent; Frontier League) baseball network for the next two seasons. WSIE FM is the campus station at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Fans will hear all 96 Grizzlies games on 88.7 FM WSIE….The Fort Worth Cats (independent; American Association) announced their games will be broadcast on the radio this season by Fox Sports Radio KHFX/1460 AM. All 96 regular season games will be broadcast on KHFX beginning with the opener on May 8 against the Sioux Falls Canaries at LaGrave Field at 7:05 p.m. Emil Moffatt will once again be the play-by-play announcer. This is his third season as the play-by-play voice of the Cats and his seventh season overall broadcasting Cats’ games. Moffatt was on the mic when the Cats won the American Association title in 2006 and 2007 as well as the Central Baseball League championship in 2005. Last September, the Cats became the first team in modern independent baseball to win three straight titles….The Madison Mallards (summer collegiate; Northwoods League) announced the return of both public-address announcer Aaron Sims and radio play-by-play broadcaster Ben Larson for the 2008 season.  Sims enters his fifth year with the Mallards and will once again handle in-stadium announcing duties for all home games. Ben Larson returns for his second year as the team’s play-by-play broadcaster on Madison’s Sports Radio 100.5 FM. Larson is the former host of Sports Talk on WTDY and currently reads sports segments each morning on 94.1 WJJO….Dale Petroskey is the new Executive Vice President of Marketing and Community Development for the Texas Rangers. Petroskey, 52, served as president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum from July 1999 to March 2008. He also served nearly 12 years, from 1988-99, as an executive with the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., and in The White House as Assistant Press Secretary to President Ronald Reagan, from 1985-87.

Orioles looking for FSL team
Posted May 1, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Baltimore Orioles have been quietly casting about for a High Class A Florida State League team, according to several minor-league insiders we’ve contacted, bringing the team’s future in Florida somewhat into focus. The consensus seems to be the Orioles wouldn’t place an FSL team in Fort Lauderdale, indicating the team may be giving up hope of receiving approval for a renovated Fort Lauderdale Stadium and a new spring-training complex. The next part of the equation is informed speculation, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Orioles are already eying Fort Myers should the Red Sox indeed decamp to Sarasota (a big if at this point, of course) or strongly considering Vero Beach’s Dodgertown as a destination. Before you get your hopes up or are disappointed about a team loss, remember all of this is very early in any process: there’s no deal for the Red Sox to go to Sarasota (though we’ve been told the Red Sox are a little more advanced in their spring-training planning than they’ve let on to the press), and the Orioles haven’t totally given up on Fort Lauderdale.

Red Sox exploring spring-training move to Sarasota
Posted April 30, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
There will be a story in tomorrow’s Sarasota paper about this, but here’s your first report: the Boston Red Sox have been talking with Sarasota city officials about moving the team’s spring-training camp to the area, discussions confirmed by city officials. The Red Sox currently train at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, but the team’s lease allows for a buyout in 2011, theoretically freeing the Red Sox to move. If you’re the owners of the Red Sox, a move makes sense on a land-development level. In Sarasota, there are 50 acres available for development (land offered when the Cincinnati Reds were looking at a new complex), and the Red Sox could combine a ballpark, training complex, hotel and other development (like condos for the hordes of Red Sox Nation) into a more robust offering. While City of Palms Park is nice enough, it’s not in the best part of town, there are no hotels within walking distance and development opportunities, and there’s no room for growth. Remember: the Red Sox and Fenway Ventures are as much a development play as the owners of a sporting team, and the organization has been active in seeking out development opportunities associated with sports. So it’s no surprise the Red Sox are talking with Sarasota officials. More from the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald.

Omaha, NCAA reach agreement on new-ballpark lease
Posted April 30, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
It’s official: the city of Omaha and the NCAA have reached an agreement to keep the College World Series at a new downtown ballpark through 2030. The $140 million project is structured so debt on the new ballpark will be paid before the NCAA receives a share of revenues: debt comes first, followed by CWS operational expenses and payments to a capital-improvement fund, with anything left going to the city and the NCAA. We had been told the NCAA didn’t see this as a way to generate a huge amount of revenue, preferring to pose it as a proposition to enhance the fan experience, and the deal reflects that feeling. The current status is that this is a formal letter of understanding, with a formal lease expected to be signed before the end of the College World Series. The new ballpark will be funded with $60 million in hotel taxes, $43 million in private donations and $37 million in event revenues. The project is still a ways from a sure thing, as the city council must approve the deal and a fundraising effort must be launched. Also to be worked out: a potential lease with the Omaha Royals (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), which is far from a sure thing — as you’ll see in the next news item.

Sugar Land home to professional baseball?
Posted April 30, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Sugar Land (Texas) Mayor David Wallace says his city has talked with several organizations about placing a baseball team in his community and foresees an entertainment district anchored by a ballpark, convention center and hotel. A rendering of the proposed ballpark is below, and certainly we’d be remiss if we didn’t speculate on what teams would be involved. Sugar Land is a suburb of Houston, so any team moving into the area would need to have the approval of the Astros. The Omaha Royals (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) are clearly unhappy with the proposed lease for a new downtown ballpark: as it’s been described to us, there’s no way the team can make any money based on the numbers proposed by MECA, the organization running the new facility. So that leaves the team looking at potential new homes, which include Vancouver (attractive because of the strong Canadian dollar, the robust local economy and the presence of a suitable temporary venue), suburban Sarpy County (which would leave the team in the Omaha area), or any number of Texas cities (like Katy, which is close to Sugar Land, or McAllen in the Rio Grande Valley). Plus, there’s a current relationship with the Houston Astros — the O-Royals ownership also own the Astros’ Low-A affiliate in Lexington. It’s also no secret Texas League officials have expressed an interest in placing a team in the Texas suburbs, though it’s hard to say what team could be available for a move.

Chester County seeking nominations for potential ballpark site
Posted April 30, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
The Chester County Stadium Task Force and the Chester County Economic Development Corp. are seeking nominations for the site of a proposed ballpark for an affiliated minor-league team outside Philadelphia. The nominating criteria, as set forth here, are a 13-16 acre buildable site for a 4,500-5,500-seat ballpark where nighttime lighting and traffic are not issues. At that size, the ballpark would be perfect for a Sally League team or a NY-Penn League team. This talk is still extremely preliminary; such a ballpark would cost between $20 million and $35 million, and no one seems to have any idea of what sort of funding is available. This isn’t the first time the West Chester area has flirted with professional baseball, so don’t pack those travel bags just yet.

Terry new president of Warthogs
Posted April 30, 2008 (feedback) (submit story) (discuss)
Mandalay Baseball Properties departed from the baseball world to name Kevin Terry, former vice president of ticket sales and services for the New Orleans Hornets of the NBA, as the new president of the Winston-Salem Warthogs (High Class A; Carolina League). He’ll be leading the Warthogs through